This will be a bittersweet trip. When I was younger my late father and grandfather would take me to Fulton County Stadium to watch a few games during the summer months. The thought alone of those two men that I've lost still makes me a little teary eyed. Growing up I played baseball and I loved it...however when it became time for me to make that transition from coach pitch/machine pitch to little league, I got scared. My dad was my coach, on and off the field. He knew I loved the game and he knew I could do anything I set my mind to. However he also wasn't one of those pushy parents. As I stood on the field across the athletic park and watch the kids hurl the ball towards the plate...usually all over the place...I told my dad I didn't want to play anymore. My dad's reaction? "OK son, if that is what you want." To this day I kind of wished my dad was just a little pushy because like a lot of us at times I play that what if game. What if I had gotten over my fear of kids pitching and I kept playing. What if I played ball in high school? Could I have played professionally?
Even though my dad didn't push me into playing, we still got to enjoy baseball together from time to time by driving down to Atlanta. I have fond memories of sitting in the old stadium with my dad and grandfather, watching the Braves struggle against whomever they were playing that day. I also remember coming home and hanging a big David Justice poster on my bed room door my dad bought me at a game. After I got into collecting cards around 1990/1991, going to the games was that much more fun as I "knew" more about the players after reading the backs of baseball cards. I was also able to ask my grandfather to tell me more about the players he watched growing up.
Back them living in Charlotte, NC we got to watch many of the Braves games on the old TBS cable channel...the Super Station. I can remember the worst to first season. I can remember when Chipper was called up. I can remember the heart breaking loss to the Twins in the World Series...Kirby Puckett jumping up and down in the outfield celebrating. And of course I can remember when the Braves finally won it all in 1995. This was the same time however that my grandfather's health would start to go south and 6 months later my father's health too. I lost both of these great men so close together and of course it goes without saying that I miss them both so, so much.
Today I have a new baseball buddy to go to games with, my wife. She may not watch many of the games with me on television, but she really enjoys getting out to the field and watching a game. It's been at least two seasons since the last time we made it down to Atlanta for a game and it's surreal that this will be our last time at Turner Field, but regardless of the team's record I'm excited about this weekend trip and the new memories we'll make. Soon, I hope to be able to start doing for my girls what my dad did for me and take them to a few games. After all, isn't baseball supposed to be about family?
It's funny how these last few weeks have worked out too regarding this trip. With the Braves' record let's just say it isn't hard to obtain tickets to a game, even a weekend game. We ended up getting front row tickets in the left field, I believe the section closest to the foul pole for $22 each. Because I travel so much for work I ended up having a night to redeem for a free hotel room. Then the Braves go and trade for Matt Kemp. I am so glad I'll get to sit behind Kemp and watch him play over the likes of D'Arnaud (no offense Chase!). Then of course this week the big news was that Dansby Swanson was getting called up to the majors. While it would have been cool to what Theran hurl the ball, I'll get to see Tyrell Jenkins take the mound on Saturday against the Washington Nationals. I just hope that my favorite player to hate (Bryce Harper) plays so I can boo him in person! Yes, I feel this is going to be a great weekend. All that is left to do is go buy a new Braves hat before I leave tomorrow morning and possibly pick up a pack of two of cards for the ride down. Go Braves!