It was 2013 and I had no clue, at the time, that the place I had always loved visiting for baseball, and even just passing by on the road would close to baseball operations just three years later, in 2016. This game and season was a little bit on the weird side for me, as my favorite player, Chipper Jones, had just retired in 2012. I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself since Chipper had gone into retirement. I realized one day that the Braves would be hosting the San Diego Padres on August 13, so I told my dad that I wanted to go since it was summertime and I didn’t have school. He agreed and ordered the tickets immediately. When August 13th got here, I woke up quickly and reminded dad that it was game day. He rolled over and nodded his head, half asleep. I went back to my room and quickly got dressed. When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to the stadium in time to catch batting practice for both teams. We were walking towards our seats and an usher walks up behind us and says “Do y’all need any help finding your seats?” Dad and I looked at each other and agreed that we needed assistance in finding our seats. The usher led us to our seats just above the Braves first base dugout and we thanked him. I recognized all of the stickers that were on the nice usher’s name tag but didn’t ask what they were for. In fact, I didn’t have to ask, as he quickly explained the stickers to us before introducing himself. “I’m Walter Banks, I’ve been with the Braves since they moved here, to Atlanta in 1966.” Walter said. “Ask me a number.” He said. So instinctively, I went with 10 because of Chipper Jones. Walter said “I attended my very first Braves at age 10 when they were the Milwaukee Braves.” I was at a loss for words. “I’ve never watched TV,” Banks said. “I’ve only read books.” While the Braves were taking batting practice, he said “I’ll be right back, stay here.” So I sat in my seat watching Walter head down to the Braves dugout just rows away. He came back with a baseball and said “This one’s for you.” I immediately thanked him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him, delightfully, he agreed and then said he has to get on his way. So I thanked him again and settled into my seat still in awe of what had just taken place. If you ever get the chance to go to a Braves game, ask for Walter Banks, you won’t regret it.
The year was 2008, and I had often heard that fandom wasn’t real until you named your pets after your favorite player.
On June 4, 2008, I looked outside to see this cute little Sheltie-Chow mix happily wandering up by the road under pecan trees. He seemed lost, we tried for days to find the owner of this quite literal fur ball (You’ll see what I mean at the bottom of this piece). But we were unable to find his owner after a few days and I begged my mom to let us keep him. She agreed with little hesitation but insisted he must be an “outside dog” meaning we had to keep him outside. We agreed and we sat down in the sunroom that night thinking of a name for the dog. At first, I asked mom “Can we name him Langerhans?” In reference to a Braves player. Her response “No, we are not going to call him Langerhans, it will sound ridiculous when we go outside to call him.” I sat there a few minutes and began thinking of a new name for the four-legged animal that reminded me of the Energizer Bunny…the one that runs around beating a drum constantly. “What about Sheffield?” I asked in reference to a past Braves player. Her response “That’s better but no.” Then it hit me “What about Chipper?” I asked confidently thinking “Surely she’ll let me name him after Chipper Jones.” And it stuck. I didn’t know until after the fact that “chipper” also meant “happy.” He was nothing short of happy and also very energetic. I can remember watching him jump from the top of the yard into the front pond with all four of his legs stretched out perfectly straight. Just last year, Chipper Jones was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his illustrious 19-year baseball career, all of which was spent in an Atlanta uniform. I even took off work to watch the ceremony that day (with parental consent). So, I guess that means my dog is a Hall of Fame dog. Congratulations buddy, you made it to the place where all dogs strive to be. Chipper, (my dog), was killed somewhere around 2014 after being hit by a car. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into at the time in which he showed up at the house, but one thing is for sure. He NEVER ran out of energy. I think the Energizer Bunny was his spirit animal and he showed me why on a daily basis.
Next entry: My First College Broadcasting Trip.