Yesterday seemed like a normal day, little did I know several hours later, I would have the distinct honor and privilege of meeting and calling the home run for one of the most inspirational kids that I’ve ever met.
Meet Landon McGregor, Landon has Down syndrome and is the bat boy for Alex City Middle School’s baseball team. He has an infectious personality with a smile that will undoubtedly light up a room.
Prior to the first game of the doubleheader, our head coach came up to me and explained the situation to me. He told me to play it up, which I gladly agreed to do under the circumstances.
To lead off the doubleheader, Landon happily walked up to the plate bat in hand. It wasn’t long before Landon hit the ball and was rounding the bases with a huge smile on his face. His trip around the bases was ended with a slide at home plate and kids surrounding him congratulating him on his big hit.
Little did Landon know, his big moment taught me one important thing, the little things in life are really all that matters.
Dear Freddie Freeman, for 15 years, 11 of those spent in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, you gave all of Braves Country more than we could ever repay you for.
You’ve been our shoulder to cry on during the down years, you’ve celebrated with us in the high years. Despite the ebbs and flows of the years in between your first year here in Atlanta and your last, you stuck it out.
You said you were blessed to be a part of organization, when in fact, we were blessed to have you and your amazing family at our side through the rollercoaster that you ride alongside us for 11 years of big league service, 15 counting your time in the minors.
Thank you for providing us with so many memories, from the home run hugs, to the last out of the 2021 World Series. You did it all.
To Chelsea, thank you for sacrificing so much time with your husband for the betterment of this organization. Freddie is a sensational man who has left an incredible impact on the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to call ourselves Braves fans. He’s been with for a decade and a half and you have been right there with him.
To Charlie, Brandon, and Maximus Freeman, thank you for sharing your dad with us. Thank you, Charlie for the unconditional love that you’ve shown us the past few years. To Brandon and Maximus, your story impacted us all and brought us all to tears.
Freddie, again, my brother, thank you for sharing your family, your athletic ability, and your story with us all for 15 years. You my friend, are the epitome of what it means to be an Atlanta Brave.
Thanks for everything, until our paths cross again, so long my friend, I wish you and your family nothing but the best.
We’ve all got that one friend, or even multiple friends, that we feel are immortal. The kind of friends that have been with us through all heartbreak and the joys of life. The highs, lows, and everything included in this rollercoaster ride called life.
I’ve got several friends of that variety, but the one that’s been with me the longest is now at the Right Hand of God.
In fact, eight years ago today, she was called to her eternal home by God. On February 2, 2014, the one that I still consider to be the sister that I never had took her last breath and began that Heavenly journey that she has been on for eight years.
I can only imagine what she has seen over the last eight years in Heaven. I was so blessed to have been able to share 16 years of my life, her entire life, with her.
Although the time we shared together was far too short, we shared a lifetime worth of memories that I’m forever grateful for. Happy memories, sad memories, and everything in between.
By now, you’re probably thinking we had a perfect friendship. But believe me, there were multiple times in those 16 years that we got on each other’s last nerve.
But we never left each other’s side. She got on my nerves some, but I know that I got on her nerves far more than she got on mine.
How do I know that I got on her nerves? Well, if you knew Jody, you know about that side-eyed straight-faced look she’d give. Every time she gave me that look I’d playfully say “What is it Jody? What’s wrong?”
All while continuing to do what got on her nerves, not because I enjoyed getting the side-eyed, straight-faced treatment, but because I knew that it would only be a matter of seconds before she busted out laughing saying “You’re so stupid. You know that gets on my last nerve.” To which I’d pause and say “Yeah, I know. You want me to do it again?” And she’d playfully say, “No, you idiot.”
I’m forever grateful for the lifetime worth of memories that the two of us shared. From the trips to Mardi Gras in Mobile, to spending the summers at the city baseball fields, and everything in between.
On February 2, 2014, I was in the back of the house on the computer at about 4:30 p.m., when mom came running into the room and headed for her closet.
I wondered what she was doing so I asked “What are you doing?” She replied hurriedly “It’s Jody!” I was so confused at this point.
