Atlanta. A baseball game. The Braves were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was muggy. Truist Park smelled like armpits, onion rings, and little-kid sweat. Which is exactly how you want a ballpark to smell. All that was missing was the cigar smoke.

One of the great disappointments of my life is when they banned smoking in ballparks. To this day, whenever I smell a cigar, I think of Fulton County Stadium in the summer. My uncle was present when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. Hank hit the home run on my uncle’s fourth cigar. He had a six-day hangover thereafter.

My uncle, not Hank.

So anyway, there I was. Sitting in the cheap seats. Namely, because I come from cheap people. We did not believe in extravagance when I was a boy. My mother was so cheap her pancakes only had one side.

It was a crummy game. The Braves were getting their hindparts handed to them on a paper plate.

Losing is not an unfamiliar feeling for I am a longtime Braves fan. I remember the lean years. My uncle used to say that the Braves and Michael Jackson had a lot in common; they both wore one glove and didn’t use it.

So anyway, it was the ninth inning. The Braves were down five or six runs. It was hopeless. There wasn’t much that could be done to stop the bleeding. Some people were already leaving the stadium.

Our team was looking tired. You could see our guys in the dugout, spitting, slumped in their seats, nodding at whatever the manager said. There was no hope for us.


Then something happened. A little boy stood up in the nosebleeds. One section over from me. He was maybe 7. He was small, wearing an oversized ballcap. Messy red hair poking out from beneath it. His glove was the size of a municipal monument.

The boy screamed at the top of his voice:


At first, nobody was paying attention to the kid. He was one voice out of 42,000. But his shrill excitement cut through the idle chatter of Cobb County. He screamed his rally cry over and again.


Within minutes, the boy’s entire section was chanting along in unison. Moments thereafter, other sections were joining in, too. Then, a few more sections. Then, a couple more.

Soon, the entire lower half of Truist Park was chanting in perfect unison. Clapping in perfect unison, too. Which any Baptist will tell you, is a minor miracle.

The boy’s call spread like the Bangkok flu. You could hear the chant rake its way across the stadium, rising to the upper decks, the balconies, the Chop House, everywhere.

I watched 40-some thousand humans shout in unison with a small child, loud enough to make your fillings come loose.


The batter came to the plate. Matt Olson. Long and lean. He used his bat to tap the dirt from his cleats. He squared off in the box.

The roar of the stadium had risen to an impossible peak.


The batter took one look at the crowd. He looked almost moved.

And the pitttcccchhhhhhh.

The batter drew back. He connected. The ball sailed into the Great Beyond. Home run.

The crowd went wild. The kid removed his hat and threw it at the sky. His family dog piled him. Fans from nearby sections stopped to shake the kid’s hand.

And this little boy will never get over it.

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