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Rays set to honor military in spring opener

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays will open their sixth season at Charlotte Sports Park on Friday with a special tribute to active and retired servicemen and women prior to the start of the team's 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Orioles.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team will deliver the American flag and game ball when they drop into Charlotte Sports Park from an altitude of 12,500 feet, free falling approximately two miles and reaching speeds in excess of 120 mph while wearing smoke canisters on their feet to make them visible to fans below.

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During their free fall, the members of the team will maneuver to create formations in the sky. Once they approach an altitude of 4,000 feet, they will break their formation and glide in different directions, opening their parachutes approximately 2,500 feet above ground. Once open, the members will steer their parachutes and land one behind the other with precision in the landing area inside the ballpark.

The Rays have partnered with Charlotte County's Veteran Services Division to invite 300 of the area's veterans as special guests for the game. A special military discount will also be offered for the opener. Active or retired personnel showing a military ID can purchase up to four half-price general admission seats at the box office on the day of the game.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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