Long Time Coming: My First Trip to Truist Park

I went to my very first Braves game at Turner Field in either 2000 or 2001, back when the Braves had that daunting starting rotation that included three then-future Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, who was often used in a closing role back then. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

Those were the days of Rafael Furcal at shortstop, Matt Franco at first, Julio Franco at second, Vinny Castilla at third or catching, Chipper Jones at third or in left, Eddie Perez catching, Andruw Jones in center, Marcus Giles at second, and Wilson Bettimit in right, Javy Lopez catching, and of course the skipper, Bobby Cox.

I don’t remember if we won or lost that day due to my young age at the time, but I do know that Tom Glavine was the starting pitcher that day.

Fast forward 20 or so years and I’ve finally made it to my first game at Truist Park, the new home of the Braves that opened back in 2017.

Usually, we get there early enough to watch the Braves take batting practice, but we had trouble with the mobile ticketing deal going on nowadays due to COVID, so we had missed them by the time we entered the stadium, which I was kinda upset by, but it was okay, I was more concerned about the game anyway.

Before the game, I went to the Braves Clubhouse Store to get another hat (shocking, I know, but I just have to get a new hat at every game).

Afterwards, we walked over to Monument Garden near section 125, where I had my picture taken with Hank Aaron’s 1969 jersey, Tom Glavine’s 1995 jersey, Dale Murphy’s 1982 jersey, the Hank Aaron Award, a champagne bottle that was used after the Braves won the 1995 World Series Championship, in front of a picture of Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, in front of all of the hats Hank Aaron hit a home run with, the 1995 World Series trophy and even a time capsule that will be opened in April 2042.

The Braves shutout Tampa Bay 9-0, to improve to 44-10 in games I attend. 43-10 at home and 1-0 on the road. If you haven’t been to Truist Park, you need to go. Trust me when I tell you, there’s something there for literally everyone.

See you in 2022, Truist Park! It was nice meeting you!

(All 755 of Hank’s home run bats)
Hank’s 1974 jersey he was wearing when he passed Babe Ruth)
(Hank Aaron Statue, beside which his casket sat during memorial services for him at Truist Park in January)
(World Series Trophy)
(Time Capsule)
(Hank’s 1969 jersey)
(Tom Glavine’s 1995 jersey)
(Dale Murphy’s 1982 jersey)
(Champagne bottle used to spray champagne in celebration of the 1995 championship)
(Half of the retired numbers. Murphy, Cox, Chipper, Spahn, Smoltz, Maddux)

Old Glory: The Symbol of Hope and Beacon of Freedom

Back a few days ago, I posted a picture on social media of the American Flag and what it meant to me. I posted some of what the Stars and Stripes mean to me.

You see, 245 years ago this country we live in was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was founded and formed as one nation under God and God willing that will never change.

As Americans, there are a lot of freedoms and liberties bestowed upon each and every one of us to uphold the principles upon which this nation was founded. Along the way we have done a good job of that.

But it seems to me, that in recent months and years, we’ve forgotten what the 50 stars and 13 stripes mean to not only us as individuals, but also to this country. We’ve forgotten what it means to be patriotic.

We’ve always been taught and used those rights and freedoms that are available to us whenever we may choose to use them.

We sleep so comfortably free under Old Glory. You see she’s 13 stripes and 50 stars all gathered on the three most beautiful colors ever assembled.

Here recently, she’s been trampled, set ablaze and cursed here in her own land. She’s seen the Battle at the Alamo take place below her. She got powder burn the night that Frances Scott Key sat writing the Star Spangled Banner.

It got a bad rip at New Orleans with Packingham and Jackson tugging at its seams. She almost fell in San Antone, beside the Texas flag, she waved on though.

She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville and she got cut again at Shiloh Hill. She may weathered and worn, tattered and torn, but that doesn’t take away from her meaning.

She’s hung limp and low a time or two. She’s been to every corner of the world. She’s been to Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. She’s gone where Lady Liberty demanded, but she’s always found her way back to the mainland. In her own good land here she’s been abused.

She’s getting thread-bare and she’s wearing thin, but she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in. She’s been through war before and she still flying high.

Where I’m from, we raise her up each morning, take her down each night, we don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her right.

She’s more than a flag, she’s our symbol of hope and our beacon of freedom.

Born on the Bayou: 72 Years of Outlaw Living

He’s got 109 hit singles, 99 of which could be found on Billboard Hot Country chart at one time. He’s the son of arguably the greatest Country Music artist to ever live.

He’s an outlaw in every sense of the word, all you have to do is look at his family tree to see that the outlaw lifestyle comes to him naturally. I mean after all, his daddy is Hank Williams Sr, it doesn’t get more outlaw than that.

