Long Time Coming: My First Trip to Truist Park

I went to my very first Braves game at Turner Field in either 2000 or 2001, back when the Braves had that daunting starting rotation that included three then-future Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, who was often used in a closing role back then. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

Those were the days of Rafael Furcal at shortstop, Matt Franco at first, Julio Franco at second, Vinny Castilla at third or catching, Chipper Jones at third or in left, Eddie Perez catching, Andruw Jones in center, Marcus Giles at second, and Wilson Bettimit in right, Javy Lopez catching, and of course the skipper, Bobby Cox.

I don’t remember if we won or lost that day due to my young age at the time, but I do know that Tom Glavine was the starting pitcher that day.

Fast forward 20 or so years and I’ve finally made it to my first game at Truist Park, the new home of the Braves that opened back in 2017.

Usually, we get there early enough to watch the Braves take batting practice, but we had trouble with the mobile ticketing deal going on nowadays due to COVID, so we had missed them by the time we entered the stadium, which I was kinda upset by, but it was okay, I was more concerned about the game anyway.

Before the game, I went to the Braves Clubhouse Store to get another hat (shocking, I know, but I just have to get a new hat at every game).

Afterwards, we walked over to Monument Garden near section 125, where I had my picture taken with Hank Aaron’s 1969 jersey, Tom Glavine’s 1995 jersey, Dale Murphy’s 1982 jersey, the Hank Aaron Award, a champagne bottle that was used after the Braves won the 1995 World Series Championship, in front of a picture of Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, in front of all of the hats Hank Aaron hit a home run with, the 1995 World Series trophy and even a time capsule that will be opened in April 2042.

The Braves shutout Tampa Bay 9-0, to improve to 44-10 in games I attend. 43-10 at home and 1-0 on the road. If you haven’t been to Truist Park, you need to go. Trust me when I tell you, there’s something there for literally everyone.

See you in 2022, Truist Park! It was nice meeting you!

(All 755 of Hank’s home run bats)
Hank’s 1974 jersey he was wearing when he passed Babe Ruth)
(Hank Aaron Statue, beside which his casket sat during memorial services for him at Truist Park in January)
(World Series Trophy)
(Time Capsule)
(Hank’s 1969 jersey)
(Tom Glavine’s 1995 jersey)
(Dale Murphy’s 1982 jersey)
(Champagne bottle used to spray champagne in celebration of the 1995 championship)
(Half of the retired numbers. Murphy, Cox, Chipper, Spahn, Smoltz, Maddux)

Born on the Bayou: 72 Years of Outlaw Living

He’s got 109 hit singles, 99 of which could be found on Billboard Hot Country chart at one time. He’s the son of arguably the greatest Country Music artist to ever live.

He’s an outlaw in every sense of the word, all you have to do is look at his family tree to see that the outlaw lifestyle comes to him naturally. I mean after all, his daddy is Hank Williams Sr, it doesn’t get more outlaw than that.

On this day in 1949, Hank Williams Sr and his wife Audrey Mae Sheppard Williams welcomed little Randall Hank Williams into this world in Shreveport, Louisiana. Hank Sr nicknamed Randall Hank “Bocephus” after Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy. Now, Hank Sr died in 1953, when young Bocephus was around three or four. So after that, he was raised by his mother Audrey.

When Hank Jr was a child, you could say that a Taj Mahal of musicians visited him and his family, given his father’s status before he passed away on New Year’s Day of 1953.

When I say a Taj Mahal of artists visited his home in his younger days, I don’t mean just one or two famous “regular” artists like you may think. I mean the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis among others.

Williams first stepped on stage and performed his father’s songs at the age of eight and this was just the beginning of what would become what is today a very successful musical career.

In fact, to date, Hank Williams Jr. has 109 hit singles and is by far the most sought after concert ticket in the country music industry.

His career has seen him honored and awarded many times over the years of sitting somewhere between raisin’ hell and amazing grace. He was the 2006 Johnny Cash Visionary Award recipient and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020.

He’s won countless Grammy Awards for his musical talents but it’s not about the accolades for Bocephus. He says “I’m tryin’ to keep my daddy’s legacy alive in a world that’s becoming more and more blind to those trailblazers as time rolls on.” I guess you could say, it really is a “Family Tradition” in more than one way. Not only is Bocephus keeping the Drifter’s legacy alive, he’s also paving the way for the future of outlaw country.

