Packing a military parachute, Rays pitcher Chris Archer found out this week, is not among his many talents.
"Just seeing how tough of a task it was, was incredible," Archer said. "And I was terrible at it."
That wasn't the only eye-opening experience Archer had during a full Wednesday at Fort Bragg as part of Fox Sports' Spring Training to the Troops program, touring the facility and meeting service personnel.
"The way I understand it, they basically volunteer their lives to protect all of us, and there's nothing I can do to balance that out," Archer said. "But I'm glad I was able to give a little bit of time to show some appreciation for it."
Archer, 25, lives about an hour from the large U.S. Army base in Fayetteville, N.C., but had never visited, much less grasped all that goes on there. "The main thing for me is the awareness that it brought to me," he said. "I had a great appreciation for everybody before I came, but now there's an even greater one because I got to see hands-on."
Archer served breakfast to the troops, then sat down with some, answering their questions about baseball but making clear he felt "what we're doing is secondary in comparison to what they do."
Another highlight was a visit to the base's Albritton Middle School, allowing Archer to interact with some students. "That's my favorite thing, to use this platform to impact everybody, but with the emphasis on the youth," Archer said. "They had a lot of great questions for me on frustration, on failure, on how to handle adversity. I could totally relate to them because of some of the situations I've gone through in my life."
Along with other MLB personnel and Fox Sports personalities, Archer also took part in simulation drills at the medical center, staged a baseball clinic and signed autographs.
"Honestly, this is probably the best 24 hours of a community service-type event that I've ever done, just because we were able to impact so many lives in one day," Archer said.
Including his own. "To defend this country like they do, that's an amazing thing," Archer said. "And it was an amazing thing for me to witness and be a part of."
FIVE SIGNED: The Rays formally announced previously reported signings of infielder Wilson Betemit, catcher Eddy Rodriguez, right-hander Juan Sandoval and outfielders Justin Christian and Jeremy Moore, all of whom get spring training invites. The spring roster is at 64.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.