Ever since this pandemic started several months ago, I haven’t watched the news, I’ve avoided watching tv as much as possible.
Every night before drifting off to sleep, I try to read the Bible. Recently, I read Isiah 41:10 and it got me thinking, you know, we may act like sports need to hurry up and resume, but they can wait.
Just yesterday, a friend of mine posted on Snapchat a picture that read “Sometimes, you are delayed because God knows that there is a storm headed right in your direction.” I can’t think of a more fitting picture to post during times like these.
There is light at the end of this pitch black tunnel that we are all in right now. Someday, we will be giving hugs again to the ones that we love and shaking hands with friends.
There will be a day when we don’t have to be six feet apart. There will be a day when we go back to work.
Concerts will return, sports will return, and everything will return to normal, but it won’t happen on our timing, it will happen on God’s timing. Be patient and trust Him.
ttended my last game at Turner Field on July 13, 2012, when the Braves took on their National League East division-rival, New York Mets, out of Flushing, New York, a suburb of New York City.
The starting pitchers that night were Dillon Gee from the New York Mets and the Braves handed the ball to Auburn, Alabama’s Tim Hudson. Hudson is a 1997 graduate of Auburn University, where he was teammates with that night’s starting catcher, David Ross. Together in college, those two won the College World Series during Hudson and Ross’ Senior year of 1997.
When I was heading to Turner Field that afternoon, I could feel my chest getting tighter the closer we got to the field.
I knew that this would most-likely be the very last time I ever stepped foot into the place where I fell in love with the game of baseball.
That night it rained for three hours before the game ever got started and it was 12:30 before the game got started.
We started until the end of the sixth inning. Fittingly, Chipper Jones had the last at-bat I ever witnessed at Turner Field.
But this was much different than the first time I ever saw him at the plate in person, he didn’t get out.
In fact, he sent a ball deep into the Atlanta night, over the right-center field wall. He must’ve known I was in the stands, because otherwise, he would’ve probably gotten out as was often the case.
The Braves ended up winning the game 8-5.
Meeting Tim Hudson Five Years Later:
On April 7, 2017, my uncle, who coached my cousin’s travel ball team, called me to tell me that they would be playing a team out of Auburn, Alabama, called the Colt 45’s, and it was coached by Tim Hudson.
When he told me this, I knew immediately that I would be in attendance just to see the game.
But, I didn’t know it would result in me meeting the last pitcher I ever saw start at Turner Field face-to-face and having a conversation with him.
On April 8, 2017, I woke up early, my uncle picked me up and we headed to Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Alabama.
As I approached the field, I could see Tim was carrying his San Francisco Giants warmup bag, for those of you that aren’t familiar with him, he won a World Series title in San Francisco in 2014.
He was busy when I approached, so I waited until he wasn’t busy to get his attention. After his team had taken the field for pregame warmups, he approached the dugout that I was standing beside, I took this opportunity to yell “Tim!” And then motioned for him to come over to me. He did so politely.
I mentioned to him that my goal was to become a Major League Baseball broadcaster one day and then he and I talked a few more minutes, I asked him “Would you mind if I got a picture with you?” He responded “Absolutely brother, come on.” Afterwards I told him that he was the last pitcher a game at Turner Field that I attended, he said “Is that the game when it rained forever?” I said “It was, y’all didn’t start playing until 12:30 a.m., he responded “That’s it.” He and I both shared a laugh because we both knew how that turned out for the New York Mets, whom both of us hated. The last thing I asked him was “Who gave you the nickname ‘The Bulldog’ he smiled and said, “Two people are responsible for that nickname, Chipper and Bobby Cox, Chipper started it first because he said I went after hitters like a bulldog and after a few weeks, the skipper only called me “Bulldog”. I thanked him and before I sat down I said “Go Braves!” He said “Chop on, my brother.”
11 years ago, I was thrilled to be getting a new dog. I have always loved dogs, I don’t know if it’s because I have been around them my entire life, if it’s because they’ve comforted me in the times when I needed it the most.
