It had been a long time since the Atlanta Braves won a series in San Diego against the San Diego Padres, eight years to be exact. Their last series win in San Diego was back in 2011, when I was in the eighth grade. Eight years might not seem like a long time to us now, but in the sports world, it’s an eternity. The Braves snapped that eight-year drought with a 7-5 win in 10 innings on Saturday thanks to Nick Markakis, who leapt from the right field warning track to save the Braves 56th win of the year. On Sunday, it wasn’t much different, in the fifth inning, All-Star centerfielder, Ronald Acuña Jr. played the role of Superman as he left his feet on the center field warning track, landing almost over the wall, robbing Padres slugger, Manny Machado of a two-run home run that would’ve given San Diego a 2-0 lead. Mike Soroka was his usual self, shutting out the Friars through 7 innings. In the eighth inning, the Atlanta Braves plated four runs. In the bottom of that inning, Touki Toussaint surrendered a run, but held Andy Greene’s club right there and turned things over to AJ Minter to slam the door and preserve the Braves first series sweep in San Diego in 13 years, yes 13 years. I was eight the last time Atlanta swept the Padres on the road, I was also in the third grade. Atlanta has now won four-straight games and boards a plane bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to begin a three-game set at Miller Park with the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday through Wednesday. Tomorrow’s game starts at 7:10pm CT and will pit Max Fried against Adrian Houser against each other. The Braves are now (57-37) on the season. Good things are worth waiting for my friends.
On July 1, 1939, Walter Banks was introduced to the world. Walter has been an usher for the Atlanta Braves for 54 years. Banks joined the Braves security staff in the offseason 1965, just in time for the team’s transition from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1966, Banks has been a mainstay at Braves’ home games, attended over 4,000 games and shaken the hands of approximately 400,000 thousand fans, who ended up being a friend of his by the end of the night. I am one of those lucky 400,000. Back in August of 2012, August 13, 2012 to be exact, my dad and I took a trip to Atlanta to see Braves play the San Diego Padres in Chipper Jones’ last season. I wasn’t expecting to meet an usher that had been with the Braves for 46 years at the time. We got to Turner Field that day as soon as the gates opened and we needed help finding our seats, six rows away from the Braves’ dugout along the first baseline. So we approached this nice-looking, black gentleman and asked him for assistance in helping us find our seats. He shook our hands and showed us to our seats, at the time, I had no clue how long he had been with the Braves. A few minutes later, he made sure to stop by our seats to check on us, we told him we were fine. He then asked us “Where are you from?” We replied: “Montgomery, Alabama.” Because very few people know where Wetumpka is. He then asked dad: “When were you born?” I’m sure that dad didn’t know how to take that, but he replied “1968.” And then came the knowledge. He said “I’ve been with the Braves since they moved to Atlanta in 1966.” I was mesmerized. So I asked him, “Were you there the night Hank Aaron hit his 755th home run?” He replied: “I was I’ve never seen anything like it, that night was incredible.” At this point, I was speechless. Then he asked me “What year were you born?” I replied: “1997.” He enthusiastically said “You were born two years after we won the only World Series title in Atlanta Braves history, right across the road at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.” (The stadium had since been turned into a public parking lot for Braves fans). After a while, he asked “Who is your favorite player?” Without hesitation, I said “Chipper Jones.” He said “Chipper has been a member of the Atlanta Braves since 1993 and will someday be in the Hall of Fame.” A while passed and he said “Hang on, I’ll be right back, stay here.” I noticed that he had gone down to the Braves dugout, but the Braves were taking batting practice so I wasn’t sure what he must be doing. He came back after a minute and said “I got you something.” With his hand behind his back. I was curious to see what he had gotten me. He took his hand out from behind his back and in his hand was a baseball from the Braves dugout. I thanked him and then asked for a picture with him. He obliged immediately, saying “Absolutely!” I still have the ball on a shelf and I also still have the picture of myself with Walter. I chose to write this today because tonight, the Braves are giving away Walter Banks bobbleheads to honor the beloved usher of 54 seasons. If you ever get the chance, go to.a Braves game in Atlanta and ask for Walter Banks, you won’t be disappointed. Happy 80th Birthday, my dear friend, Walter! Braves Country loves you!
Monday seemed like an ordinary Monday for the Los Angeles Angels at first. The team was getting ready to face the Texas Rangers in a 7:05 p.m. CT first pitch. All of that took a sudden turn for the worst at 2:10 p.m. CT when Southlake Police Department personnel found former Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs unconscious and unresponsive in a Southlake, Texas hotel room after responding to a call of an unconscious male, Skaggs was just 27-years-old. Reports say that foul play is not suspected and neither is suicide. It seems the Angels can’t catch a break, they lost former teammate and Atlanta Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson in 2015. As well as 22-year-old Nick Adenhart in 2009 shortly after making his MLB debut. Tyler began his major league career in 2012 with Arizona. In his 5-year major league career, Skaggs pitched in 96 games, going 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA in 520.2 innings pitched. He struck out a total of 476 batters over his career. He married Carli Skaggs in October 2018. Skaggs was set to turn 28 on July 13th. Rest In Peace Tyler, you will be missed.
