Heads Up Braves Fans: The Future is Bright in Atlanta

In mid-March, Major League Baseball halted their Spring Training workouts to the outbreak of COVID-19, and fans were not allowed into the stadiums for the entire regular season.

In fact, a week into the season in late-July and early August, Major League Baseball was sitting on its proverbial heels due to multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in Miami, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati.

With the bulk of the positive tests coming out of Miami and St. Louis, league officials were contemplating the thought of shutting the season down even though it had literally just gotten started.

When the league reached an agreement with its clubs to play a 60-game regular-season schedule as opposed to the normal 162-game schedule in a non-pandemic year, we knew every game would matter that much more.

Winning streaks would seem longer than they were and would mean five times more than they would in a regular 162-game season. Losing streaks would seem to drag on longer than usual and every pitch mattered.

Even though the Atlanta Braves may have lost in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, there’s still a lot to be proud of when you look at the bigger picture.

This team won its first postseason series since 2001, advanced to the National League Championship Series, spent the final month and a half without ace Mike Soroka, missed outfield phenom Ronald Acuña Jr for two weeks twice due to a left wrist injury, lost four of five-man starting rotation, with Max Fried being the only projected starting pitcher left standing, and still won their division and won not just one but two postseason series.

This team isn’t done, they’re just getting started. For every minor setback there’s a major comeback. And with the young, raw talent of guys like Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Cristian Pache, and a healthy Mike Soroka, you can’t help but imagine just how good this team will be in the next few seasons with some of the best young talent in the game.

Hold your heads up Braves fans, the best is yet to come.

What Affect Will the Current State of America Have on the 2020 MLB Draft Which is Scheduled to Start Tonight

The 2020 MLB Draft is scheduled to begin tonight and end tomorrow, but it won’t be a normal draft by any means. So what do we need to expect?

For starters, potential draftees will be at a disadvantage, having been unable to show their ultimate potential before high school and college seasons were halted in the heart of the season.

Secondly, teams will be at a disadvantage having not been able to scout the draft prospects at full potential.

Lastly, this year’s draft will only have five rounds, as apposed to the normal 40 rounds. This means instead of the 30 clubs being able to draft 30 prospects, the 30 teams will only be able to draft 5 prospects due to restrictions.

The 2020 MLB Draft will begin tonight at 6pm CT on ESPN and the MLB Network.

The Last of The Bulldog: My Last Trip to Turner Field and Met “The Bulldog” Five Years Later

Saying Goodbye to Turner Field

ttended my last game at Turner Field on July 13, 2012, when the Braves took on their National League East division-rival, New York Mets, out of Flushing, New York, a suburb of New York City.

The starting pitchers that night were Dillon Gee from the New York Mets and the Braves handed the ball to Auburn, Alabama’s Tim Hudson. Hudson is a 1997 graduate of Auburn University, where he was teammates with that night’s starting catcher, David Ross. Together in college, those two won the College World Series during Hudson and Ross’ Senior year of 1997.

When I was heading to Turner Field that afternoon, I could feel my chest getting tighter the closer we got to the field.

I knew that this would most-likely be the very last time I ever stepped foot into the place where I fell in love with the game of baseball.

That night it rained for three hours before the game ever got started and it was 12:30 before the game got started.

We started until the end of the sixth inning. Fittingly, Chipper Jones had the last at-bat I ever witnessed at Turner Field.

But this was much different than the first time I ever saw him at the plate in person, he didn’t get out.

In fact, he sent a ball deep into the Atlanta night, over the right-center field wall. He must’ve known I was in the stands, because otherwise, he would’ve probably gotten out as was often the case.

The Braves ended up winning the game 8-5.

Meeting Tim Hudson Five Years Later:

On April 7, 2017, my uncle, who coached my cousin’s travel ball team, called me to tell me that they would be playing a team out of Auburn, Alabama, called the Colt 45’s, and it was coached by Tim Hudson.

When he told me this, I knew immediately that I would be in attendance just to see the game.

But, I didn’t know it would result in me meeting the last pitcher I ever saw start at Turner Field face-to-face and having a conversation with him.

On April 8, 2017, I woke up early, my uncle picked me up and we headed to Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

As I approached the field, I could see Tim was carrying his San Francisco Giants warmup bag, for those of you that aren’t familiar with him, he won a World Series title in San Francisco in 2014.

He was busy when I approached, so I waited until he wasn’t busy to get his attention. After his team had taken the field for pregame warmups, he approached the dugout that I was standing beside, I took this opportunity to yell “Tim!” And then motioned for him to come over to me. He did so politely.

I mentioned to him that my goal was to become a Major League Baseball broadcaster one day and then he and I talked a few more minutes, I asked him “Would you mind if I got a picture with you?” He responded “Absolutely brother, come on.” Afterwards I told him that he was the last pitcher a game at Turner Field that I attended, he said “Is that the game when it rained forever?” I said “It was, y’all didn’t start playing until 12:30 a.m., he responded “That’s it.” He and I both shared a laugh because we both knew how that turned out for the New York Mets, whom both of us hated. The last thing I asked him was “Who gave you the nickname ‘The Bulldog’ he smiled and said, “Two people are responsible for that nickname, Chipper and Bobby Cox, Chipper started it first because he said I went after hitters like a bulldog and after a few weeks, the skipper only called me “Bulldog”. I thanked him and before I sat down I said “Go Braves!” He said “Chop on, my brother.”

