13 years, has it really almost been 13 full years?!? Wow. In the words of Willie Nelson, “Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?” To answer Willie’s question, yes, it is funny how time slips away. I still think of my late grandaddy, whom I affectionately refer to as Big Ken, still to this day. I find myself wishing he was still here to see Brennen and I grow into men. I find myself running across pictures of him that I haven’t seen before. If he were still here, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would be beaming from ear-to-ear with pride as we are grown now and living on our own but we still live together, so I know that he would be proud to know that through all these years, we’re still just as close as we were the day that pancreatic cancer took him from us when we’re just eight years old. I try not to think about how things were during his last few months here, instead, me being the positive person that I am, I try to remember all of the good things about him and trust me, there were tons of good things about the man that stood 6’4″ weighing above 230 pounds. He was hard-working, when he saw a homeless person or a person in need, he helped them in any way that he could, he always went out of his family had everything that they needed and most of what they wanted, because when he grew up in late 30’s and into the 40’s he and his family weren’t as fortunate as we were. If I heard, ‘Son I don’t care if your the janitor or the CEO, just make sure you are the hardest worker in the building’ once, I heard it a thousand times. I didn’t realize what he meant back then, but now that I’m grown, I know exactly what he meant. He believed in treated people with respect, even if they didn’t treat you with respect. I never knew him to have a bitter bone in his body. He was always patient with us and sometimes I know I got on his nerves, but he’d just smile and “Boy, you ain’t right.” And I have to agree, in fact, even today, I’m ‘not right’ most of the time. Thank you, Big Ken for all of the great memories. Until we meet again, I promise to be the hardest worker in the room, and I’ll try my best to keep dad straight, I don’t know how you and Grandma Sherry did it for all those years, it’s harder than it seemed at eight years old. Take it easy big man, I love you.
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 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.
I started practicing to be announcer at an early age, I think I was somewhere around the age of five or six…I can’t remember exactly. But one thing I can remember very vividly is my mom yelling from the living room back to my room where I would practice constantly, using sports game day programs. Mostly those of the Atlanta Braves, my favorite sports team of all-time. I grew up watching them as a young kid while my parents were working. My mom, a school teacher and my dad worked on conveyor belts and later went on to start his own sealcoating business before retiring in somewhat recent years, so that he could assist my grandmother who needed him there for her. While I was watching the Braves, I wouldn’t just watch them like a regular fan. In fact, I would study the game and the players. Not just the Braves players but also the opponents players. I would get the programs, sit down and practice for several hours at a time on different microphones trying to find the “perfect” one for my voice. While I would be practicing in my room, mom would be watching tv in the living room. She would come to the back of the house and tell me “Turn that down.” As I was using my brother’s Fender DSP guitar amp as a speaker. If that didn’t work, she would text me the same thing in capital letters. If that didn’t work, she would yell at the top of lungs the same thing. I have always been fascinated with microphones. Often referring to them as “my friend” and I felt sorry for the ones that I didn’t use because I was using other ones. My very first microphone came from the Cracker Barrel gift shop in Evergreen, Alabama in the early to mid 2000s. We stopped at Cracker Barrel to grab a bite to eat on the way to Spanish Fort, Alabama, to visit with my grandparents and spend some time with my grandaddy, (I will write a piece on him at a later date) who was ailing from pancreatic cancer. At one point in my life, I could sit and tell you everything you wanted to know about the Braves franchise, players, their pets etc. and I still can. Who knew that those hours and years of practicing would lead me to where I am today? To my fellow aspiring broadcasters. Heed your mother’s advise and “Turn that down” at least while she’s watching TV.
Next entry: My first trip to Turner Field.