The Atlanta Braves are playing their first home game of the season, and everyone in the South is here to greet them.

SunTrust Park holds 41,500 people. There are even more than that here tonight.

The man taking tickets at the gate is all personality. He says, “Man, we sold out tonight, even our standing-room-only tickets went like hotcakes.”

The Atlanta Braves are playing their first home game of the season, and everyone in the South is here to greet them.

There is magic in baseball. I don’t know how, and I don’t care. Our ancestors played this game. Our daddies taught us to swing while we were in diapers. This magic is not make believe.

I meet Amy and Christopher in the mile-long ticket line. They’re from Dalton, Georgia.

“These tickets were his Christmas present,” says Amy. “We’re so ready for baseball.”

“So ready,” Christopher says.

That makes three of us.

My wife came to the game with me. She is not a baseball fan. Even so, after years of marriage, she knows how to keep score, and she knows the infield fly rule. I count this as progress. She knows about the magic here.

We find our seats. In the row ahead of me is a man from Auburn. Early thirties. Father of three. His name is Darren, his kids are with him. His wife is playing on her phone.

His family wears Auburn University T-shirts with Braves caps.

Darren and I end up having a conversation during the game. This is what men do. We cannot wind our watches and chew bubble gum at the same time. But we can have an in-depth discussion during a baseball game and never miss a play.

My father was the same way. I remember when my father used to change the oil in our station wagon. The dull roar of a crowd would come from a Philco Radio. He would be listening.

“What’s the score?” I would always ask.

“Ain’t good,” he’d say. “Turn it off, I can’t bear to hear it.”

I would click the game off.

“No!” he would say. “Don’t do that! What if they score?”

Hope holds out until the last inning in baseball.

My new friend Darren says his father was a baseball fan.

“My dad worshipped the Yankees,” he says. “But he never got to see them before he died. We were gonna take him for his sixty-fifth birthday, but…”

CRACK!

Single to right.

Caught on a low hop.

“Dad could never play sports,” Darren goes on. “It killed him when he was a kid, he had a bad leg from polio. He limped all his life. But he encouraged me, he was always at my games, front row, never missed. He made me love baseball.”

Darren pauses to observe his own son. The ten-year-old sits entranced with the pastime of ghosts and heroes. The look on the proud father’s face says more than I can write.

CRACK!

Line drive up the foul line. It’s fair.

The throw isn’t in time.

Braves score.

The place goes ape.

“It’s funny,” says Darren. “I’m not used to Dad being gone, not yet. Sometimes, I call his cellphone just to hear his voice on his answering machine greeting. I can’t bring myself to disconnect his old telephone number. He was my hero.”

I look around SunTrust Park. I see a lot of heroes and their faithful sidekicks in this stadium. In fact, I see 41,500 of them.

A blonde boy sits on his father’s lap, eating a hot dog. A baby sleeps on her mother, wearing a onesie that reads, “Go Braves!”

A man and his elderly father, sipping Miller Lite. A young couple, with a redhead girl dressed in a baseball uniform. A group of kids in Boy Scout uniforms.

A Hispanic toddler, speaking rapid Spanish with his father.

“Los Bravos!” the boy shouts.

“No,” his father clarifies. “Say, ‘Lessgo Braves!'”

The remnants of a person’s life can be found in the game they played. That’s why the sound of a bat brings back my old man, lying beneath a Ford. Motor oil on his face. Always waiting for a miracle at the plate.

Darren holds his infant daughter against his chest. It’s late. I suspect all children in this park are getting sleepy at this hour.

CRACK!

Another run is driven in.

Braves are going to win.

“Papá!” shouts the Hispanic boy. He leaps upward. He spills his drink all over himself. But the kid is too busy to worry about messes. Not when a Brave is trotting the bases.

“Vaya!” yells the boy’s father.

A group of teenagers screams. Darren screams with his kids. A redheaded boy screams. The crowd couldn’t be any gladder to have the Braves home.