On this day in 1949, Hank Williams Sr and his wife Audrey Mae Sheppard Williams welcomed little Randall Hank Williams into this world in Shreveport, Louisiana. Hank Sr nicknamed Randall Hank “Bocephus” after Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield’s ventriloquist dummy. Now, Hank Sr died in 1953, when young Bocephus was around three or four. So after that, he was raised by his mother Audrey.

When Hank Jr was a child, you could say that a Taj Mahal of musicians visited him and his family, given his father’s status before he passed away on New Year’s Day of 1953.

When I say a Taj Mahal of artists visited his home in his younger days, I don’t mean just one or two famous “regular” artists like you may think. I mean the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis among others.

Williams first stepped on stage and performed his father’s songs at the age of eight and this was just the beginning of what would become what is today a very successful musical career.

In fact, to date, Hank Williams Jr. has 109 hit singles and is by far the most sought after concert ticket in the country music industry.

His career has seen him honored and awarded many times over the years of sitting somewhere between raisin’ hell and amazing grace. He was the 2006 Johnny Cash Visionary Award recipient and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020.

He’s won countless Grammy Awards for his musical talents but it’s not about the accolades for Bocephus. He says “I’m tryin’ to keep my daddy’s legacy alive in a world that’s becoming more and more blind to those trailblazers as time rolls on.” I guess you could say, it really is a “Family Tradition” in more than one way. Not only is Bocephus keeping the Drifter’s legacy alive, he’s also paving the way for the future of outlaw country.

Happy 72nd Birthday to the Icon himself, Hank Williams Jr.

(Picture: Getty Images)

Expectations Sky High as Braves open 2021 season in the City of Brotherly Love

It’s no secret that the Atlanta Braves have one of the most talented and hungry teams in the entire MLB. After all, they were just one win shy of earning their first berth in the World Series since that Commissioner’s Trophy made the glorious trip back to Atlanta in 1995.

This team has so much talent, quite possibly the most talent that I’ve seen return to one team since the mid-2000s, when we were in the in the midst of an unprecedented 14-consecutive division titles under the legendary Bobby Cox.

I truly believe that this team has every capability of bringing another Commissioner’s Trophy home to Atlanta. Tomorrow, the road to the World Series begins at 2:05 p.m CT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Citizens Bank Park.

Aaron Nola will make his fourth-consecutive Opening Day start in the red pinstripes, while Brian Snitker will hand the rock to Max Fried, who will be making his first-career Opening Day start.

Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter
Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter.

Honoring the Life of the True Home Run King: Hank Aaron


Henry Louis “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. While it may appear to the general public that Hank Aaron had everything handed to him a silver platter, that is far from the truth. Growing up in Alabama in the 1930s and 40s was very difficult, especially for a person of color. 

In the 1940s, his hometown of Mobile, Alabama was not a safe place for a colored kid to pursue equality with segregation and all that came with it. In an interview a few years ago when asked about his awareness of segregation and how he felt about it, Aaron stated “I don’t know that I was aware of it, but I was conscious of who I was.” 

During his childhood, young Hank passed through the sandlots of that south Alabama town with brief stops in the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues before he settled in with the Braves. He was just 13 years old when Jackie Robinson broke baseball color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, so his greatest idol was none other than Robinson. 

Hank Aaron grew up to be quite the baseball player himself. He was a consistent producer both at the plate and in the field, reaching the .300 mark in batting 14 times, 30 home runs 15 times, 90 RBI 16 times, and captured three Gold Glove Awards en-route to 25 All-Star Game selections. 

1975 was arguably Aaron’s best season. He hit .322 that year with 44 home runs and 132 RBI, captured the National League MVP Award and led the Braves to their first World Series Championship since 1914. His most memorable feat game on the night of April 8, 1974, when he took Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Al Downing deep for the 715th home run of his career, passing Babe Ruth’s previous mark of 714. He would finish his career with 755 long balls. 

He remains baseball’s all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). If each of his 755 home runs were to be removed, he would still have 3,016 hits. Hank Aaron was a model of humility, dignity, and quiet competence. He did not seek the adoration that he received, but he earned it, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. He passed away at age 86 on Friday.

We love you, Hank. Tell Don Sutton we said hello.

(Picture: Grant McAuley Twitter)
(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

A Man with a Heart of Gold: Baseball World Remembers Don Sutton for Genuine Personality


For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action. 

The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. 

A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.” 

Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team. 

Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.” 

The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.” 

I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport. 

While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day. 

Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future. 

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.” 

Rest in Peace Don, 

I love you, my brother.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

75 Years of the Queen of Country: Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton


Dolly Rebecca Parton was born January 19, 1946, in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in the small unincorporated town of Locust Ridge, Tennessee in Sevier County, Tennessee. She was the fourth of twelve children born to Avie Lee Owens Parton and Robert Lee Parton, Sr. 