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Call to the Pen

Be Patient Braves Fans, Baseball Will Be Back

As many of you know, I’ve always been a huge Braves fan and I’m devastated that the Braves didn’t start on time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t start at all.

For 22 years, I’ve very rarely missed a game, and I don’t plan on missing any this year once they take the field.

Friday afternoon, the MLB announced that it had come to an agreement to shorten the 2020 season to what I assume would be anywhere from 125 to 82 games, but they won’t start until the mass gathering and travel bans are lifted.

While I’m anxious for the start of the season, I know that the Braves and the MLB have the safety and well-being of their fans, players, staff etc. as a first priority.

I’ve always heard good things come to those who wait. While I never thought I would see the day that anything like this took place, I’ve seen it.

As fans, all that we can do now is wait and ride this chaotic proverbial storm out. Baseball will be back at some point in 2020.

While we don’t know exactly when that will be, we will wait as long as we have to because when it does return, that will make it just that much sweeter.

They aren’t doing this for spite, they are doing this for the safety and well-being of millions of people.

As much as I miss Braves baseball, I understand completely why they are doing this.

They are doing this because they genuinely care about their fans, players, staff etc. and I appreciate the fact that they are taking these necessary precautions.

Be patient, baseball will be back before we know.

God Bless and Go Braves.

Picture: Bleacher Report.

Chipper Jones Assuming Position of Analyst for ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball, Replacing David Ross

As a huge life-long Braves fan, when I first read the news of former Atlanta standout Chipper Jones stepping in to fill David Ross’ role on Wednesday Night Baseball for ESPN, which was made public Saturday night by “Talking Chop”, I can’t help but think about how much color he will bring to the booth.

Most all of us know Chipper for his serious approach to the game of baseball, but I know Chipper for being a jokester as well as for his serious approach toward the game that he loves dearly.

Many people know that his walk-up song was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” for the most-part if not all of his 19-year career in Atlanta.

Sure, you’ve seen him blow bubbles with bubblegum in left field and at third base for years, but do you know his hand-signal?

If not, he sticks his middle two fingers down, leaving his pointer, thumb, and pinkie up. I watched him make this motion for many years.

Growing up, I idolized Chipper as a baseball player. But now, I idolize him as both a Hall of Fame baseball player and broadcaster. I never thought I would see the day where my role model and I would be in the same industry.

Chipper, thank you for the memories as a baseball player and I look forward to working with you one day in the booths of baseball parks across this nation.

You will never know how much of an impact you have made on my life for many years, and one day I will work alongside you, my role model, my childhood hero.

Don’t let those wires and headsets injure you buddy.

I won’t stop working toward my dream until I’m sitting next to you in a broadcast booth at a Major League Baseball stadium one day.

Take care buddy, welcome to the family. I’ll see you at the top of the mountain.

Photo: Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Happy 86th Birthday to the Real Home Run King

Hank Aaron the former Milwaukee Brave and Atlanta Brave, was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama.

Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron, later known as ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ wasn’t born into wealth. In fact, in a podcast that I listened to recently, Aaron stated, “My parents couldn’t afford to buy a bat, they couldn’t afford to buy a ball. And so, actually, we did everything we could in order to pretend like we were playing baseball.”

Aaron stated that he and his brothers would go out into the yard with rags that were rolled up tight and throw them to each other while using a broomstick as a bat.

They would do the same with coke bottle caps.

Mobile, Alabama wasn’t the safest of places in the 1940s when Hank was growing up. In fact, according to Aaron, there were no roads, nothing but little farm roads’ he explained.

Mobile wasn’t nearly as big as it is today back when little Henry Aaron was growing up just outside of Mobile.

Even though, he grew up just a few miles outside of Mobile, he still claims Mobile, Alabama as his hometown.

Hank Aaron stated in the podcast that “Actually, I heard about it, from sleeping in the bed at night, because the Mobile Bears were farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in Mobile.”

Aaron continued “I could hear the game on the radio next door, because a friend of mine would have his radio tuned to the Mobile Bears. You know I didn’t have enough money to go to game so I just listened to it.”

Little did he know at the time, that he would one day be considered one of the greatest home run hitters of all-time.

As Hank’s career was beginning, his hero, Jackie Robinson’s career was winding down.

But luckily for Hank, he was able to play against Jackie Robinson on multiple occasions.

Aaron, once a little kid from a poor family in 1940s Mobile, Alabama, became Major League Baseball’s all-time home run record holder on April 8, 1974 at the age of 40-years-old.

That day, Hank passed George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth’s record of 714, when he sent career home run 715 over the left-center field wall.

Aaron would end his career with 755 home runs. He would hold onto the home run crown until 2007, when Barry Bonds passed him by hitting his 756th home run.