Darren’s boy high-fives him and shouts, “LOOK, DAD! WE SCORED!”

I find myself whispering the same thing to the sky.

And for a moment, I feel magic.

23 comments

  1. Van - April 2, 2019 8:47 am

    Yep….it is magic alright. My Dad sat half way up the bleachers on third base side at Dudy Noble Field. Same spot……every time…….magic.

    Reply
  2. Sherry - April 2, 2019 10:52 am

    ⚾️🌭😃love baseball! Go Rangers!

    Reply
  3. LeAnne - April 2, 2019 11:33 am

    Magic, indeed.

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  4. Gerri Johnson - April 2, 2019 12:25 pm

    Yep, it’s magic all right. Go cubbies!!

    Reply
  5. jeffreystaylor - April 2, 2019 12:29 pm

    Would have loved to have caught a game with my dad. Every boy, old or young needs this experience! Thanks Sean for always getting my morning started.

    Reply
  6. GaryD - April 2, 2019 12:36 pm

    My parents were big Braves fans. Dad preferred sitting in a lawn chair in the back yard listening on the radio. With a beer in his hand .Those were the days! I miss them.

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  7. robert - April 2, 2019 1:07 pm

    Great memories of “Knothole” League baseball in the 1970’s. This was the beginner’s tee ball league with team names like Crickets, Topcats, Beetles, Rascals, Gnats, and Tadpoles. I struck out often (yes, struck out on a tee ! ), but loved the whole experience of the smell of dirt, honeysuckle, and concession stand hamburgers. Thanks to the folks in Sylacauga who made those memories happen including my late father Bobby Clifton.

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  8. Wanda Corbin - April 2, 2019 1:08 pm

    You made me cry! But I guess you could all them happy tears. God bless you for sharing your life with all of us.

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  9. Brierfield Bob - April 2, 2019 1:47 pm

    Ted Turner put the Braves in the national spotlight by filling air time for his tv empire with Braves games. My Dad loved em and rarely missed a game. He would fuss and cuss because “they have traded away three all star teams”.Never forgave em for getting rid of Joe Torre. He watched when they were bad and finally got to enjoy some of the Maddox years.

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  10. Dianne - April 2, 2019 2:35 pm

    I got my love of baseball from my step-grandfather whom I would sit with many times listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Being huge Braves fans in our household, we love watching these guys play ball and have fun doing it. We also loved the weekend of our Auburn basketball team’s huge wins. For Auburn, on to the Final Four and like the team and all Auburn fans, we can smell victory!! For the Braves, a great way to begin the season last night and on to another championship seaon!!

    Reply
  11. Mary F Tomlin - April 2, 2019 3:18 pm

    My mother was the Braves fan in our family. One of the highlights of her life was when we took her to Atlanta to see a game. She watched them on TV all the time, knew every player. She always said, “We won” or “We lost.” She was part of the team.

    Reply
  12. Janet Mary Lee - April 2, 2019 3:30 pm

    I just love when you write about the people you watch. I have been here for almost 30 years so I am still a transplant. I am just lucky enough to love everyone of the places we were ever stationed in my life. And I love it here. Another thing I love of your writings are the memories they invoke. I remember having my mom drive me in our 53 Chevy to the electric trolley car station in Shaker Heights and my friends and I rode the line into the Cleveland stadium to watch the Indians play in the sixties. By ourselves..Can you imagine? I was only about 12, and what a thrill. We changed seats constantly to get the best views because you could back then, ate hamburgers and hot dogs and popcorn and knew every player and their stats.Those trolleys,cars, days and prices are all gone.. But not baseball !! Thank God!!

