16 Years Later: In Loving Memory of Big Ken

16 years ago today, on October 2, 2006, my grandad lost an eight-month battle with pancreatic cancer. My brother and I affectionately referred to him as “Big Ken,” due to his 6’4” frame. That name fit him in more ways than just his physical stature. To the two of us, he was larger than life itself.

He loved sports, the outdoors, his family and so much more but most importantly, he loved the Lord. His hair was as white as a cotton field, his clothes were always starched, not a wrinkle in sight, his car was spotless. His favorite candy was Circus Peanuts with a glass-bottled Coke, the type that leaves divet imprints in your hand if you don’t use a bottle opener.

Although you can hardly find glass-bottle cokes anywhere these days, I like to think that he is the reason that I love Circus Peanuts. He took great pride in everything he did in his 68 years.

Now, by the time my brother and I came along in 1997, he was “real tired,” as my brother once said, which is what he thought the word “retired,” meant. Big Ken loved spending time with us. He would sit patiently outside his Spanish Fort, Alabama home while I pretended to take his “order” as a young boy. He played baseball with us in the backyard for hours on end without complaining one bit. Again, he loved his family.

In the early 2000’s circa 2002, he built my brother and I a bridge in front of his home. A bridge that still stands some 20 years after it was built.

We spent time with him on picnics at Fort Toulouse in my hometown of Wetumpka, Alabama when he and my grandmother would come to visit and I can’t remember a time when the trunk of his Crown Victoria wasn’t slammed full with toys for us both.

Until we meet again, Big Ken. Hold it down with the Lord and rest assured, your memory will remain alive until I take my last earthly breath and join you in the greatest Kingdom known to man. You took what you had, did what you could, provided us with memories that we’ll never forget, and for that we’ll always be thankful. I love you.

33 Years Later: Remembering Lane Frost

If you’re familiar with the sport of rodeo at all, whether it be as a fan, a participant, a stock contractor, an announcer, a music director or anything in between, you’ve heard of and are familiar with the name Lane Frost.

It was on this day 33 years ago, that the cowboy who hung his hat in La Junta, Otero County, Colorado, went to the big arena in the sky. Now, at the time of Lane’s birth, his parents were residing in Lapoint, Utah. But according to sources, Lane’s father Clyde was rodeoing at the time and his mother Elsie, went to stay with her parents in Kim, Colorado, not from the hospital in La Junta, where Lane was born.

He has an older sister, Robin and a younger brother, Cody. At a young age, young Lane took a liking to the sport of bull riding and when he was old enough to ride on his own, Lane’s mom Elsie made his first pair of chaps for him. Being a typical mom, when their does things they aren’t fond of, or don’t feel it’s safe for them do, Elsie was hoping that perhaps one day, Lane would grow out of this bull riding phase that entered his spirit at such a young age.

In his later years, Lane would win a number of titles in the rodeo world, one of those being the 1981 Bull Riding Championship in the National High School Finals Rodeo Association, which was held in Douglas, Wyoming, when he was a high school junior.

He graduated from Atoka High School in Atoka, Oklahoma in 1982. In 1983, he received a full membership in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of more commonly referred to as simply the “PRCA” at age 19. He would finish 16th in the World Standings and the top 15 in each event advance to the National Finals Rodeo each year.

His traveling partner at the time, Jacky Gibbs, occupied the 15th spot in the standings that year. Frost was named 1983 runner-up for the “Rookie of the Year” that year also. He competed in the 1983 “Super Bull” competition in Del Rio, Texas. It was at this event that he received the “Tough Luck Award,” for his gritty effort.

Fast forward to 1989, in July of that year Lane and his wife, Kellie were going to try their hands at stunt doubles in the movie “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, which was about a bull rider that comes home to Oklahoma.

Lane was scheduled to have a small speaking role in the film. But first, Lane, not letting the stunt double opportunity get in the way of his love for rodeo and bull riding, took time to go to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to participate in the world-renowned “Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo” which is held in Cheyenne, Wyoming every July. Lane let Kellie stay behind to work on the movie.