Happy 72nd Birthday to the Icon himself, Hank Williams Jr.

(Picture: Getty Images)

Staying in the Fight: Indians to host Mustangs in Area Championship Thursday

It’s been a long season, one full of ups and downs for teams all over the State of Alabama no matter what the classification might be.

Every team has their high points and low points over the course of a season, no matter what length it is. Wetumpka (20-7) seems to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Indians’ third baseman Kyle Morrison stated “This is just another game to me, we have a lot of confidence in our teammates and we know what we’re capable of doing, all we have to do is take it pitch by pitch.”

Morrison also stated “We don’t want to overlook those guys (Stanhope Elmore), they are a talented group and nothing will be easy in this one, it never does. As long as we compete for seven solid innings, we’ll be fine.”

The Indians return to the friendly confines of Bazemore Field on Thursday for a doubleheader against Stanhope Elmore, whom the Tribe defeated 8-2 on Tuesday in Millbrook, Alabama, at Furlow Field.

With the rivalry between Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka being one of Elmore County’s best, Morrison uses it as motivation every time they take the field donning the black and gold.

“This rivalry definitely pushes us harder to go out there and be our best.”

He also credits the tough schedule that Wetumpka was faced with this year as a stepping stone in preparing for this moment.

“This schedule has definitely prepared us not only for this moment, but also for the playoffs. We have faced a lot of talented teams this year with bright futures and we’ve our share of adversity, but in the long run that’s what it takes if you want to succeed.”

“This season has definitely taught us some lessons that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, we definitely won’t take this opportunity for granted because it could be taken away tomorrow.”

It’s the Indians and Mustangs, Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore, for the Class 6A Area 5 Championship. First pitch is slated for 4:30pm with a second game to follow if necessary.

A Series for the Ages: Wetumpka set to tangle with arch-rival Stanhope for Area 5 crown this week

It’s no secret that these two schools that will face off in game one of a potential three-game series don’t like each other. The history between these two schools —regardless of the sport — dates back further than most people can remember.

But the rivalry, oh how it’s grown over recent years. In some ways you could say Wetumpka High School and Stanhope Elmore High School — arguably the top two baseball teams in the River Region — have not only the history that would constitute a rivalry, but they also have one of, if not the biggest rivalry in the River Region.

The two squads will collide for the first time in 2021 Tuesday at Furlow Field in Millbrook, Alabama, home of the Mustangs for one game scheduled to begin at 4:30pm.

The finale of the series will commence at Bazemore Field in Wetumpka, Alabama on Thursday. This series is without a doubt going to be a fight tooth-and-nail. Runs won’t come easy. After all when it comes to these two bitter rivals, nothing comes easy.

This is about more than bragging rights, it’s about more than a bat and a ball, it’s two schools that down-right despise each other facing off, colliding head-to-head in one series for an Area crown. Who wants it more?

Embrace the Chaos: The Life of a Broadcaster

Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.

I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.

I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.

Happy First Heavenly Birthday, Hammerin’ Hank: Sports World Honors Home Run King on Would-Be 87th Birthday

Just two weeks ago, we said our earthly goodbyes to Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, the Mobile, Alabama, native, who broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which now serves as a parking lot to the adjacent Georgia State Panthers Football Field, the former Turner Field, which was home of the Braves from 1997 to 2016. 

All that’s left of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium is a little section of the wall. You might ask ‘Well, why just a portion of the wall?’ You see, that portion of the left-center field wall serves as a reminder of all that was Mr. Hank Aaron and the all that he stood for. 

Today, we remember Hank for the humbleness, integrity, honor, and dignity, with which he carried himself for so many years both on and off of the baseball field. Normally, we would be wishing him a happy and safe birthday on this day, but we don’t have to do that today, because we know that he is in a better place, far better than this land. 

Hank is at the Feet of God in Heaven at this moment, I can only imagine how he is celebrating his first birthday in Heaven today, but I know that it’s far greater than any birthday he ever celebrated here on Earth during his time with us. 

