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)

245 Years of Freedom: Independence Day 2021

Tomorrow, this nation that we call home turns 245 years old. Tomorrow we celebrate 245 years of freedom. It’s no secret that we’ve had our share of trying times. But nothing can take away the fact that this nation that we all call home is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

We’ve got so much to be thankful for that gets overlooked because we hear what the media wants us to hear and we see only what they want us to see. Often times we don’t take the time to turn off the news, block out the media and look around us and truly appreciate what is around us.

In recent years, we’ve become so dependent on the media to tell us what we can and can’t do, where we can and can’t go, what we can and can’t wear. We don’t take the time to express our God-given rights like we should.

245 years ago, we gained independence as a nation. We gained the right to do as we wanted, to pursue what makes us as Americans happy, we gained the right to live free, independent lives. In recent times, it seems that we have forgotten that and we choose to let others tell us what to do and when to do it.

I’m not sure about you, but in my eyes the flag still stands for freedom and they’ll never be able to change that. So live your life as you choose and always pursue happiness, but never forget those that so selflessly and courageously laid down their own lives and those who continue to fight for us abroad so that we can enjoy our freedom here back home.

Happy Independence Day, be safe and God Bless.

Source: (Truist Park Twitter)

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.

Memorial Day 2021: A Day of Remembrance and Reflection

As humans, we often see Memorial Day as a day to party, a day to celebrate and barbecue. But Memorial Day isn’t about partying, celebrating, and barbecuing, it’s a day set aside each year to remember the selfless, honorable human beings who gave their lives for the sake of their love for this country.

There is no such saying as “Happy Memorial Day.” You see, somebody somewhere across this great country still struggling with the loss of a loved one, a friend, a fellow service member, etc.

Recently, I saw a post on social media asking about a fireworks display for Memorial Day. I thought to myself, “Do they have no idea what the true meaning of Memorial Day is?” It’s not a time for fireworks, it’s a time of reflection, remembrance, and honoring those who never made it home to their loved ones for the sake of the freedom of citizens like you and I.

Tomorrow, as we observe the very somber holiday that is Memorial Day, I ask that you take a moment to pause and remember the many men and women who died protecting this great nation, the ones who came home draped by an American Flag.

If you are struggling with the loss of a spouse, friend, fellow service member as Memorial Day approaches, I want you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

All gave some, some gave all. Love your country, live with pride, and don’t forget those who died.

Happy First Heavenly Birthday, Hammerin’ Hank: Sports World Honors Home Run King on Would-Be 87th Birthday

Just two weeks ago, we said our earthly goodbyes to Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, the Mobile, Alabama, native, who broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which now serves as a parking lot to the adjacent Georgia State Panthers Football Field, the former Turner Field, which was home of the Braves from 1997 to 2016. 

All that’s left of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium is a little section of the wall. You might ask ‘Well, why just a portion of the wall?’ You see, that portion of the left-center field wall serves as a reminder of all that was Mr. Hank Aaron and the all that he stood for. 

Today, we remember Hank for the humbleness, integrity, honor, and dignity, with which he carried himself for so many years both on and off of the baseball field. Normally, we would be wishing him a happy and safe birthday on this day, but we don’t have to do that today, because we know that he is in a better place, far better than this land. 

Hank is at the Feet of God in Heaven at this moment, I can only imagine how he is celebrating his first birthday in Heaven today, but I know that it’s far greater than any birthday he ever celebrated here on Earth during his time with us. 

Today as not only Braves fans but baseball fans in general, we should offer words of comfort, compassion, inspiration, and motivation for his loved ones. To Hank’s wife Billye Suber Aaron, his children, Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, Hank Jr., and Ceci, I’m here to say that you aren’t the only ones mourning today, for we are with you. 

Even though Hank may no longer be here physically, he will always be with us spiritually. Today, do as Hank would want you to do and “Just keep swingin,’” he is no longer in pain nor is he suffering and we will all meet in the Kingdom of Heaven when our names are called. 

God Bless.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter).

Five Minutes: The Call that Changed My Life Forever

We’ve all got a best friend, or a lifelong friend who has been or was with us through it all. For me, Jody Sanford was that friend.

For 16 years, we were and still are thick as thieves, constantly getting on our siblings last nerve. In fact, we knew just when to ease up on them.

I like to think of our relationship with each other as sort of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde-type relationship, no we never killed anybody, nor did we ever run from the law, but we always had each other’s backs no matter the circumstances.

We never hurt anybody, but you knew where we stood. If you saw one of us, more than likely you saw both of us, because the other wasn’t far behind.

I’ve had my share of ups and downs over the past seven years, happy moments when I seemed to escape everything and then I’ve had moments where I’ve cried myself to sleep.

To know Jody was to love her, I can’t think of a single person who didn’t love Jody. When she loved she loved hard, but Lord help you if you got on her bad side.

