Boston Strong night held at Gwinnett Braves game in Georgia

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  May 8, 2013 07:27 AM

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who played at Boston College, threw out the first pitch at Boston Strong Night at a Gwinnett Braves minor-league game Tuesday in Georgia.(Associated Press photo)

Boston sports stars Jason Varitek, Matt Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Dee Brown helped the Gwinnett Braves and Pawtucket Red Sox celebrate a Boston Strong Night on Tuesday at Gwinnett's stadium in Lawrenceville, Ga.

All four have connections to both Boston and Georgia, and they threw out the first pitches at Coolray Field. A portion of ticket sales went to One Fund Boston, and a silent auction was held.

"I have two homes in my heart, one here and one there," said Varitek, the former Red Sox catcher who is now a special assistant with the team, in a story on the Gwinnett Braves' website. "Boston will always be a big part of me. But I think everyone feels a connection to Boston now and wants to do what they can to show it. What happened was a hit to the whole country."

Varitek played college baseball at Georgia Tech. Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback, played college football at Boston College. Harrison played for the Patriots, and Brown for the Celtics.

"I feel fortunate to be able to be take part in something like this," Ryan told MLB.com. "Boston is obviously a town that is very important to me and my wife, having gone to college up there. I'm happy to help any way I can."

All of the players wore throwback Boston Braves hats, the Fenway Park anthem "Sweet Caroline" was played, Boston Strong logos were painted behind the plate, and players walked to the plate to the music of Boston bands like Aerosmith, Dropkick Murphys and New Kids on the Block.

Gwinnett's general manager, North Johnson, scheduled the event for a night when Pawtucket would be the guest.

"I'm thankful that we could do our little part," Johnson told MLB.com. "The bombing didn't affect just Boston, it affected all of us."

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