    Reply
  13. B. Terry, Fort Walton Beach - April 2, 2019 4:39 pm

    If you were a boy, growing up in the 1940’s or 1950’s in the mill villages of Lanett, Shawmut, Langdale, Fairfax or Riverview (Now known as Valley), Alabama, you played either intra-village baseball and/or department softball. We were the Riverview Rabbits and champions. The semi-pro team was the Valley Rebels and they were more famous locally than the pro teams. When the local radio station started broadcasting the Rebels games on FM folks just sat on their mill company houses porches listening to the games. Wish I could remember the announcer. The announcer on the movie Bull Durham reminded me of him.
    There was no TV then.
    So I grew up with baseball, but could not play well but did do pretty good at softball and there was always summer night games needing as player somewhere.
    Thanks for the memory poke.

    Reply
  14. Jack Darnell - April 2, 2019 5:14 pm

    Good read and I am not even a BB fan. Well I was when I was 12. LOL back then I thought there were only two teams, the Dodgers and the Yankees. I was a dodger since jackie Robinson was there.
    Good one anyway.
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  15. Debbie Phillips Hughett - April 2, 2019 8:23 pm

    The remnants of a person’s life can be found in the game they played… Poignant…profound

    Reply
  16. Mickey Duke - April 2, 2019 11:26 pm

    I watch or listen to Braves Baseball all season. I CHOP when I hear the music just like I was at the game. I know it’s embarrassing to my grown sons and slightly off putting to the people I meet when I’m driving. Still, at 65 years old, when the music starts, I CHOP. My husband just rolls his eyes. He knows I love the Braves and I love you Sean of the South!

    Reply
  17. Brenda Belvin - April 2, 2019 11:42 pm

    You got me again, Sean. Sweet tears. My earliest memories of my daddy are about baseball. He played catcher for a great Tuscaloosa club team during the 50’s. His claim to fame was that he once caught for local hero Frank Lary of the Detroit Tigers. They called Mr. Lary the “Yankee Killer” because of his record against the Yanks. I still have his steel cleats. He would have turned 100 this June. Looking forward to finally getting to seeing you in person next September in Aliceville, Alabama. You are a treasure, son!

    Reply
  18. Janette Shaw - April 3, 2019 3:19 am

    Love it!

    I was one of three sisters who came along in the late 40’s…but my Dad finally got his Son when my Mom had baby #4….we were all a year apart. As a tom boy, I was always disappointed when my Dad took my brother to a Cincinnati Reds game and left me home with my two sisters. But, all was good with the world when after one trip to a game, my little brother came home with a small red and white Cincinnati Red Legs pennant for me! It proudly decorated my bedroom wall for years.

    This artical brought it all back, Sean. Thanks.

    Reply
  19. Charaleen Wright - April 3, 2019 3:59 am

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  20. Estelle Sexton Davis - April 3, 2019 11:35 am

    In the 1940’s every small town had a baseball team. I remember going and sitting in an enclosed bleachers section. It had screens to protect you from flies and mosquitoes. If you wanted some to drink you brought your own jug of water. It was 🥵 HOT! Of course there was no such a thing as air conditioning. You fanned yourself with a piece of cardboard or one of the funeral home fans. In our part of the world it was the Saint Louis Cardinals we rooted for. You could walk down the street and hear a ballgame coming from every business with an open door. Of course there were screen doors on them but the sound came through with no problem. I haven’t thought of these days for a long time. Thanks Sean for invoking my memory.
    Keep writing.

    Reply
  21. Jon Dragonfly - April 3, 2019 2:14 pm

    “A redheaded boy screams.”
    And I’ll bet that redhead was our boy Sean.

    Reply
  22. Connie Havard Ryland - April 4, 2019 12:55 pm

    My kids played baseball and softball when they were kids but to my great sorrow, neither my children nor my grandchildren are fans. I love it and would go to our local minor league games if I had someone to go with me. Thank you for sharing this. I can close my eyes and hear the crowd and see the joy. So much excitement! Love and hugs.

    Reply
  23. Debbie Barton - May 2, 2019 4:10 pm

    Love baseball! Go Astros!!!

    Reply

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