Mar 23, 2010

Through Thick and Thin

For as long as I have watched baseball, I have been a fan of the Braves. It was 1990, and I was in morning kindergarten. That allowed me the chance to be home in the afternoon and catch the occasional one pm game on TBS. The reasoning behind sticking with the Braves in an area dominated by Yankee and Met fans isn’t known to me, but I am certainly glad I did. The fans of the New York teams may have memories with Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, David Wright, and Darryl Strawberry, but I have the memories of the greats that nobody besides Braves fans know. I have memories of Sid Bream, Ron Gant, Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke. These guys played their hearts out for all us fans.

Little did I know that I was just finding the Braves right before they were about to start the most incredible streak in the history of sports; 14 straight division titles. Little did I ever know that it would be my love for the Braves that would get to me to where I am today.

Over the years, there have been many reasons for me to love being a fan. The heart and soul of the Braves telecasts and radio broadcasts was the late, great Skip Carey. To this day, the sound of Skip’s 1995 World Series winning call in game 6 still gives me the chills. In fact, it was that call that made me decide that I wanted to be just like Skip. I wanted to be a play by play guy for the Braves, and I would try to mold my style after his. Even if that means I’m going to be the biggest homer for my Braves, and not care about it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the likelihood of be becoming that guy probably wouldn’t happen and I’ve seen that my gift was in writing.

Another reason for me being a fan is the players. Many have come and gone, but the memories remain. From David Justice’s solo HR in game 6 of the 95 Series, to Andres Galarraga coming back from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2000 and winning the comeback player of the year.

What those players have brought the legacy can never be ignored. Who could forget the countless Braves that have resurrected their careers in Atlanta when no other team wanted them. John Burkett, DeWayne Wise, and Matt Diaz come to mind in that sense. With all of those great memories those players gave us, there are still many that haunt all Braves fans. Jim Leyritz’s homerun in game 4 of the 1996 World Series off of Mark Wohlers still gives me nightmares. That fact that we’ve still only won a single World Series is another haunting moment, but one that can be overlooked considering the best team doesn’t always win. We’ve all dealt with controversy, like the John Rocker fiasco, and still find a way to come out on top.

Living in Connecticut makes it difficult to catch as many live Braves games as I would like, but whenever I get the opportunity, I’m there. I’ve made it to Braves-Mets games at Shea Stadium and Citi Field. I braved a tornado warning in 2008 to watch a Myrtle Beach Pelicans game at BB&T Coastal Field, and just recently, made the trip to join over 7,000 other Braves fans at Champion Stadium to see Jair Jurrjens start against the Florida Marlins. Jurrjens struggled in the first, but then showed all in attendance why he had the third best ERA in the National League a year ago. I also had the pleasure of watching Jason Heyward play live for the first time, and can now see why he is going to a handful for every team in the league for many years to come. Heyward showed patience at the plate letting the first seven pitches he saw go for balls before ever taking the bat off his shoulder. Heyward also showed his incredible arm making a perfect throw to third for an OF assist.

With Champion Stadium providing such an incredible atmosphere for baseball, the only true downfall of the afternoon was not being able to see Bobby Cox at the field. Roger McDowell ran the team on this day. But I can forgive Bobby for taking this day off. I can forgive him for the simple reason that I know he’ll be coaching deep into October this season. In his last year of managing, what Bobby has is a great opportunity to go out on top. With one of the best pitching rotations and top catcher in the National League, a shut down closer, and very deep bench, the Atlanta Braves are primed to succeed in 2010.

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