This is the best.
I’m still not quite sure I’ve fully comprehended the fact that the Atlanta Braves won the World Series.
A team that struggled to find its footing all season, dealt with injuries all over – including a season-ending one to the best player in the National League – peaked at the right time and snatched the trophy.
Every fan base feels this way, but these things just don’t happen to Atlanta. Braves fans are programmed to wait for the postseason disappointment. Yet, this time there was only euphoria. Capped off with a parade.
I love the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m working my way back into being a full-on Florida State fan after years of putting fandom on hold in the name of journalistic integrity. I acknowledge Josef Martinez as the one true King, Trae Young is cooler than polar bear’s toenails and I have been known to jump around the living room when the USMNT score a crucial goal.
But I’ve loved the Atlanta Braves longer than any of them. I was born in Decatur in 1987, just in time for the Braves to take over the city in the ‘90s.
I still have my foam Tomahawk from 1992. I cried when the Braves traded Deion Sanders in 94 (I was six).
Then next year I was lucky enough that some family friends had a ticket for me to go to Game 6 of the World Series with them when the Braves finally won it all.
I remember booing a Cleveland fan in the parking garage on the way to the stadium that day. I remember the crowd going nuts when David Justice homered. I then remember the woman behind me showing me a foul ball that Justice hit right into my seat when we were getting hot dogs. Then there was the exhale when Marquis Grissom tracked down the final out and the party in the streets on the way home.
Most of all, I remember how excited I was to tell my Dad about all of it. The Braves were my team because they were his team. He loved football, but the Falcons never earned his full allegiance. My Mom is a Georgia grad so I loved the Bulldogs, but Dad was known to sport Miami, Ohio State and even LSU gear. He just liked football.
But the Braves, that was his team.
We’d go to a few games each season, but we watched all the others on TBS. Whether we were at home or on vacation, we’d always tune in.
When my parents told me we were moving to Jacksonville the next summer, I ‘agreed’ so long as I didn’t have to cheer for the Florida Marlins. Since they had TBS in Jacksonville, that was no problem.
My brother Patrick liked the Marlins colors, and like little brothers do, he wanted to root opposite of me. So, he announced he wanted the Marlins to win the 1997 NLCS. My Dad told him he had to sleep outside in the swing set. My mother assured Patrick that Dad was joking, but I’m not sure he was.
Patrick corrected his mistake and now lives and dies with the Braves even more than I do. At his wedding they had a Tomahawk send off in lieu of sparklers, which was huge hit with his wife’s family of die-hard Pittsburgh Pirates fans still upset at even the mention of Sid Bream.
When I was in Middle School my parents got divorced. Dad had a drinking problem, and while never violent my Mom made the brave decision that she had to limit my brother and I’s exposure to it and raise us on her own.
Dad moved up the road to live on a boat in Jax Beach. He’d call to check in with us just about every night. Since I was a middle school boy, talking was not really my thing. Talking on the phone was even more of a non-starter.
So we’d often just default to talking about the Braves. I could go on and on about the Braves. Would they ever get back to the World Series after the heartbreak in ’99? How could they move Chipper to the outfield? Has anyone ever been as good in center as Andruw Jones?
During my freshman year of high school in 2002 the calls became a little less frequent. Then no one heard anything from him for several days. So when a family friend pulled my Mom’s car into the driveway of a friend’s house on Friday afternoon a few hours before the homecoming game, I knew instantly my Dad was gone.
He’d had an accident returning home to his boat drunk. He slipped and fell into the water and drowned in the marina.
As expected, I was filled with emotions the next few years about the death of my father. I was sad he was gone. I was angry he’d not been able to control his alcoholism. As time has gone on, I have learned to let go of that anger for the most part. I’m not sure I’ll ever be anger-free, but mostly I now just think about how much I’d like to be able to talk to him on the phone on occasion. The thing I once dreaded the most on school nights.
I’d want to talk to him about my wife Jennifer, my career and most importantly my daughter Mary Catherine.
I’d also like to talk to him about our Atlanta Braves. Especially this season.
We would have lamented how the year started. There was too much talent to be so mediocre, yet they may still be in it.
In May I would have filled him in on Patrick and I’s trip to Atlanta to take our families to a game. It was Mary Catherine’s first game. She and her cousin Noah were the MVP’s of the day, even if Austin Riley homered twice in a rout of Pittsburgh. Since we had strollers we got sent to a shorter line that ensured everyone would get their Freddie Freeman bobble heads.
Losing Marcel Ozuna’s bat to injury would have been concerning. His arrest a few days later would leave us both crushed for everyone involved and assuming he’d never play for Atlanta again.
When Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL I was ready to toss in the towel. I would have told my Dad the Braves should be sellers and see if Charlie Morton wanted to end his career pitching for a contender.
But as we all know now, that’s not the path the Braves chose. They rebuilt the roster and went on a run for the ages. The kind you just want to keep reliving with your family.
When the final out was recorded I was in work mode so, like I said, I’m still not really sure I’ve processed it. When I finally went to bed later that night, the emotions started to set in. The Atlanta Braves were World Series champions again,
I just wanted to talk to my Dad about it. My wife, whose late father was also an Atlanta native and a Braves fan, was feeling the same. So we’ve spent the last few days soaking in the parade from afar and dressing Mary Catherine in all of her Braves gear.
The Braves are her team now.
Hopefully as the years go by, she’ll want to talk to her Dad about them. About their chances to bring home a World Series Championship.
If there’s a season where the Braves are really struggling to get any momentum and she thinks they should be sellers at the trade deadline, well that’s when I’ll get to tell her about the 2021 Atlanta Braves for the millionth time.
I’ll know she won’t need the reminder, but hey I’m just hopeful she’ll just want to talk to her Dad about the Braves. I know I do.
(Photo: Kevin Cox/Associated Press)