For lifelong fan, visit to Dodger Stadium a Major deal
Legion of Merit recipient honored as Bank of America Veteran of the Game
The small town of Roundup, Mont., seems an unlikely place as any to find a lifelong Dodgers fan. But in the days before television, Major General Paul Funk II's father had limited options.
"All they could get was an AM radio station, and he could listen to Vin Scully do the Dodgers game," Funk said. "And so that's what he heard, so he was lifelong Dodgers fan with Campy [Roy Campanella], Jackie Robinson and all those guys.
"Even though we moved all around -- I'm an army brat, and my dad's a retired general as well -- we were always Dodgers fans."
That made Monday night's Dodgers game all the sweeter for Funk, who was honored at Dodger Stadium as the Bank of America Veteran of the Game, receiving a rousing round of applause from the 45,627 fans in attendance.
Commissioned in 1984, Funk has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has earned the Legion of Merit with three bronze oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge, among other honors.
But until Monday, he had never set foot on the Dodger Stadium field -- the home of the team of which he's been a fan for 52 years.
"It was a dream come true to tell you the truth -- for a wannabe baseball player," Funk said. "For a kid at heart, it's magical."
Funk had the opportunity to meet some of his favorite current Dodgers -- Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and a certain left-handed ace.
"Clayton Kershaw [is my favorite player], and mostly because of the way he plays the game, what a great teammate he is, which is just as important in the army as it is in Major League Baseball," Funk said.
"Very nice guy. Very humble guy. Very dedicated to what he's doing with his foundation -- and what a competitor."
Funk said what he admires most about Kershaw is the work he's done in Africa, building children's homes as part of Kershaw's Challenge.
"I actually have units working in Africa right now as a matter of fact," Funk said. "And so that was an interesting connection. I talked to him about that the other day when I met him."
For Funk, who is on vacation with his wife and three kids as July 4 approaches, Dodger Stadium's honoring of veterans gives him all the more reason to be a Dodgers fan.
"It's an amazing tribute, and the Dodgers have done that for years without a sponsor," he said. "They've just done it themselves. And this year they actually have Bank of America as a sponsor. And I have to tell you it's a tremendous honor, and it's gratifying to see how much people care about their military and their soldiers."
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.