Today as not only Braves fans but baseball fans in general, we should offer words of comfort, compassion, inspiration, and motivation for his loved ones. To Hank’s wife Billye Suber Aaron, his children, Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, Hank Jr., and Ceci, I’m here to say that you aren’t the only ones mourning today, for we are with you. 

Even though Hank may no longer be here physically, he will always be with us spiritually. Today, do as Hank would want you to do and “Just keep swingin,’” he is no longer in pain nor is he suffering and we will all meet in the Kingdom of Heaven when our names are called. 

God Bless.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter).

Honoring the Life of the True Home Run King: Hank Aaron


Henry Louis “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. While it may appear to the general public that Hank Aaron had everything handed to him a silver platter, that is far from the truth. Growing up in Alabama in the 1930s and 40s was very difficult, especially for a person of color. 

In the 1940s, his hometown of Mobile, Alabama was not a safe place for a colored kid to pursue equality with segregation and all that came with it. In an interview a few years ago when asked about his awareness of segregation and how he felt about it, Aaron stated “I don’t know that I was aware of it, but I was conscious of who I was.” 

During his childhood, young Hank passed through the sandlots of that south Alabama town with brief stops in the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues before he settled in with the Braves. He was just 13 years old when Jackie Robinson broke baseball color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, so his greatest idol was none other than Robinson. 

Hank Aaron grew up to be quite the baseball player himself. He was a consistent producer both at the plate and in the field, reaching the .300 mark in batting 14 times, 30 home runs 15 times, 90 RBI 16 times, and captured three Gold Glove Awards en-route to 25 All-Star Game selections. 

1975 was arguably Aaron’s best season. He hit .322 that year with 44 home runs and 132 RBI, captured the National League MVP Award and led the Braves to their first World Series Championship since 1914. His most memorable feat game on the night of April 8, 1974, when he took Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Al Downing deep for the 715th home run of his career, passing Babe Ruth’s previous mark of 714. He would finish his career with 755 long balls. 

He remains baseball’s all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). If each of his 755 home runs were to be removed, he would still have 3,016 hits. Hank Aaron was a model of humility, dignity, and quiet competence. He did not seek the adoration that he received, but he earned it, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. He passed away at age 86 on Friday.

We love you, Hank. Tell Don Sutton we said hello.

(Picture: Grant McAuley Twitter)
(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

A Man with a Heart of Gold: Baseball World Remembers Don Sutton for Genuine Personality


For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action. 

The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. 

A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.” 

Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team. 

Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.” 

The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.” 

I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport. 

While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day. 

Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future. 

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.” 

Rest in Peace Don, 

I love you, my brother.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

Born With the Blues: Chad Wesley


Some musicians have to adapt to a certain genre and soak in the atmosphere for a little while. But for one Jackson, Mississippi-based artist, he didn’t have to adapt and soak in an atmosphere, for him, the Blues was a way of life. Born near the Mobile Bay, in the neighboring town of Fairhope, Alabama, Chad Wesley has that Southern-edged, lonesome feel to his music and his background just adds to the mellowed vibe.

Wesley and his family left the Mobile, Alabama suburb of Fairhope when he was an infant, they were only there for a handful of years while his father was working for a sub-contracting company, Alabama Dry Dock, who sub-contracted for Ingall’s Ship Yard and the sub-ship department of the U.S. Navy. He’s been picking the Blues since December 23, 1994, when he learned his first chord.

At the time, Chad’s father and brother were already several years into their musical careers playing professionally. However, the Forest, Mississippi-raised Blues picker never got the chance to travel around with them.

Wesley stated “My Dad had retired from performing years earlier and was managing a band my brother was playing lead guitar in. Once that fell through my brother hung it up and spent his only time on the guitar just teaching me.” Wesley went on to state that both his father and brother, now mechanical designers, have continued to stand firmly behind him on his almost three-decade journey. 

He got his first taste of live performances in May of 1999. Going into his first public performance Chad stated “I was too excited to be nervous. Playing live for people had been my dream. The only time I felt normal was when I was doing something to entertain people.” So, in sense, you could say that this determined man that is driven for greatness has always been the life of the party. 

“It’s an internal sense of purpose that I’ve felt since childhood to bring joy to those around me.” Chad Wesley does just that and more. His bone-chilling guitar riffs not only make you understand where he’s coming from, but they also allow you to literally feel the vibrations of the guitar. 

