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.