After Lane made the right second requirement on his second bull of the rodeo, sportscaster George Michael, whom often interviewed the cowboy from Colorado and a friend of his, spoke with Frost, in what would unfortunately become Frost’s last interview.

George said to Lane, “But you just had to give the crowd a thrill with that dismount!” Lane had somersaulted over the tail of the bull at the end of his ride. Four days later, on July 30, 1989, Lane drew a bull named “Takin’ Care of Business,” after getting him ridden, Frost dismounted but was hit by the bull breaking ribs and severing a main artery and the Lane Clyde Frost died moments later at the age of 25 on the dirt of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

If you get a chance today, watch the Cheyenne Frontier Days and tip your hat to the man that died doing what he loved. I wasn’t alive in ‘89, but the way Lane lived and loved is evident with every rodeo I watch. He may not be here on Earth, but his legacy will never die. Rest In Peace, Cowboy! Good ride, good ride.

Source: (Wrangler Network)

Longtime Braves Public Address Announcer, Casey Motter, Passes Away

This afternoon at about 12:15 p.m., I got the notification that I thought I would never have to get. The Atlanta Braves public address announcer, Casey Motter, passed away early Thursday morning in his sleep. 

Casey Motter got his start in broadcasting announcing youth football and baseball games in nearby Peachtree City, Georgia, where he would often bring his own sound system and music. 

His big break came on one November night in 2006, when the Braves assistant general manager, Frank Wren was blown away by the talent that Casey possessed. Frank videoed the youth football game that Casey was announcing and turned it into an invitation to try out for the Braves PA spot. 

Casey, a Smyrna, Georgia native and avid Braves fan, made the most of the opportunity, ultimately winning the job over a dozen other finalists with professional experience. 

The voice of Casey Motter, is one that will always hold a special place in my heart. The way he delivered himself during games. The enthusiasm he showed for his Braves will now and forever remain unmatched. I looked forward to one day being able to work alongside Casey in the Braves booth. In fact, he’s the one whom I model my deliverance after. There won’t ever be another Casey Motter.

My heart goes out to the entire Motter family at this time. Rest In Peace, my friend, save me a seat in the greatest booth of them all!

(Ballpark DJ)

Happy 70th Birthday, George Strait

It all began 70 years ago in southeastern Texas town of Poteet, Texas, when George Harvey Strait Sr., was born to John Byron Strait and Doris Couser Strait.

He didn’t listen to much country music at all growing up in Pearsall, Texas, which is southwest of San Antonio, and his parents divorced while he was still in school, and George and his older brother Buddy were raised by their father, a junior high math teacher.

During high school, Strait was left speechless by seemingly matchless beauty of Norma Voss, with whom he would elope shortly after graduation, before signing for a stint in the United States Army.

He discovered his love for country music while stationed on the islands of Hawaii in 1971 and broke into the country scene a decade later in 1981.
He wrote the song “Check Yes or No,” for his wife Norma. In the song he recalls the first time he laid eyes on her on the playground in third grade.

Over the course of his storied and highly-touted country music career, the Texas native has more than 60 number one hits. Those hits include “Amarillo By Morning,” “How Bout Them Cowgirls,” “The Fireman,” “Cowboys Like Us,” “The Cowboy Rides Away,” and “Write This Down”.
Happy 70th Birthday, George. We love you brother.

Cody Johnson is Saving Country Music

I think it’s pretty safe to say, that Cody Daniel Johnson of Huntsville, Texas, is the future of country music. Not only is he the future of the genre, but he’s the reason there is still hope for real country music. I’m not talking about the kind of “country” that uses hip-hop beats or electronic drums.

I’m talking about the blue-collar country music. The kind that Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash,Willie Nelson and so many others have sang about over the years.

I’m not talking about the kind where people claim to be “cowboys” that seems to be the trend these days, I’m talking about an ex-bull rider turned country musician. The kind that misses songs, not because his voice cracked, but because his cows got out on his Texas ranch, so he’s backstage telling his wife how to get them back. The kind of country where people lived the lives the sang about.

I’m not talking about the politics of country music that pushes people to feel a certain way, I’m talking about the kind of country music that still believes in God, Country, and Family. The kind that will stop at nothing to give the glory to God in front of 10 thousand people.

