Friends Forever: Remembering Jody Marie Sanford

24 years ago tomorrow, you saw the world for the first time. Exactly two months to the day later, I was born into the world. Even though it’s almost been eight years since I said “See you on the other side,” It feels like it’s been a lot longer.

A lot has changed in the last seven and a half years, but the one thing that will never change is the love that I have for you. I can only imagine what you will experience tomorrow in God’s kingdom.

A lot has changed since you took the first step on your heavenly journey, and I can’t help but think of how proud you would be of me.

I was so blessed to have you here with me on Earth for 16 years. It may have only been 16 years, but those 16 years hold a lifetime worth of memory. Thank you for everything Jody Marie. Thousands of memories in such a short amount of time.

Memories that I will cherish forever until I see you again. I know you’re looking down on me giving me that stare that only you could give, telling me to “dry it up, you’ll be fine.”

But the truth is, there will never be another person quite like you. Your heart was so pure, your personality was incredible, your smile lit up a room and if only you knew how loved and missed you are by hundreds of people, you would understand. What they say is true, “True friendship goes far beyond the grave.” I’ll love you forever and always.

Happy Birthday, beautiful. Until we meet again, you’re safe with me.

Champagne Rain: Braves Clinch Fourth-Consecutive National League East Crown

Early on in the season, if you’d have told me that the Braves were going to comeback at the end of the season and win a fourth-consecutive National League East title, even as a life-long diehard fan of the Braves, I probably would’ve called you crazy.

I was born in the middle of the Atlanta Braves glory days, when they won an unprecedented 14-consecutive division crowns. Plus I have relatives from the Atlanta-area and so it was easy for me to delve into the red and blue of the Atlanta Braves. I’ve also seen the Braves at some of their worst times in franchise history such as that 2016 season when we won less than 68 games.

Yet, I’ve stood solidly behind them through the storms of the times. I’ve seen them at their peak and at rock bottom and right now, I’ve got to believe the glory days are returning. We won the East without Ronald Acuña Jr for half of the season, Marcell Ozuna, who was arrested in May missed 80% of the season and pitcher Mike Soroka missed the entire season with a torn Achilles.

The 2021 division title stands as our 21st division title in franchise, the most in Major League Baseball history, two more than the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers

Here’s to October baseball returning to Atlanta in 2021 and our 21st division title! Break out the champagne Braves fans!

(Braves Facebook)
(Braves Twitter)
(Braves Twitter)

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)

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.

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.

Embrace the Chaos: The Life of a Broadcaster

Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.

I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.

I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.

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.