She was never one to sugarcoat anything just to make somebody feel better about themselves. She would tell anybody exactly how she felt about them and it could be anywhere.

I know I got on her nerves more than once and I’m not going to lie, she got on mine too. But we never let that create a void in our friendship.

I clearly remember the day God called her home, I was sitting in the back of the house on the computer, mom was in the kitchen cooking green beans, and my brother was in his room.

It was about 4:30 at this point, and mom came running to the back and said “Jody, Jody!” I was wondering ‘What trouble has she gotten into now?’ Because the two of us were notorious for constantly being in trouble and never getting out of it.

I didn’t think much more of it, because I had just seen her the day before at Bazemore Field, I figured she had just gone off on somebody and everything was going like it normally did.

But then, before I knew it, my brother came into the room and took my phone, which made me mad because nobody really told me what was going on.

At about 6:30 p.m., the house phone rang, I picked it up, it was mom I couldn’t even get the word ‘hello’ out of my mouth good before she said “Jody’s gone,” my world felt like it was closing in on me.

Mom said “I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you back in five minutes.” At 6:35 p.m., the phone rang again, and that’s when she explained what happened and then I fell apart because I had just lost not only my best friend, but my very first friend.

The friend that went off on me constantly, who took me home from school on multiple occasions, the one who literally made me do my school work by saying “Don’t make me tell Mrs. Ellen.” I knew she would do it in a heartbeat, so I just rolled my eyes and did my work.

The one who I played with when we were both in diapers, I spent many nights at her house during the summers, had multiple inside jokes with her, etc. I could go on and on for hours about what she meant to me.

A few days passed by, and I was at lunch and they called me to the counselor’s office, I was confused why was I being called to the counselor’s office? I didn’t need a counselor.

When I entered the office, I headed to the back into a meeting room where several more of my friends, including my brother were sitting.

It wasn’t long until her brother walked in and asked us to be pallbearers at her funeral. I wasn’t sure I was mentally capable of doing it, but I knew it’s what she would’ve wanted. So, I hugged her brother and fell apart, he said “Don’t cry, she’s in a better place, she’s with God at His right hand waiting on you.”

The night of the visitation, I entered the church, which is just about a mile from my house and was met by her entire immediate family.

There, her dad, with a frame that stands well above six feet, hugged me tightly as he fought back tears and said “That girl was crazy over you buddy.” He and her mom escorted me into the sanctuary, where Jody’s body was, I broke down when I reached the casket.

I couldn’t believe this was actually happening, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. We had talked about going to college together but that wasn’t going to happen.

The next day at her funeral, I was sitting in the front left pew with all of the pallbearers, when it was time to carry the casket to the hearse, I stood up, took a deep breath and grabbed the handle of the casket with my right hand.

I walked down the steps of the church toward the hearse and loaded the casket into the hearse, I was wearing sunglasses and I lifted them up as soon as I loaded her in the back of the hearse and patted the casket.

I was met with multiple hugs and then headed to the cemetery, when we arrived at the cemetery behind the hearse, I felt my throat get a lump in it. I approached the hearse and loaded the casket onto the lowering table. Then was met with more hugs.

Jody, thank you for always being here for me. Thank you for the memories, thank you for the arguments, the random times we rode around town together, the ice cream dates, and so much more.

I’ll never forget you, you’re safe with me.

Love,

Your best friend, Braxton Parmer.

A New Era Begins Now: Heupel Heads to Rocky Top, Follows Familiar Face Home

A little less than a week ago, Danny White, the former University of Central Florida athletic director, was hired as the University of Tennessee’s athletic director to replace former AD Phillip Fulmer, just a few days removed from that announcement, Tennessee has found its 27th head coach. 

Josh Heupel, the former University of Oklahoma quarterback who led the Sooners to the national title, and was as an assistant coach and head coach captured conference crowns at Oklahoma and UCF, has been named the Tennessee Volunteers next head coach. 

He will replace Jeremy Pruitt, the former Volunteer head man who was fired on earlier this month and was accompanied by the retiring Fulmer. Heupel brings a pedigree of fast-paced and exciting teams. He was named the 2018 First Year Coach of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association of America, and was a finalist for the Associated Press National Coach of the Year Award, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award that same season. 

Heupel stated, “I am thrilled to be coming to Tennessee,” “I understand that Volunteer fans are hungry for a return to the top that they so richly deserve, and it is my goal and commitment to bring a championship back to Rocky Top.” 

During his time in Orlando, Florida at UCF, Heupel posted a 28-8 record and a stellar 20-5 mark in conference play. He will be formally introduced as the head coach during a press conference which will be live-streamed today at 12:05 p.m. ET on UtSports.com and SEC Network.

Welcome home, Coach Josh Heupel, we can’t wait to see what the future holds on Rocky Top.

(Picture: Tennessee Athletics 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)

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)