That, of course, was with the help of PEDs, so in my mind, Hank Aaron is still the greatest home run hitter of all-time.

Today, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron still serves with the Atlanta Braves as the team’s Senior Vice President. Happy 86th Birthday, Hank, we love you.

Picture: (baseballhall.org)

Tua Tagovailoa Declares Entry into 2020 NFL Draft

The wait is over.

For months following Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending injury against Mississippi State on November 16, 2019, there have been hundreds of questions surrounding Tua’s future in Tuscaloosa, would he stay or would he take a chance at the NFL?

Monday morning at 11 a.m. the Ewa Beach, Hawaii native announced that he will not return for the 2020 college football season. Instead, he will take a shot on the biggest football stage in America.

During the press conference, Tua stated:

“First and foremost, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for this opportunity to stand before you all with my decision. Without further or-due, with lots of prayers, thoughts, and guidance I have decided that I will be declaring and entering the 2020 NFL Draft.”

Who can blame him? It’s not often a 21-year-old from Hawaii gets this opportunity. What an incredible opportunity for such an incredible man.

I would like to take this time to wish Tua nothing but the very best in anything and everything that life brings his way.

College football fans will miss you but NFL fans have gained not only a great player, but also an amazing young man.

Best of luck, Tua!

Picture: Saturday Tradition.

Vols Complete Cinderella Season with Win over Indiana in TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee Football has done it, once again. They started off the season with a 1-4 record, but then, the ship was righted and the Vols went 7-1 in their last eight games.

Many people had counted Coach Pruitt and his boys from Rocky Top out. Nobody thought they had what it took to make a bowl game early on.

There was a point in time where Jeremy had to do something and do something fast because his seat was getting warmer and warmer each week and the media was calling for his head.

But on Thursday, January 2, 2020, those critics and the same media that were calling for Pruitt’s head was silenced.

Everybody’s jaws were on the floor, they couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Volunteers were down 22-9.

But they never gave up, scoring 14 points in just 30 seconds to take a 23-22 lead over the Indiana Hoosiers from the Big Ten Conference.

None of that would’ve been possible had Pruitt not rolled the dice and come up successful on an onside kick attempt.

When media asked him what made him make that decision at that point in time, Pruitt stated “Well, we were down a score.”

Needless to say, he took a risk, knowing what was at stake and it paid off.

Believe it or not, Tennessee is 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Champions.

Whether you like it or not, you have to respect Tennessee for the Cinderella season that was 2019.

Picture: Tennessee Football Twitter.

If the Heisman Trophy was Awarded to the Most Courageous Player, Jalen Hurts Would Win by Unanimous Decision

Jalen Hurts, what a story, what a season, what a man. Some people still don’t understand why Jalen left Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Norman, Oklahoma.

He didn’t leave because of a coach, a teammate, or a circumstance, Jalen Hurts, the Oklahoma Sooners’ graduate- transfer-quarterback by way of the University of Alabama, who hails from Houston, Texas, left because he saw a better opportunity in Norman under Lincoln Riley’s direction.

Now, we all knew early on that LSU’s Joe Burrow, a transfer-quarterback by way of Ohio State University, was going to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night.

But if the most-prestigious award in college football was awarded to the most-courageous player in college football, Jalen Hurts would’ve won by unanimous decision.

Why, you ask? Well, you see, when Tua Tagovailoa beat out Jalen Hurts for the starting quarterback position in 2017, Jalen could’ve decided to transfer.

When Nick Saban pulled him out of the national title game in favor of Tua in 2017, Jalen could’ve throw in the proverbial towel, but yet he decided to stay.

Not because of Coach Saban or himself, but for his teammates. To show them that even though life may not always go as you plan, you can weather the storm and be rewarded in the end.

As was the case, when Saban pulled an injured Tua Tagovailoa out in favor of Jalen Hurts to win the 2018 SEC Championship.

Jalen Hurts is man of inexplainable character and courage. If only the Heisman Trophy went to college football’s most courageous player.

Pat Sullivan: The Definition of A Warrior

Most all of us know former Auburn quarterback and college football head coach Pat Sullivan as the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner.

But very few of us know that he’d had neck cancer since 2003, due to his addiction to smokeless tobacco.

There is no doubt that smokeless tobacco took its tole on the Auburn great. Very few of us know that he coached football at Samford University on a feeding tube. In April 2018, Sullivan said one “feeding” would get him to halftime and then it was time to repeat the feeding tube process.

Pat was on a feeding tube for seven months and then was allowed to get off of it and live a ‘normal’ life again. In an interview, Pat says “If you were told to jump off a bridge, you wouldn’t do it. That’s no different than using tobacco, don’t do it, never, ever, stop fighting.

Auburn and Alabama fans alike, will tell you, there was nobody quite like Pat Sullivan. Such a kind, courageous man.

Pat, even though you’re no longer here with us on earth, we’ll never forget you and the impact you left, not only on college football, but in the world we live in. You never gave up until your last breath.

You fought cancer for 16 long, painful years, now you can rest without pain.

Thank you for showing us what it’s like to be a warrior.