This morning I got the news that my chihuahua named “Siddalee” after Siddalee Walker on “YaYa Sisterhood” that we got as a Mother’s Day for my mom in 2008, will gain her wings this afternoon and go be with Jesus in Doggy Heaven. This one is especially hard for me because Sidda has been there for me through some of the toughest times in my life. She’s helped cure me when I was sick, helped heal me when I was hurting.
She never seemed to have a problem making things better and easier for me over the past 11 years. For the past month she has been dealing with abscess tooth, even after having all but one tooth pulled months ago.
I went Monday night to visit her one last time and she seemed to be in good spirits that night despite no longer being able to jump around like the Energizer Bunny. As hard as it is, I know that this for the better.
She will no longer be in pain, no more sickness only happiness. She will also be with her other three four-legged brothers in the presence of God. What a reunion that will be. Thank you for everything, Sidda. I’ll see you on the other side soon.
About two weeks ago, I was heading to Alpharetta, Georgia and I passed the place where I spent a large amount of my time growing up, Turner Field, now known as Georgia State Stadium, since it is the home of the Georgia State Panthers football. I still call it Turner Field, though, because that’s what I’ve always known it as. I witnessed many victories inside those friendly confines and very few losses. In fact, a few months ago, I did the math, and I realized that I had been to 42 Braves games, 41 of which game at Turner Field. The Braves home record when I attend is 31-10. I like to think of myself as the Braves ‘good luck charm’. Because they almost never lose when I’m in attendance. As I passed the stadium, I was suddenly taken back to my childhood, I felt the thrill that I felt as a little kid, I felt like a kid in a candy store all over again. I’ve seen so many Braves greats take the field there. I was taken back to when I was little and we would pull up to the stadium and I would blurt out the ESPN theme song, I could hear Crazy Train over the PA system in my head as I passed it. So many great memories were made there. I never visited the stadium when I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself. It was like I was a little kid again for that split-second. So many life-long friends were made inside those four walls. I haven’t been inside SunTrust Park yet, but I did pass it as I was headed home that weekend and I plan to visit in 2020. Nice to see you again, old friend.
13 years, has it really almost been 13 full years?!? Wow. In the words of Willie Nelson, “Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?” To answer Willie’s question, yes, it is funny how time slips away. I still think of my late grandaddy, whom I affectionately refer to as Big Ken, still to this day. I find myself wishing he was still here to see Brennen and I grow into men. I find myself running across pictures of him that I haven’t seen before. If he were still here, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would be beaming from ear-to-ear with pride as we are grown now and living on our own but we still live together, so I know that he would be proud to know that through all these years, we’re still just as close as we were the day that pancreatic cancer took him from us when we’re just eight years old. I try not to think about how things were during his last few months here, instead, me being the positive person that I am, I try to remember all of the good things about him and trust me, there were tons of good things about the man that stood 6’4″ weighing above 230 pounds. He was hard-working, when he saw a homeless person or a person in need, he helped them in any way that he could, he always went out of his family had everything that they needed and most of what they wanted, because when he grew up in late 30’s and into the 40’s he and his family weren’t as fortunate as we were. If I heard, ‘Son I don’t care if your the janitor or the CEO, just make sure you are the hardest worker in the building’ once, I heard it a thousand times. I didn’t realize what he meant back then, but now that I’m grown, I know exactly what he meant. He believed in treated people with respect, even if they didn’t treat you with respect. I never knew him to have a bitter bone in his body. He was always patient with us and sometimes I know I got on his nerves, but he’d just smile and “Boy, you ain’t right.” And I have to agree, in fact, even today, I’m ‘not right’ most of the time. Thank you, Big Ken for all of the great memories. Until we meet again, I promise to be the hardest worker in the room, and I’ll try my best to keep dad straight, I don’t know how you and Grandma Sherry did it for all those years, it’s harder than it seemed at eight years old. Take it easy big man, I love you.