Two of the twelve siblings have since passed on to a better place; Larry died shortly after birth in 1955, and Floyd died in 2018. Parton’s middle name comes from her maternal great-great-grandmother Rebecca Dunn Whitted. Parton’s father, known as “Lee”, worked in the mountains of East Tennessee, first as a sharecropper and later tending to his own small tobacco farm and acreage. In addition to those jobs, he also worked construction jobs to supplement the farm’s small income. Today, the legendary country music singer still considers her father “one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and it just so happens that I call him Daddy.” 

Her mother, Avie Lee, cared for their large family. Her eleven pregnancies in 20 years made her a mother of 12, with the tenth, being twins, by the age of 35. Often in poor health, she still managed to keep house and entertain her children with Smoky Mountain folklore and ancient ballads. The songs she sang were often sung by immigrants moving from the British Isles to southern Appalachia over a century earlier. 

Dolly’s maternal grandfather, Jake Owens was a Pentecostal preacher, and Parton and all her siblings attended church regularly, which resulted in Parton confessing her faith in Christ at an early age. Dolly has always been an entertainer, she began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. 

By the time she was ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she was recording on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her instincts regarding her career. 

After graduating from Sevier County High School in 1964, Parton moved to Nashville the following day to pursue a career in the music industry, just as Cash had suggested. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival. 

Alongside her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two top-ten hits: Bill Phillip’s “Put it off Until Tomorrow” (1966) and Skeeter Davis’s “Fuel to the Flame” (1967). Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr. 

In 1967, musician and country music entertainer Porter Wagoner invited Parton to join his organization, offering her a regular spot on his weekly syndicated television program The Porter Wagoner Show, and in his road show.

Dolly Parton made her presence felt in the 1960s and 1970s, along with fellow pioneers Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. When that trio revolutionized the world of country music for women performers. During a career that spans 65 years and counting, she has performed alongside many legends in the Nashville scene, such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, and current country music sensation, Carrie Underwood. 

To say that Dolly Parton, once a little girl who dreamed of being a country musician, has had nothing short of a legendary career is an understatement. She was inducted into Nashville, Tennessee’s Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

They don’t call her the Queen of Country for nothing.

Happy 75th Birthday, Dolly, we love you honey.

(Picture: latimes.com)

Really Rocky on Rocky Top: With Pruitt, Fulmer out at Tennessee, Where Does Tennessee Turn Now

Hello, darkness and uncertainty, the two best friends of a Tennessee football fan. It wasn’t all that long ago that we met last, in fact it’s been just over three years.

Not a lot has changed since the last time the Tennessee football program and their fans were met with darkness, but two things have changed.

In addition to searching for their next head coach to replace the vacancy left by the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee Athletic Director, Phillip Fulmer has also decided to finally walk away from the game after more than two decades in association with the program.

Phillip Fulmer played on the Tennessee football team from 1968-1971, and then returned to the program in 1992 and served as the program’s head coach from 1992 until his termination in 2008.

In 2017, Fulmer returned to Rocky Top as the athletic director, in which position he served until January 18, 2021, when he was fired alongside Pruitt amid an NCAA recruiting violation investigation which could possibly land the Volunteers on probation.

As of now, Kevin Steele will serve as interim head coach until a permanent move is made. Whether the permanent head coach is Steele or not, whoever it may be isn’t exactly stepping into a gold mine. In reality, it could be said that they would be stepping into the exact opposite of a gold mine, whatever that may be. Where does this university and its football program turn now?

Only time will tell.

Go Vols,

Braxton Parmer.

(Picture: RockyTopTalk)

Born With the Blues: Chad Wesley


Some musicians have to adapt to a certain genre and soak in the atmosphere for a little while. But for one Jackson, Mississippi-based artist, he didn’t have to adapt and soak in an atmosphere, for him, the Blues was a way of life. Born near the Mobile Bay, in the neighboring town of Fairhope, Alabama, Chad Wesley has that Southern-edged, lonesome feel to his music and his background just adds to the mellowed vibe.

Wesley and his family left the Mobile, Alabama suburb of Fairhope when he was an infant, they were only there for a handful of years while his father was working for a sub-contracting company, Alabama Dry Dock, who sub-contracted for Ingall’s Ship Yard and the sub-ship department of the U.S. Navy. He’s been picking the Blues since December 23, 1994, when he learned his first chord.

At the time, Chad’s father and brother were already several years into their musical careers playing professionally. However, the Forest, Mississippi-raised Blues picker never got the chance to travel around with them.

Wesley stated “My Dad had retired from performing years earlier and was managing a band my brother was playing lead guitar in. Once that fell through my brother hung it up and spent his only time on the guitar just teaching me.” Wesley went on to state that both his father and brother, now mechanical designers, have continued to stand firmly behind him on his almost three-decade journey. 