He has won multiple awards during his time in the music industry, but he doesn’t want to be known or remembered for his awards, Wesley wants to be remembered as an entertainer that touched the lives of his listeners. 

He stated that the awards “have given me a strong sense of accomplishment. But what it’s done the most for me is it has let me know that what I’ve continued to pour my heart and soul into for so many years is finally paying off.”

Wesley listed some of his greatest influences coming from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and John Mayer, noting that, “he’s kept ‘the guitar’ alive in a world gone digital.”

While enjoying much success, Chad acknowledged that he has faced his fair share of letdowns in the music business. Stating “But the more I turned my trust towards God, the more I saw what success truly was, instead of what I had always dreamt it to be.” He attributed a great amount of that success to his family, stating “I have a beautiful family and a wonderful home, I’ve met legends, performed for thousands, but nothing can compare to coming home to the ones I love the most.” 

Wesley can often be seen on stages across the country picking a 1996 Fender Stratocaster American Standard, 50th Anniversary Edition, which he dubbed “Josephine” after his late friend, Joey Thrash, whom handed the guitar down to Chad after seeing him play it for one set during a show which Thrash attended.

Chad Wesley wants to get the message out to aspiring musicians that haven’t yet gotten the determination to make happen. Stating “Every dream deserves a shot. But once you decide to ‘shoot’, aim as high as you can and sever settle for less than what you feel you deserve. You’ll only get out of something what you put in it. If it were easy, everyone would do, invest in yourself.”

Wesley would like to invite to his upcoming shows at Martin’s Downtown in Jackson, MS and Blue Canoe in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 22 and 23, 2021, respectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Chad Wesley.

(Picture: chadwesley.com)
(Picture: chadwesley.com)

Top of the Mountain: Saban, Bryant Debate Shouldn’t Exist in the First Place

For many years now, Alabama fans have debated on which Crimson Tide head coach was the greatest of all-time. On Monday evening, currently Alabama head coach Nick Saban earned his seventh national title as a head coach, sixth in Tuscaloosa. Many media members are crowning Saban as the undisputed greatest head football coach in college football history. 

While no other college football coach has ever lifted the national championship trophy seven times in his career besides Nick Saban, I feel that the whole debate concerning Bear Bryant and Nick Saban should’ve never been existent in the first place. You might ask why. Well, hear me out. Take nothing away from Saban, he’s a great coach and has set a great standard at the University of Alabama. 

Nick Saban now owns a 165-23 record, sure that’s great, but people seem to forget what Paul “Bear” Bryant did and the times in which he did it. Bear Bryant served as the head coach of the Crimson Tide from 1958-1982, a time where the wishbone was the most popular offense in college football and defenses won championships. 

Again, take nothing away from Nick Saban, he’s a remarkable coach, but in my opinion Bear Bryant and Nick Saban are incomparable due to the fact that they are both the best coaches of their times. Nick Saban has had an incredible tenure at Alabama, that’s no secret. But have you ever thought about the fact that Bear did it with “less talent” so-to-speak? Not saying that Nick Saban’s players are definitely more talented than Bear’s were. 

Here’s what I’m saying, in the times that Bryant served as the head coach in Tuscaloosa, we definitely didn’t have the technology that exists today, there was no NFL Combine, Twitter seemed lightyears away, Facebook wasn’t even thought of. None of this social media that reels recruits in today, existed back in the 1950s-1980s. 

Nick Saban has all of these avenues and ways that he could go to get recruits from different parts of the country and even world, whereas when Bear was in Tuscaloosa, the majority of the players in Crimson and White were raised in the State of Alabama, you may have a handful that were from out-of-state, but the recruiting system that exists today, wasn’t even thought of back then. 

Both of these men are great men, leaders, and legendary coaches, when it’s all said and done, both of them will end up on the Mount Rushmore of Alabama Football, but this debate that pertains to who is the “best” between Nick and Bear shouldn’t exist. They were both great during their time periods. There’s no “best” head coach, they will both end up in the College Football Hall of Fame when it’s said and done. 

Nobody in the Hall of Fame walks around discussing which one of the Hall of Famers is the “best” everybody is in there for a reason. Put this debate to rest and respect the achievements of both men.

(Picture: SportingNews)