This past Saturday, I went over to Alpharetta, Georgia with family friends where we met my aunt, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina for a Hank Jr. and Kid Rock concert. I had been looking forward to this concert for weeks, maybe even years before I knew I was going, because my grandmother always told me “If Kid Rock ever comes close, you go see him.” So I heeded her advice and went to see him and Hank Jr in Alpharetta. On the way over, it took what seemed like an eternity. I think that’s because of how long I had looked forward to this night. I didn’t see an Alpharetta sign the whole time until we reached the northern part of Fulton County, Georgia. When we reached the hotel, my aunt met us in the hotel lobby, anxiously waiting to go to the concert. We arrived at the 48 minutes before show time, so I understand why she was in a hurry, because I was too. When we got to the amphitheater, we waited in a line that wrapped around a curb, which meant we would miss Bocephus’ first two songs. But when we passed the metal detectors and entered, I could immediately feel the energy in the place even though Kid Rock wasn’t on stage yet. I knew I was in for a treat. At first, we accidentally sat in the wrong seats. (which didn’t turn out well for the actual seat owner, at all.) I’m not sure he knew who he was talking to. But while we were in the midst of the confrontation, I just sat back in his seat and enjoyed the show, because I knew he wouldn’t do anything, so I wasn’t worried in the least bit. My aunt had gone to buy merchandise so it was just the family friends and myself. I sat back, looked at him and crossed my arms while one of the family friends handled the situation. After we found our seats, which were a lot better than the seats we originally sat in, the energy kept building. When Kid Rock, an avid American, from Romeo, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, took the stage, I screamed my head off. In fact, I screamed every lyric to every song he sang that night. Which resulted in me completely losing my voice, but I was okay with that because I had a blast doing it and I know that my grandma was looking down from heaven with that innocent smile on her face and my grandad was doing the same. On Sunday, we met my cousin for lunch in Atlanta before heading back home where we sat, talked, laughed and enjoyed every minute. But then, on Sunday night, it dawned on me that I had a football to announce the next day and I had no voice. I thought “Well, this should be fun.” But I didn’t worry about it. I knew it was all worth it. If you ever get the chance, go raise hell with Kid Rock, you won’t be disappointed.
Lately, I’ve found myself writing off the topic of sports and a little bit more about personal stories. This one might be my favorite. Earlier today, I pulled up Google Earth and searched for 7 Yankee Trove, where my late grandparents lived during my childhood. You might ask ‘Why would you do that?‘ Or ‘Why would you do that?Well, I didn’t do it just because. I did it because I wanted to see if one special structure was still standing in the yard since the home has different occupants now. Many of my childhood memories were made here, from playing “waiter” to playing baseball in the backyard with Big Ken and my brother to hide and seek around every inch of the yard, including the ditch and picnics at the stone table located in the backyard. The structure I was looking for was a bridge that Big Ken built for my brother and I in the early 2000s. We spent many hours, days and years walking across that bridge during my childhood. So I typed in the address and panned over toward the house on my right hand side, as I glanced at the house, I looked down and low and behold, the wooden bridge that my grandaddy hand-built, was still standing, the bridge named after my brother and I was still standing in the middle of the yard in what looked to be perfect condition. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to my brother, my family, and myself, it means the world. It truly is life’s smallest things that hold the most weight and mean the most. Picture: Google Earth.