We’re almost done with the month of June, as we have now reached the 26th day of the sixth month of 2019. The month of June has been a very, very productive one for the Atlanta Braves. In fact, they have a record of (17-6) this month, which ranks as the best June 2019 record in the entire league. Through 23 games in 26 days, not including tonight’s game at Chicago, the Braves offense has been absolutely deadly, launching 48 baseballs into stands all across the country. According to 680 AM The Fan’s Kevin McAlpin, the last time the Braves hit more long balls in a month came in July 2006 when they launched 50 homers. According to him, the franchise record for home runs in a calendar month is 55 which was set back in May of 2003. Who knows, with four more days left in the month of June and five more June games left to play including tonight’s game, Atlanta is just 7 homers away from tying the franchise record for home runs in a calendar month and 8 away from setting a new franchise record for homers in a calendar month. There’s still time to set a new record. Even though June is winding down, it can be done. I’ve seen crazier things happen. Tonight’s game at Chicago will feature Dallas Keuchel on the hill for Atlanta and Yu Darvish will get the call for the Chicago Cubs. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05pm ET.
Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter.
Oh, the stories I could tell about the place that I often refer to as “my home”. Though it’s not really my home, it is a place where I can go and feel like I have escaped reality. I’ve been there off and on for the past six years. It’s the place where I embarked on this ongoing journey that is my dream of broadcasting. I’ve called a countless amount of names out from the microphone and speakers of what I consider a sacred place because it’s where I took my first step as a broadcaster. I’ve seen tons of games won and tons of games lost from that press box. So it’s only fitting that I call it home. There’s just something special about this place that gives me a feeling that I don’t experience anywhere else. It’s a safe haven to me. I feel like I’m on top of the world when I climb the press box stairs and enter the press box. It’s where I’ve met a countless amount of people and most of those people have remained in touch to this day. If you were to ask me what my favorite call has been during my time at Bazemore Field so far, I’d have to say it’s when we swept arch-rival Stanhope Elmore to win the Class 6A Area 5 Championship earlier this year. After all, it was the first area championship in baseball in 24 years. My call was: “Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, for the first time in 24 years, your Wetumpka Indians are Class 6A Area 5 Champions!” While playing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” over the speakers. It was so electrifying in the ballpark that day. Granted we weren’t 6A in 1995, the last time we won the area championship, I feel like that was my signature call from this year and I can’t wait to make more memories at “home” next year. While I am anxiously awaiting new memories next year, nothing can replace the memories that were made on that diamond in 2019. Until next year, take it easy Bazemore Field, I’ll be home before you know it.
It was 2013 and I had no clue, at the time, that the place I had always loved visiting for baseball, and even just passing by on the road would close to baseball operations just three years later, in 2016. This game and season was a little bit on the weird side for me, as my favorite player, Chipper Jones, had just retired in 2012. I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself since Chipper had gone into retirement. I realized one day that the Braves would be hosting the San Diego Padres on August 13, so I told my dad that I wanted to go since it was summertime and I didn’t have school. He agreed and ordered the tickets immediately. When August 13th got here, I woke up quickly and reminded dad that it was game day. He rolled over and nodded his head, half asleep. I went back to my room and quickly got dressed. When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to the stadium in time to catch batting practice for both teams. We were walking towards our seats and an usher walks up behind us and says “Do y’all need any help finding your seats?” Dad and I looked at each other and agreed that we needed assistance in finding our seats. The usher led us to our seats just above the Braves first base dugout and we thanked him. I recognized all of the stickers that were on the nice usher’s name tag but didn’t ask what they were for. In fact, I didn’t have to ask, as he quickly explained the stickers to us before introducing himself. “I’m Walter Banks, I’ve been with the Braves since they moved here, to Atlanta in 1966.” Walter said. “Ask me a number.” He said. So instinctively, I went with 10 because of Chipper Jones. Walter said “I attended my very first Braves at age 10 when they were the Milwaukee Braves.” I was at a loss for words. “I’ve never watched TV,” Banks said. “I’ve only read books.” While the Braves were taking batting practice, he said “I’ll be right back, stay here.” So I sat in my seat watching Walter head down to the Braves dugout just rows away. He came back with a baseball and said “This one’s for you.” I immediately thanked him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him, delightfully, he agreed and then said he has to get on his way. So I thanked him again and settled into my seat still in awe of what had just taken place. If you ever get the chance to go to a Braves game, ask for Walter Banks, you won’t regret it.
The year was 2014 and I had recently been on visits with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers. I was sitting at home when my mom got a Facebook message from a mutual friend whose son I went to high school with asking if I would be interested in visiting with the Biscuits. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Montgomery Biscuits, they are the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. I couldn’t believe what I had just been told, I was 16 at the time and I knew might only get the opportunity once, so I took the offer up. I would be in the press box at Riverwalk Stadium, the same stadium which at one time saw the likes of Evan Longoria, BJ Upton and David Price grace its diamond. I would attend the game on June 3rd, 2014 vs. the Huntsville Stars and I could hardly wait. The Huntsville Stars were the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. I had been to Riverwalk Stadium before but I had never been in the press box there. When the day finally got here, I was thrilled and headed to the stadium as soon as I could. When I got to the press box I was greeted by Aaron Vargas, who was The Voice of the Biscuits at the time. The Biscuits went on to win the game that night. If you have an opportunity at chasing your dream at a higher level, take it you never know if you’ll get that opportunity again but also remain grateful and humble.
Next piece: A Visit with the Auburn-Montgomery Warhawks.