That’s the kind of country that Cody Johnson is. He’s pure, blue-collared, down-home country. He doesn’t pretend he’s perfect. I’m fact, he’ll stand onstage and tell you he’s the most imperfect Christian in the venue.

He’s seemingly the only hope that real country has. Get a good look folks, this man is one of a kind.

The Little Things in Life: Landon McGregor’s home run

Yesterday seemed like a normal day, little did I know several hours later, I would have the distinct honor and privilege of meeting and calling the home run for one of the most inspirational kids that I’ve ever met.

Meet Landon McGregor, Landon has Down syndrome and is the bat boy for Alex City Middle School’s baseball team. He has an infectious personality with a smile that will undoubtedly light up a room.

Prior to the first game of the doubleheader, our head coach came up to me and explained the situation to me. He told me to play it up, which I gladly agreed to do under the circumstances.

To lead off the doubleheader, Landon happily walked up to the plate bat in hand. It wasn’t long before Landon hit the ball and was rounding the bases with a huge smile on his face. His trip around the bases was ended with a slide at home plate and kids surrounding him congratulating him on his big hit.

Little did Landon know, his big moment taught me one important thing, the little things in life are really all that matters.

Congratulations, Landon!

An Open Letter to Freddie Freeman

Dear Freddie Freeman, for 15 years, 11 of those spent in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, you gave all of Braves Country more than we could ever repay you for.

You’ve been our shoulder to cry on during the down years, you’ve celebrated with us in the high years. Despite the ebbs and flows of the years in between your first year here in Atlanta and your last, you stuck it out.

You said you were blessed to be a part of organization, when in fact, we were blessed to have you and your amazing family at our side through the rollercoaster that you ride alongside us for 11 years of big league service, 15 counting your time in the minors.

Thank you for providing us with so many memories, from the home run hugs, to the last out of the 2021 World Series. You did it all.

To Chelsea, thank you for sacrificing so much time with your husband for the betterment of this organization. Freddie is a sensational man who has left an incredible impact on the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to call ourselves Braves fans. He’s been with for a decade and a half and you have been right there with him.

To Charlie, Brandon, and Maximus Freeman, thank you for sharing your dad with us. Thank you, Charlie for the unconditional love that you’ve shown us the past few years. To Brandon and Maximus, your story impacted us all and brought us all to tears.

Freddie, again, my brother, thank you for sharing your family, your athletic ability, and your story with us all for 15 years. You my friend, are the epitome of what it means to be an Atlanta Brave.

Thanks for everything, until our paths cross again, so long my friend, I wish you and your family nothing but the best.

“Here for the Long Haul,” Wetumpka Head Football Coach Looking Forward to Serving Community

For most people, it takes a while for them to know what they want to be when they grow up. For one high school head coach, it didn’t take long.

Bear Woods was announced as the Indians new head man a week ago. After spending time in both the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL), Woods considers this opportunity a blessing saying “I can’t overstate just how awesome of an opportunity this is that my family and I are grateful for.”

Woods, a collegiate standout at Troy University, and most recently with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Allouettes and Toronto Argonauts, says “it’s a blessing to be at home doing what I love, which is football and to have my wife and my four kids at my side on this journey.”

The Macclenny, Florida, native credits his playing days with putting him “on a journey being able to understand what these athletes are going through and it’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

As a young kid in small-town Florida, Woods dreamt of playing for Baker County High School, a rural Florida institution. “There wasn’t a college team or a professional team, all I wanted to do was play for my high school. On Friday nights, I looked forward to being able to carry my older brother or my older cousins’ equipment.”

Woods says “It’s that type of passion and pride that I want to be able to help cultivate and instill here with our community.”

Woods also says “Football is just a platform with which the Lord has blessed me to serve the place that I call home. This is what the Lord intends me to do and to be able to lead young athletes in all sports, both girls and boys, it’s just a great opportunity.”

The faith-grounded head coach says, “This program has no ceiling on where it can go and I’m anxious to serve here.”

Woods has considered the City of Natural Beauty home for a while. “Wetumpka was home before this job and it’s going to be home well after this job, we’re here for the long haul.”