What has she done now? Was it something great, was she in trouble? What was going on? I was completely lost as to what was happening. The next minute my brother comes into the room and takes my phone.
After about two hours, the house phone rings and it’s mom. I pick it up, completely unprepared for what was about to be said on the other end. “Hello?” I said expecting just a normal answer to what was occurring.
I could hear people crying on the other end. Mom replied “Jody’s gone.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It had to be a prank right?? This just wasn’t possible. I slowly hung the phone up after mom said that she’d be home in a little while.
February 5, 2014 rolls around, the day of the visitation, or viewing as some people refer to it and by this time I had already accepted the role as pallbearer. A role that I wasn’t too sure about taking on, but I knew that she wouldn’t want it any other way.
After all, I’d been with her for her whole life, why not carry her one last time? I wasn’t sure about taking on this responsibility, but I would be doing it the next day at the funeral.
But now, it was time to face my worst nightmare. I entered Thelma Baptist Church, which is about a mile from my house, through the back side door, where I was met by her entire family.
I didn’t know if I had the strength to face what I was going to have to face whether I wanted or not, so her mom and dad escorted me to the sanctuary where the casket was located and her brother and sister walked behind me.
I entered the sanctuary and made a right turn. There it was. There she was. My best friend’s lifeless body laying in a casket. I broke down. I walked up to the casket, leaned down and whispered “You’re safe with me.”
I got there early and sat about mid-ways down the isle. Before long what seemed like a thousand people were showing up in droves to pay their final earthly respects to not only my best friend, but also my very first friend.
The next morning, the funeral was supposed to start at 9 a.m., so I got there around 8 a.m, went inside the sanctuary, sat right in front of the casket and prayed for the strength to get through the day. I can confidently say that I had never heard of an entire school shutting down for a funeral, that is until this one of course.
Afterwards, I looked up and point to the sky and was met with hundreds of hugs from mutual friends that the two of us share. During the funeral the preacher said “Sixteen years…too short some might say, but if it’s a life that was lived and loved, was it really too short?” Those words will always stick close to my heart
That girl loved life. She loved her family and friends, but most importantly, she loved God. She loved hard. You never left her company with the question of “Does Jody love me?” Because she was going to make sure you knew the answer to that question. But if you messed up, or she didn’t like what you did, or how you did it, she was going to give you an earful about it.
She also was a fighter. She fought for those she loved and in turn those of us whom she loved are left here to defend her name and to keep her memory alive.
She stood up for what and who she believed in and you never had to question her loyalty. It was evident as soon as you met her.
As the funeral ended, the funeral director asked the congregation to rise and prepared the casket to be carried out. I stood up, pulled my sunglasses down, even though it was a cloudy day, took a deep breath and grabbed the casket with my right arm.
Once we were out of the church, we loaded the casket into the back of the hearse and I leaned down saying in between tears “This isn’t the end.”
Afterwards I was met with more hugs and words of encouragement to get me through this rough time. At the graveside, I lifted my sunglasses and wiped my eyes with a tissue. Then I was met by more mutual friends that needed a shoulder to cry on, but little did they know, I needed that shoulder to cry on also.
Tell your family and friends you love them, you never know when you’ll see them for the last time. I’d give the world to be able to spend five more minutes with my best friend. Rest In Peace, angel. You are loved and missed more than you will ever know.
Happy eight years, angel. I love you and I’ll see you again one day soon. Until we pick up where we left off, do me a favor and give Heaven some hell.
There are no words to adequately describe the man that was Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron. I don’t say that lightly. You see, it was nearly a year ago, that we lost a great man, a noble man, a man of the highest character, integrity, tenacity, and fortitude.
When Hank Aaron, a black man from Mobile, Alabama, passed away on January 22, 2021, we lost a man whom, so bravely stood face-to-face with social injustice in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.
We lost a legend, but Hank Aaron didn’t care about his statistics, his fame, or what people thought of his career, he was more concerned with seeing that people were treated with the same amount of respect. He was an advocate, a servant, a legend, and an icon in every sense of his being.