The date was September 14, 1938, 81 years ago tomorrow my grandfather, whom I affectionately called ‘Big Ken’, due to his massive stature, was born. But his stature wasn’t the only thing that was big. His heart was even bigger than his stature. He would do anything for anybody, not because he wanted to brag, he wasn’t that type, but because he simply knew that it was the right thing to do. I can’t recall a time that he didn’t do what was right at any time. Growing up in Bascom, Florida, in the 30s and 40, he didn’t have much, but he was thankful for what he had and didn’t complain about what others had that he didn’t. My dad and aunt often talk about how mean Big Ken could be. But I never saw the mean side of him (thankfully). I think that is because as a person ages, they tend to mellow out. So by the time my brother and I were born 1997, he must’ve been pretty mellow. As we grew up, we would go down to Spanish Fort, Alabama, where Big Ken and Grandma Sherry lived while we grew up. Every time we saw them until Big Ken was in his last days with us in 2006, he and Grandma Sherry always had surprises for us in the back of their black Crown Victoria and my brother and I would run to the car anxiously awaiting the surprises that were inside. When our grandparents visited Wetumpka, we would often go to Fort Toulouse, a battleground which is famous for its history, including being the site where Creek Indian Chief, William Weatherford, known as “Red Eagle” to members of the tribe, surrendered to General Andrew Jackson on August 9, 1814, to have lunch. Well, there’s moss in the trees down at Fort Toulouse, which was built in 1714, but my brother wasn’t aware of that, so he often asked “Why is there ‘hair in the trees?'” Big Ken and I would often laugh and laugh. I also recall lots of time spent playing baseball in the back yard of their Spanish Fort home, the land that their home sat on was used as battleground in the days of the Civil War if I remember correctly. Big Ken even built a bridge for us in the front yard and named it ‘B & B Bridge’ in our honor. If I’m not mistaken he built the bridge somewhere around 2002. I often find myself wondering if the bridge is still standing since the house has since been handed to new owners. In his final days, he worried about us not remembering who he was, I’m sure he went to heaven worrying about that, but that’s far from the case. Almost 13 years after his death, we still talk about him and all of the good times we spent with him, while dad informs of some good times and some not so good times spent with Big Ken. At 6’4″, 200-plus pounds, he surely seemed larger than life and his impact on our lives is still felt today. Happy 81st Birthday, Big Ken, we haven’t forgotten you.
The date was September 3rd, 1939, exactly 80 years ago today, when my Grandma Sherry first saw the light of day. I was blessed to spend 19 of my 21 years on earth with her. I often catch myself thinking about she would say or do if she could see where my life is today. I often reflect on the many conversations that the two of us shared on the back porch of both her days in Spanish Fort at 7 Yankee Trove and Wetumpka, where she lived when God called her home on December 30, 2017, six days after she fell ill on Christmas Eve of that year. I remember her saying multiple times “I love Kid Rock, I just wish he didn’t talk so ugly.” Many of our conversations involved some sort of life-lesson or one of her many sayings that should’ve been trademarked. One of those many sayings was “Nobody goes hungry under Mama’s watch.” One of her many valuable life-lessons that also should’ve been trademarked was “There is never a right time to do the wrong thing and never a wrong time to do the right thing.” She was always preaching about treating people with respect, no matter how wrong they were. In fact, recently a family friend came over to the house and said that she had talked to my aunt and my aunt said I needed to go with them to see Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock. I immediately began to think of how many times Grandma Sherry and I had talked about seeing Kid Rock if he was ever close. Sadly, she never got to see him, so I will go see him for her on September 21. Even though I selfishly wish she was still here, I know that she is not suffering and that she is finally back with Big Ken after 11 years of being apart, when he died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. I will write a piece dedicated to him at a later date. But for now, Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma Sherry, give Big Ken a hug for me. We will meet again one day soon.
Not too many people I know can say that they went to school with a guy that has played football for two Division I Southeastern Conference teams however, I am one of the few people that can say that. I watched Brandon Kennedy play for two years at the high school level for my alma mater, Wetumpka High School and like many people he was bigger than me, but unlike most people, he was 6’5″ and weighed somewhere close to 300 lbs. I watched him dominate at the ranks for those two years, I also watched him play at Alabama for a few years and I’ve watched him play for my favorite team, the Tennessee Volunteers. All within the last few years. Kennedy left high school in December of 2014 to head to Tuscaloosa and be a part of the dynasty that Nick Saban has built for the past 11 years, going on 12. But prior to leaving school to enroll at The University of Alabama, he was scheduled to graduate in 2015, a year ahead of me. After he graduated from Alabama a few years back, Brandon decided to leave The Capstone and transfer elsewhere to play out his last two years of eligibility. During his time at Alabama, he won he won a national title. In 2016, my senior year of high school I had the pleasure of interview him for a promotion video project that I was a part of for the football team. Brandon is scheduled to be Tennessee’s starting center in 2019. Honestly, never in a million years did I think I would attend the same high school as a multi-Southeastern Conference football player but I did and I still can’t believe it to this day.