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 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.
All I can say is, wow. This battle continued all offseason with no breaks in between and finally, he is reaping the fruits of his labor months later. Tuesday afternoon, Auburn Football head coach, Gus Malzahn, named true freshman, Bo Nix as his go-to-guy around 2:30pm. Nix, who’s dad is Patrick Nix, a former Auburn quarterback, has high expectations in 2019 and I have no doubt at all that he has what it takes to play to the best of his ability, week-in and week-out. His arm is certainly something to behold, and his legs aren’t too shabby either. Personally, I feel like Malzahn has made the best possible choice that will definitely help the program and the university as a whole. Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over, Auburn has named the former Mr. Football as their quarterback.
Just three months ago, back on April 2, 2019, just hours after attending and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the Atlanta Braves home-opener against the Chicago Cubs, Braves fans all across the country were shell-shocked at the news that they would receive next. Bobby Cox, the man who led Atlanta to an unprecedented 14-consecutive National League pennants, had suffered a stroke. But being the strong-willed man that Bobby is, he managed to make his way to a neighbor’s house before calling an ambulance. Since then, Braves Country has worried, prayed and wondered about the condition of the beloved long-time skipper. On Thursday, June 20, 2019, Bobby Cox was able to go back to his Marietta, Georgia home. Which was a huge sigh of relief for millions of people, including myself. The news was broken by Ken Rodriguez, a sports news director at a local Georgia television station. Though Cox was left with paralysis on his right side and the inability to speak for a number of months, the larger-than-life figure has not slowed down. Thursday, Cox was speaking, hitting a ball off of a tee and throwing the baseball with his therapy dog as well as talking about the Braves. Though Cox hasn’t been at the helm of Atlanta since 2012, he said “I watch every game.” Bobby also has high hopes for himself as does all of Braves Country. Cox also said “I hope to be there for Spring Training.” His wife, Pamela Cox said “I think the biggest frustration for him is his speech, but it will get better with time.” Cox then looked at his wife and smiled. Bobby has been kept constant company since April 2nd by his beloved grandchildren. “They light up a room.” He said with tears in his twinkling eyes. If there’s one word that describes Bobby Cox, it’s “fighter”. Get well soon, we love you Bobby!
Today is about more than barbecue, beer and partying. It’s about honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for the freedom that each and every one of us enjoys today. It’s about honoring those who didn’t make it home, those who died heroes. Many times a year, we find ourselves too wrapped up in our own lives to realize why we have the freedom and those who died so that we, as Americans could have the freedom that we so often, take for granted. Freedom isn’t free, there was a price that had to be paid and thousands paid that price when they unselfishly laid their own lives so that we could experience what it’s like to be free. To all those who were killed for us, we thank you for your sacrifice, bravery, and service and to those who made it home, we thank you for your service. Don’t forget what this day is really about while you’re on the lake, beach or where you may be. It’s about those who left families behind to grieve. Those who never made it out of uniform, those who never came home.
Ahh Turner Field, the place where I first saw Chipper Jones in person and where I spent more summer days in the sweltering Georgia heat. In the early 2000’s I had gone to visit relatives that live in Georgia with my parents. While in Georgia, we decided to catch a Braves game which I had only seen on TV at the time. Back in those days Vinny Castilla was the third baseman, Chipper Jones, who later moved in to play third, Rafael Furcal was the shortstop with insanely athletic movements. Andruw Jones was in center field, Javy Lopez, the catcher, Bobby Cox, the manager etc. as I mentioned before I had only seen them play on TV but I had spent many years studying the players and the game. So I was anxious to finally catch a game in person. The morning of the game, I jumped from the bed in excitement as I knew today was the day that I had waited on my entire lifetime. Atlanta was playing their arch-rival the New York Mets and as a Braves fan, it’s only right to hate “the team from Queens.” I still don’t like them to this day. When we pulled up and I saw the Turner Field marquee in the distance, chills were sent down my spine. Then we pulled our car into the parking lot and immediately I blurted out the ESPN SportsCenter theme. You know, the highlight song. In fact, that day Chipper Jones, my favorite player, hit a home run over the center field wall that measured 400 feet from home plate that gave the Braves a lead that they would not relinquish. In 2016 however, Turner Field stopped operating as the home of the Atlanta Braves, it serves the Georgia State University Panthers football program as their home field. That place is where I met so many people and had so many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Like that one time in 2013, when I met legendary Braves usher Walter Banks who has served as an usher for the Braves since they moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966. In fact, he can tell you anything you want to know about the Braves just by being asked about a number. The Braves have since moved to Cobb County, Georgia and SunTrust Park, which I intend to visit in the near future. They say every good thing must come to an end. But to me, Turner Field will always be the Home of the Braves. So long, old friend thanks for the many, many memories.
Next entry: The Time I Named My Dog after Chipper Jones.