He was and is highly revered in the baseball world, just as he deserves to be. Now, I never had the distinct honor of talking to Mr. Aaron during his 86 years of life here on Earth, but from what I’ve read in articles and books, he never wanted to discuss his historic 23-year Major League Baseball career that saw him break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 home runs by sending a ball into the left-center field bullpen at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium at 9:07 p.m., eastern time on April 8, 1974.
He was more concerned with discussing how you were, discussing your needs, and wants. He never was self-centered at all. Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones once said “When Mr. Aaron walked into a room, the crowd got quiet, when he spoke, you listened. But when he made himself available for conversation, you approached him, shook his massive hand, and heeded any advice he offered.”
The baseball world definitely hasn’t been the same since Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away just shy of a year ago because we’ve all felt the void that the absence of such a noble human has left in our hearts. I never got the chance to speak with Mr. Aaron here on Earth, but when my name is called one day to head to that big baseball stadium made of gold in Heaven, you can rest assured that I will approach Mr. Aaron and tell him just how much he means to not only me but to the baseball world in general.
Afterwards, if Mr. Aaron has any advice on how to hit 755 home runs, I will sit back and enjoy his company. Rest In Peace, Hammer. I l love you, brother.
In the beginning of my life, it wasn’t easy for me. In fact, things were a bit rocky for me. At six weeks old, I was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy.
After that, it was discovered that I had developed gangrene and doctors and nurses in Birmingham, Alabama’s Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where I spent most of my infancy, gave me little to no chance of living outside of the four walls of that cold, dark hospital.
I was clinging to life at this point. Things weren’t looking great. In fact, they weren’t looking good at all. A short time after that, my small intestines ruptured and I had suffered a stroke and multiple surgeries.
The medical staff at the hospital had all but thrown in the towel on my life, when little did they know that I was just getting started. it’s so hard for me to believe that on Sunday, December 12, 2021, I will celebrate my 24th year of life on this Earth. It seems like just yesterday that I was in and out of hospitals almost every day having some sort of surgery.
I’ve also suffered from seizures in the past, but thankfully I have been seizure-free for more than eight years. ￼
I don’t share this story as a pity on me, nor do I share it for sympathy or attention. Simply put, I’m sharing my testimony to tell you that you never know what people are going through in their lives. Often times, they don’t talk about it because it’s too tender of a subject for some.
As for me, I’ll gladly open up and share my testimony with anybody at any time in any place because I hope my story leads people to have a greater relationship with God. If it weren’t for His Glory, I wouldn’t be here right now. But thankfully, He had greater plans for me.
People are often battling things that we know nothing about. Be kind and always live for His Glory.
Friday, February 18, 2022 may seem like just any other random, ordinary date to you, most readers. But to me, it’s a very important date. Why you may ask?
Because on Friday, February 18, 2022, I will embark on my ninth year as a baseball broadcaster and call my 400th baseball game as a broadcaster. This microphone has taken me so many places that I would’ve never seen if I hadn’t decided to pick up the microphone nine years ago, back in 2013.
I’d wanted to be a broadcaster long before 2013. In fact, its been my dream since I was a six-year-old little boy from central Alabama.
This microphone has caused me to cross paths with some of the most-decorated, highly-acclaimed broadcasters in the industry. Like former Voice of the Auburn Tigers, Rod Bramblett and current Voice of the Tigers Andy Burcham.
As well as Voice of the Troy Trojans, Barry McKnight, former Auburn Tigers quarterback Charlie Trotman and Doug Amos.
It’s been an absolute blessing to be able live out my dream for going on nine years, and I couldn’t ask for a better school or program to represent other than Wetumpka High School Baseball.
If you come to Bazemore Field, on the campus of Wetumpka High School this spring, be sure to stop by and say hello. To me, this industry is about more than a microphone, it’s about providing the fans with the best gameday atmosphere possible.
Here’s to 400 & counting. See you soon, Bazemore Field. I’ll be home before you know it.
