The date was September 14, 1938, 81 years ago tomorrow my grandfather, whom I affectionately called ‘Big Ken’, due to his massive stature, was born. But his stature wasn’t the only thing that was big. His heart was even bigger than his stature. He would do anything for anybody, not because he wanted to brag, he wasn’t that type, but because he simply knew that it was the right thing to do. I can’t recall a time that he didn’t do what was right at any time. Growing up in Bascom, Florida, in the 30s and 40, he didn’t have much, but he was thankful for what he had and didn’t complain about what others had that he didn’t. My dad and aunt often talk about how mean Big Ken could be. But I never saw the mean side of him (thankfully). I think that is because as a person ages, they tend to mellow out. So by the time my brother and I were born 1997, he must’ve been pretty mellow. As we grew up, we would go down to Spanish Fort, Alabama, where Big Ken and Grandma Sherry lived while we grew up. Every time we saw them until Big Ken was in his last days with us in 2006, he and Grandma Sherry always had surprises for us in the back of their black Crown Victoria and my brother and I would run to the car anxiously awaiting the surprises that were inside. When our grandparents visited Wetumpka, we would often go to Fort Toulouse, a battleground which is famous for its history, including being the site where Creek Indian Chief, William Weatherford, known as “Red Eagle” to members of the tribe, surrendered to General Andrew Jackson on August 9, 1814, to have lunch. Well, there’s moss in the trees down at Fort Toulouse, which was built in 1714, but my brother wasn’t aware of that, so he often asked “Why is there ‘hair in the trees?'” Big Ken and I would often laugh and laugh. I also recall lots of time spent playing baseball in the back yard of their Spanish Fort home, the land that their home sat on was used as battleground in the days of the Civil War if I remember correctly. Big Ken even built a bridge for us in the front yard and named it ‘B & B Bridge’ in our honor. If I’m not mistaken he built the bridge somewhere around 2002. I often find myself wondering if the bridge is still standing since the house has since been handed to new owners. In his final days, he worried about us not remembering who he was, I’m sure he went to heaven worrying about that, but that’s far from the case. Almost 13 years after his death, we still talk about him and all of the good times we spent with him, while dad informs of some good times and some not so good times spent with Big Ken. At 6’4″, 200-plus pounds, he surely seemed larger than life and his impact on our lives is still felt today. Happy 81st Birthday, Big Ken, we haven’t forgotten you.
For weeks leading up to the trip to Miami, Florida, I was anxious and ready for a vacation. When Thursday came, I went to work and then went to Birmingham to spend the night before boarding a plane for my very first flight on Friday. We reached Miami at 12:16pm eastern time. I was hoping to pay a visit to Marlins Park, as the Braves just so happened to be in Miami for a three-game series the same weekend that I was in town. Friday night, my dad and I took an Uber 5.8 miles down the road to Marlins Park. The starting pitchers? None other than Mike Soroka and Jose Ureña. If you remember what Ureña did to Ronald Acuña Jr. last season, you know that it was only right that Acuña take him deep out of the park. That started what was a short night for the Miami pitcher. Giving up six runs in four innings. For Atlanta, Mike Soroka, arguably Atlanta’s hottest pitcher right now, tied a career-high in innings pitched, giving up three hits, one run, one earned run, yielding two walks and striking out six while lowering his season earned-run-average to 1.38. Atlanta wound up walloping the Marlins 7-1. On Saturday, we ate Cuban food. On Sunday, we took a walk down historic Ocean Drive and hit the club that night. Needless to say Miami didn’t disappoint at all.
Today seems like just another normal Tuesday to most of us. But for several former Atlanta Braves, it’s the day that their dreams became realities. 17 years ago today, in 2002, Atlanta selected current catcher Brian McCann and former Atlanta Braves right fielder current Atlanta Braves broadcaster Jeff Franceour in the first round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft. What makes this day even more special for McCann and Franceour is that at one point they were college roommates as both of the played baseball collegiately at Clemson University. Franceour spent six years with the Braves (2005-2009, 2016), three years with the Kansas City Royals (2011-2013), two years with the New York Mets (2009-2010), one year with the San Francisco Giants (2013), one year with the Philadelphia Phillies (2015), one year with the Texas Rangers (2010), one year with the San Diego Padres (2014) and one year with the Miami Marlins (2016) all in his 12-year career. McCann has spent time with Atlanta (10 years), New York Yankees (three years) and the Houston Astros (two years). Also on this day, 29 years ago in 1990 MLB Amateur Draft, the Atlanta Braves selected the man who some including myself still refer to as the “poster child” of the Atlanta franchise for 19 years from 1993 to 2012. Chipper spent his entire career donning an Atlanta uniform. It may seem like just another day to us, but to them it’s the day their lives changed forever.