He got his first taste of live performances in May of 1999. Going into his first public performance Chad stated “I was too excited to be nervous. Playing live for people had been my dream. The only time I felt normal was when I was doing something to entertain people.” So, in sense, you could say that this determined man that is driven for greatness has always been the life of the party. 

“It’s an internal sense of purpose that I’ve felt since childhood to bring joy to those around me.” Chad Wesley does just that and more. His bone-chilling guitar riffs not only make you understand where he’s coming from, but they also allow you to literally feel the vibrations of the guitar. 

He has won multiple awards during his time in the music industry, but he doesn’t want to be known or remembered for his awards, Wesley wants to be remembered as an entertainer that touched the lives of his listeners. 

He stated that the awards “have given me a strong sense of accomplishment. But what it’s done the most for me is it has let me know that what I’ve continued to pour my heart and soul into for so many years is finally paying off.”

Wesley listed some of his greatest influences coming from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and John Mayer, noting that, “he’s kept ‘the guitar’ alive in a world gone digital.”

While enjoying much success, Chad acknowledged that he has faced his fair share of letdowns in the music business. Stating “But the more I turned my trust towards God, the more I saw what success truly was, instead of what I had always dreamt it to be.” He attributed a great amount of that success to his family, stating “I have a beautiful family and a wonderful home, I’ve met legends, performed for thousands, but nothing can compare to coming home to the ones I love the most.” 

Wesley can often be seen on stages across the country picking a 1996 Fender Stratocaster American Standard, 50th Anniversary Edition, which he dubbed “Josephine” after his late friend, Joey Thrash, whom handed the guitar down to Chad after seeing him play it for one set during a show which Thrash attended.

Chad Wesley wants to get the message out to aspiring musicians that haven’t yet gotten the determination to make happen. Stating “Every dream deserves a shot. But once you decide to ‘shoot’, aim as high as you can and sever settle for less than what you feel you deserve. You’ll only get out of something what you put in it. If it were easy, everyone would do, invest in yourself.”

Wesley would like to invite to his upcoming shows at Martin’s Downtown in Jackson, MS and Blue Canoe in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 22 and 23, 2021, respectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Chad Wesley.

(Picture: chadwesley.com)
(Picture: chadwesley.com)

Top of the Mountain: Saban, Bryant Debate Shouldn’t Exist in the First Place

For many years now, Alabama fans have debated on which Crimson Tide head coach was the greatest of all-time. On Monday evening, currently Alabama head coach Nick Saban earned his seventh national title as a head coach, sixth in Tuscaloosa. Many media members are crowning Saban as the undisputed greatest head football coach in college football history. 

While no other college football coach has ever lifted the national championship trophy seven times in his career besides Nick Saban, I feel that the whole debate concerning Bear Bryant and Nick Saban should’ve never been existent in the first place. You might ask why. Well, hear me out. Take nothing away from Saban, he’s a great coach and has set a great standard at the University of Alabama. 

Nick Saban now owns a 165-23 record, sure that’s great, but people seem to forget what Paul “Bear” Bryant did and the times in which he did it. Bear Bryant served as the head coach of the Crimson Tide from 1958-1982, a time where the wishbone was the most popular offense in college football and defenses won championships. 

Again, take nothing away from Nick Saban, he’s a remarkable coach, but in my opinion Bear Bryant and Nick Saban are incomparable due to the fact that they are both the best coaches of their times. Nick Saban has had an incredible tenure at Alabama, that’s no secret. But have you ever thought about the fact that Bear did it with “less talent” so-to-speak? Not saying that Nick Saban’s players are definitely more talented than Bear’s were. 

Here’s what I’m saying, in the times that Bryant served as the head coach in Tuscaloosa, we definitely didn’t have the technology that exists today, there was no NFL Combine, Twitter seemed lightyears away, Facebook wasn’t even thought of. None of this social media that reels recruits in today, existed back in the 1950s-1980s. 

Nick Saban has all of these avenues and ways that he could go to get recruits from different parts of the country and even world, whereas when Bear was in Tuscaloosa, the majority of the players in Crimson and White were raised in the State of Alabama, you may have a handful that were from out-of-state, but the recruiting system that exists today, wasn’t even thought of back then. 

Both of these men are great men, leaders, and legendary coaches, when it’s all said and done, both of them will end up on the Mount Rushmore of Alabama Football, but this debate that pertains to who is the “best” between Nick and Bear shouldn’t exist. They were both great during their time periods. There’s no “best” head coach, they will both end up in the College Football Hall of Fame when it’s said and done. 

Nobody in the Hall of Fame walks around discussing which one of the Hall of Famers is the “best” everybody is in there for a reason. Put this debate to rest and respect the achievements of both men.

(Picture: SportingNews)