I think it’s safe to say that November 2, 2021, is a date that I will never forget. Perhaps you’re not a sports fan and you’re thinking “Why November 2?” The answer to this question is simple yet complex.
It’s the night that the Atlanta Braves, my favorite baseball team, won the Major League Baseball World Series. I can recall sitting in the back of the house when I was little with my baby-sitter, an older lady, watching the games for hours on end.
I can remember the days of Turner Broadcasting System, more commonly known as TBS, listening to the voices of Skip and Chip Caray, Pete Van Weiren and occasionally, Ernie Johnson, describing the action.
I can remember going to Turner Field as a little kid, possibly three or four, and reciting the SportsCenter theme song as we pulled into the stadium parking lot. I’ve seen thousands of iconic moments in franchise history and I’ve definitely seen my fair share of some not-so-iconic moments.
I saw them in the middle of their unprecedented 14-straight division title run while under the direction of the legendary Bobby Cox. I’ve seen my favorite player retire and be immortalized in baseball history. I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly, but I never gave up on them. I’ve gone to sleep many a night feeling broken-hearted because of a one-run loss, and I’ve pulled adrenaline-filled all-nighters celebrating icon wins.
But the one thing that I hadn’t seen until November 2, 2021, was a World Series trophy head home to Atlanta. I’ve endured many years of postseason heartbreak, sleepless nights, and so much more and all of it paid off 24 hours ago.
It was a long wait, but it was worth the wait. It was the night that I had waited my entire life to see.
As many of you are aware, the Atlanta Braves are in the World Series for the first time since 1999. To put that into perspective, most of this generation’s Braves fans weren’t even alive. As for me, I was alive, but barely.
I say that to say this, in my 23 and a half years of life, I’ve seen tons of baseball. I’ve seen many unprecedented moments in the sports.
Last night during Game one of the World Series was absolutely no exception. Jorge Soler became the first player in Major League Baseball history to homer in the first at-bat of Game one of the World Series and so much more.
But the thing that stood out to me the most was the guts and grit of Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton. In the second inning, he took a 103 mile-per-hour batted ball off the right leg.
He went on to finish the inning, in which he throw ten pitches and came out for the third inning and threw six pitches before exiting the game with a fractured right fibula. Meaning, he threw 16 pitches while pushing off on a broken leg. Tears filled his eyes as he was helped off the field out of the dugout.
You could tell that he wanted to be there for his teammates.
Dear Charlie Morton, you came through in the clutch for us all year long, especially in times when we needed it most. You gave us all something to be proud of. You gave us your all every time you stepped on the mound, no matter the situation and there’s nothing more that we as fans could ask of you.
We appreciate your toughness, resiliency, and drive to be the best version of yourself every day. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Take the time you need to heal up and come back stronger in 2022.
Thank you again, brother, We love you. We’ll take it from here man. We’ll make sure we pick up where you left off.
Thank you for everything this year, Charlie. See you in 2022 brother.
24 years ago tomorrow, you saw the world for the first time. Exactly two months to the day later, I was born into the world. Even though it’s almost been eight years since I said “See you on the other side,” It feels like it’s been a lot longer.
A lot has changed in the last seven and a half years, but the one thing that will never change is the love that I have for you. I can only imagine what you will experience tomorrow in God’s kingdom.
A lot has changed since you took the first step on your heavenly journey, and I can’t help but think of how proud you would be of me.
I was so blessed to have you here with me on Earth for 16 years. It may have only been 16 years, but those 16 years hold a lifetime worth of memory. Thank you for everything Jody Marie. Thousands of memories in such a short amount of time.
Memories that I will cherish forever until I see you again. I know you’re looking down on me giving me that stare that only you could give, telling me to “dry it up, you’ll be fine.”
But the truth is, there will never be another person quite like you. Your heart was so pure, your personality was incredible, your smile lit up a room and if only you knew how loved and missed you are by hundreds of people, you would understand. What they say is true, “True friendship goes far beyond the grave.” I’ll love you forever and always.
Happy Birthday, beautiful. Until we meet again, you’re safe with me.