On a Fourth of July of baseball stretching from sea to shining sea, holiday festivities got started practically by the dawn's early light in the nation's capital, and America's pastime kept celebrating from there.Nationals Park was the site for an 11 a.m. ET start between the National League's best team and the visiting Giants. Naturally, red, white and blue enveloped every sight line -- from pregame military ceremonies to the Nationals' navy blue jerseys with the stars-and-stripes "curly W." With Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., throwing out the first pitch, Miss United States Ashley Smith singing "God Bless America" and the Presidential Race providing yet another disappointment for Teddy Roosevelt, there was no shortage of patriotic displays at Nationals Park. But that's just one of the 15 venues that hosted baseball under Fourth of July skies on Wednesday, from the big-city confines of Citi Field to the nation's heartland and all the way out to sunny California, finishing in the Southern California twilight. In each ballpark, the red, white and blue reminders of a 236-year-old country's greatness were splashed across the stands and on the players' caps -- and in their hearts and minds. "It's a great day," Indians outfielder Johnny Damon said before Cleveland's celebration of the holiday. "This country has become one of the best in the world because of what our forefathers did way back then. We're able to go out there and play, entertain, and live in this free country. Hopefully there will be plenty of fireworks coming from our bats today." With nine runs in the first two innings, the Indians indeed did make sparks fly in the daylight while hosting the Angels on the Fourth. Elsewhere around the country as baseball celebrated July 4: In New York, the Mets set a Citi Field record by drawing 42,516 fans to their first fireworks night the evening before, so their celebration lasted well into the holiday. On Wednesday, the Mets invited Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler to sing the national anthem in a duet with Kory Leigh Glattman, winner of Macy's 4th of July Star Spangled Sing-Off competition. A recorded version was to be played during the finale of a second fireworks show. In Pittsburgh, the Pirates held Military Appreciation Day at PNC Park, with the club making up to four tickets available to each veteran and active member of the Armed Forces. Also, Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton and his wife Cindy hosted 40 military members and their families from Operation Troop Appreciation and Wounded Warriors during the game. In Cleveland, Damon and the rest of the Indians followed up Tuesday's celebration of a first pitch from retired World War II nurse Rebecca Eden and postgame fireworks by honoring numerous area military members on the holiday. Among them were Sgt. First-Class Brady Pugh from Columbus, Ohio, Capt. Shawn Robinson from Akron, Ohio, civilian employee Lori Bennett, and First Lieutenant Joel Rivera. In St. Petersburg, the Rays had their mascot Raymond dressed up in Uncle Sam attire, and they had more traditional displays at Tropicana Field as well. The USO Liberty Bells, a group whose history dates back to World War II that travels throughout the world performing for service men and women, their families and veterans, sang the national anthem. That was followed by a ceremonial first pitch from Col. Lenny Richoux, Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at nearby MacDill Air Force Base.
In Milwaukee, six different branches of the military -- including the Wisconsin National Guard and Wisconsin Air National Guard -- combined to throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Brewers game against Miami.
In Atlanta, a pregame flyover by four T-6 Texans, a training plane used in World War II and the 1950s, highlighted the festivities.
St. Louis played host to a special edition of the Star Spangled Banner that saw an A cappella group of service men and women called 4-Digit Chord sing the anthem. There was also a hot dog eating contest that Coney Island's would be proud of.
"It certainly is something fans get excited for," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before the game. "They know it's America's pastime, and day to celebrate our freedom and a lot of things that we take for granted. For me, there's no better way to celebrate than watching a game of baseball. We always have great turnouts and it's a good day at the baseball park."
After the top of the first inning in Los Angeles, a Dodger fan currently stationed in Afghanistan surprised his wife with a video message displayed for the entire crowd.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said had mixed feelings as to playing on July 4.
"As a player, it was always the one day that was kind of weird because as a kid you grow up with picnics and fireworks and hanging out with your family and as players we're here," he said. "Then I look at the NBA and they are playing on Christmas, it's part of it. For us to be part of the past time and thinking about our independence of our country, it's kind of cool."
Before the D-backs game against the Padres, 25 families representing each branch of the military lined the outfield grass for armed forces appreciation. Then, nearly 50 civilians took their oath of enlistment on the right-field warning track.
In Detroit, the Tigers donated 1,000 tickets to local military members and veterans to bring their families and enjoy a Fourth of July evening at the ballpark.
In Seattle, U.S. Army Sergeant Corrin Campbell sang the national anthem. Campbell has been in the U.S. Army for five years, but has also led a double life of sorts as a singer. She has performed for troops in Iraq and opened for Ted Nugent and Toby Keith on their USO tour through Baghdad.
"It's a remarkable gathering of all of us," Campbell said. "No matter where we stand politically, socially, economically, we all come together and remember that 267 years ago or whatever it was, we were able to decide a conscious way to live our lives."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.