Picture Courtesy: Bear Woods.

Hank Aaron: A Man Character, Integrity, Tenacity, and Fortitude

There are no words to adequately describe the man that was Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron. I don’t say that lightly. You see, it was nearly a year ago, that we lost a great man, a noble man, a man of the highest character, integrity, tenacity, and fortitude.

When Hank Aaron, a black man from Mobile, Alabama, passed away on January 22, 2021, we lost a man whom, so bravely stood face-to-face with social injustice in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.

We lost a legend, but Hank Aaron didn’t care about his statistics, his fame, or what people thought of his career, he was more concerned with seeing that people were treated with the same amount of respect. He was an advocate, a servant, a legend, and an icon in every sense of his being.

He was and is highly revered in the baseball world, just as he deserves to be. Now, I never had the distinct honor of talking to Mr. Aaron during his 86 years of life here on Earth, but from what I’ve read in articles and books, he never wanted to discuss his historic 23-year Major League Baseball career that saw him break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 home runs by sending a ball into the left-center field bullpen at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium at 9:07 p.m., eastern time on April 8, 1974.

He was more concerned with discussing how you were, discussing your needs, and wants. He never was self-centered at all. Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones once said “When Mr. Aaron walked into a room, the crowd got quiet, when he spoke, you listened. But when he made himself available for conversation, you approached him, shook his massive hand, and heeded any advice he offered.”

The baseball world definitely hasn’t been the same since Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away just shy of a year ago because we’ve all felt the void that the absence of such a noble human has left in our hearts. I never got the chance to speak with Mr. Aaron here on Earth, but when my name is called one day to head to that big baseball stadium made of gold in Heaven, you can rest assured that I will approach Mr. Aaron and tell him just how much he means to not only me but to the baseball world in general.

Afterwards, if Mr. Aaron has any advice on how to hit 755 home runs, I will sit back and enjoy his company. Rest In Peace, Hammer. I l love you, brother.

Source (USA Today)

Paying Tribute: A Visit with Hank and Audrey Williams

Paying tribute. It’s something I’ve always liked to do. Whether it’s having one of the person’s favorites, whether it be candy or food. To physically visiting their grave and having a chat with them for a bit.

Yes, I know that the actual person isn’t lying beneath that cold hard stone, only their Earthly body, but their soul, the part of a person that actually makes a human who they are, resides in Heaven.

Last Sunday, my girlfriend and I exchanged gifts at my house a day after Christmas because we were both busy with family on Christmas Day, which is completely and totally understandable.

After we exchanged gifts, we went to eat sushi at Rock N Roll Sushi in Montgomery, because it’d been a while since we had both had sushi and we like it, so why not?

Soon, after we had finished eating sushi, we headed to Oakwood Annex Cemetery in Montgomery to visit with believe it or not, not just one but two country music legends.

One who is considered by many to be the Father of Country Music, Hank Williams Sr., and his wife, Mrs. Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams.

Not many people know this, but Hank and Mrs. Audrey met in Andalusia late summer of 1943, but didn’t marry until December 1944. It’s also believed that by the time they both passed away, Hank of course long before Audrey, the couple was actually divorced.

Of course, Hank Williams is best known as the father of Hank Williams Jr., but he also had an adopted daughter named Lycrecia.

Lycrecia is the daughter of Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams and James Erskine Guy, her full name is Lycrecia Ann Guy Williams.

She was born August 13, 1941, but not long thereafter, Mrs. Audrey and Erskine divorced that same year and Hank adopted Lycrecia some time between 1943 and 1953, so she refers to old drifter as “daddy”.

As my girlfriend arrived at the final resting place of the two legends, I felt the wind die down and I approached the graves.

Now, these aren’t your usual small, intimate graves. These graves feature large headstones and raised concrete slabs.

I sat down on a bench next to Hank’s resting place and listened to his hit song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” after the song ended I heard a train whistle off in the distance. It was as if Hank could hear his music being played.

Nearly 68 years after his untimely death, the spirit of old Hiram King “Hank” Williams is still searching for a way to get to that New Year’s Day 1953 show that he never made it to.

Rest In Peace, Hank and Mrs. Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams, we miss you both.