For many years, Bobby Cox has been referred to as one of the game’s most influential figures to ever manage a baseball club. Cox was born May 21, 1941 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his major league career as a player in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a minor leaguer after signing with them out of free agency in 1959, although he never played a game in a Dodgers uniform. Bobby was traded from the Los Angeles organization to the Atlanta Braves in 1966, the first year the Braves were known as the Atlanta Braves after spending time in Boston and Milwaukee. He never played a game in an Atlanta uniform, he was then acquired by the New York Yankees following the 1967 season and played in The Bronx from 1968-1969. However, he would become one of the most highly-respected managers the game has ever seen. At just 30-years-old, Cox began his managerial career at the minor league level in 1971 with Yankees’ farmhand, Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League. In 1978, Bobby Cox was hired as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, even though the Braves didn’t want to hire him due to his lack of major league managerial experience. He led the Atlanta club from 1978-1981 and then was hired as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, where he stayed from 1982-1985. In 1990 however, he was called on by Braves executives to manage the team one again. This is where Bobby Cox found a home and stayed from 1990-2010. During that span, Cox led the Braves to an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. Well-respected by players, managers, executives and fans all across the sport, Cox made sure he earned respect of umpires by getting ejected from a Major League record, 158 games. In his managerial career, Bobby Cox coached in 4,508 games with a record of 2,504-2,001 and a winning percentage of .556. Before his retirement in 2010, he was immortalized in Braves history as his number 6 was retired by the club. In 2017, when the Braves opened SunTrust Park, the team honored him with a bronze statue that depicts him standing on the top step of the dugout with one arm on the rail. In April 2019, Cox suffered a stroke a day after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of Atlanta’s home opener vs. the Cubs but has since been released from an Atlanta-area hospital and is in a local-rehabilitation facility and is expected to make a full recovery. Hats off to a legend.
We all know that there is absolutely nothing to do in Southaven, Mississippi, but 22-year-old Austin Riley, a Southaven, Mississippi native, born in Memphis, Tennessee, begs to differ which leaves Braves fans all over the country wonder “Could this “kid” be the next big thing to come out of Atlanta?” While only in his early 20s, Austin Riley has made the quite the impression on the Atlanta fanbase over his his first five games in a Braves uniform. Going 1-for-3 in his Majors debut, that one hit? A massive 438-foot homer, 3-for-3 with three singles in his second game with three singles, 2-for-5 in his third game, 2-for-3 in his fourth game and 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his most recent game in Atlanta. I refuse to say he’s in a “slump” after his most recent game based on his early-career numbers, maybe it was just a bad game. There is almost nothing to be mad about with this kid. Some refer to the Braves as the “Baby Braves,” as they are one of, if not the youngest team in baseball. He’s getting it done at just the right time. Not to mention, he started his first four games in left field and got the nod at third base today. Does that remind you of anybody. Coming into the series with Milwaukee, people were saying “The Brewers are on a 3-game winning streak and I just don’t see how the Braves can stop that.” Atlanta put a quick stop to that with a historic 9-run sixth inning on Friday, at one point, they were up 12-0 and saw some ninth inning troubles but came away with a 12-8 win, Saturday’s game was much closer as it lasted 10-innings but Freddie Freeman came in clutch, as he has done most of his career, turning out the lights on the Brewers 4-3 with a walk-off homer to give the Braves the series win. Sunday, Atlanta wasn’t quite as fortunate dropping game three, 3-2 in 10 innings thanks to a Ben Gamel homer to lead-off the 10th off of Wes Parsons. Atlanta finished the 6-game home stand with a 4-2 record. The 9-run sixth Friday was something that had just been done 11 times in the past 30 years. The last time the Braves scored 9 runs in an inning was May 20, 2009 vs. Colorado. I think the Braves are getting hot at just the right time with a seven-game road trip looming. The first four of which are on the West Coast against San Francisco, the West Coast has not been kind to the Braves this year, the last three are in St. Louis. The seven-game road trip kicks off tomorrow night at 8:45pm Central Time.
Oh, the stories I could tell about the place that I often refer to as “my home”. Though it’s not really my home, it is a place where I can go and feel like I have escaped reality. I’ve been there off and on for the past six years. It’s the place where I embarked on this ongoing journey that is my dream of broadcasting. I’ve called a countless amount of names out from the microphone and speakers of what I consider a sacred place because it’s where I took my first step as a broadcaster. I’ve seen tons of games won and tons of games lost from that press box. So it’s only fitting that I call it home. There’s just something special about this place that gives me a feeling that I don’t experience anywhere else. It’s a safe haven to me. I feel like I’m on top of the world when I climb the press box stairs and enter the press box. It’s where I’ve met a countless amount of people and most of those people have remained in touch to this day. If you were to ask me what my favorite call has been during my time at Bazemore Field so far, I’d have to say it’s when we swept arch-rival Stanhope Elmore to win the Class 6A Area 5 Championship earlier this year. After all, it was the first area championship in baseball in 24 years. My call was: “Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, for the first time in 24 years, your Wetumpka Indians are Class 6A Area 5 Champions!” While playing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” over the speakers. It was so electrifying in the ballpark that day. Granted we weren’t 6A in 1995, the last time we won the area championship, I feel like that was my signature call from this year and I can’t wait to make more memories at “home” next year. While I am anxiously awaiting new memories next year, nothing can replace the memories that were made on that diamond in 2019. Until next year, take it easy Bazemore Field, I’ll be home before you know it.
Recently, the Braves have been on a three-game season-opening road trip to Philadelphia where they squared off against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the offseason, much of the talk around baseball was the Phillies signing of National League sensation, Bryce Harper, to a 13-year $330 million contract. Some might ask why I am talking about Bryce Harper since I am a Braves fan so I’m going to cut to the chase. Philadelphia didn’t treat the Braves as nicely as I hoped but in the back of my mind I knew that it would be this way. Harper is 2-for-12 in a Philadelphia uniform. That doesn’t sound good, I know but his two hits are home runs one of which traveled 465-feet on Saturday against Atlanta in game two of the series. Not to mention that Phillies have multiple former all-stars on their roster, two of those being Bryce Harper, who was acquired from Washington in the offseason and the other? Andrew McCutchen, who was acquired from San Francisco, also during the offseason. The Braves (0-3) left “The City of Brotherly Love” without a win. But, tonight they open the gates of SunTrust Park for the first time in 2019 at 6:10p.m. Central Time against Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and the 2016 World Champion, Chicago Cubs. Excitement has been brewing in the air of Atlanta as we have patiently awaited this day. Earlier today, I read that the Cubs bullpen was struggling as has been the Braves so hopefully we can turn things around at home and give these fans what they’ve waited all offseason for. Here’s to SunTrust Park and hoping the Cubs treat the Braves to their first win of 2019.
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.
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.