Atlanta. The town is alive. Baseball is in the air. I am part of a crowd of 42,000. We are loping across a footbridge toward Truist Park like the Children of Israel.
I am here to watch the Atlanta Braves square off against the Miami Marlins in a battle until death. Should be a good game.
A kid next to me is decked in Braves apparel. He is clad in red, struggling to keep up with his dad’s long legs.
The kid is gaunt and pale. His neck is lean. And his hair is missing. But he is freckled. Like someone dipped him in syrup and rolled him in confetti.
“Go Braves,” the kid says to me.
“Go Braves,” I say.
The boy is animated. Happy. Crazy with excitement. He is holding his dad’s hand as they walk. I notice the boy has evidence of a PICC line in his neck. A hospital bracelet on his wrist.
“Are you excited about the game?” I ask.
“Who’s your favorite player?”
He shrugs. “Which year?”
Shrug. “I like them all this year.”
“What about last year?”
“How about 1981?” I say.
“Phil Neikro,” says his father.
Finally, the boy isn’t able to walk anymore. He’s too tired. So his dad hoists him onto his shoulders and says, “How about a ride, Jim Ed?”
Jim Ed. Great name.
The boy sits on his father’s shoulders, and towers above the rest of the crowd. He is king.
Our tiny hero shouts, “Go Braves!” to everyone he passes.
The kid loves to get responses from unsuspecting fans. He doles out several high-fives. Lots of shouts. A few people are kind enough to do the Tomahawk Chop.
“Go Braves!” they all shout.
When we get into the stadium, it’s Disneyworld. Imagine a county fair held at a baseball diamond. That’s Truist Park.
Those of us unfortunate enough to have been born longtime Braves fans remember the older, grungy stadiums.
The first time I came to a Braves game was at Fulton County Stadium, I was still filling diapers and speaking in all vowels. Fulton Stadium was like visiting a Third World Country with subpar hotdogs. You needed a tetanus shot to use the restrooms.
Many years later, when the Olympics came to Atlanta, the whole city was revamped. What a great year. The Braves moved to Turner Field.
Turner was nice. Nicer than the older stadium. But it lacked charm and personality. It was like going to a baseball game at the DMV.
Fast forward to present day. A few years ago, the Braves moved to Truist Park. Suddenly we were in high cotton.
Going to Truist Park is like visiting a Carnival Cruise ship only more expensive.
There are carnival games. Entertainment. Upscale restaurants. Exotic drinks festooned with fruit kabobs and live parrots. And the bathrooms are so clean you could ice your beer down in the urinals.
The hotdogs still taste like roadkill, but you can’t have everything.
Before the game, I am inside the restrooms. I see the kid. Jim Ed. His father is lifting his son’s shirt. He removes the boy’s colostomy bags. He dumps the bags into the nearby toilet.
Then the father gives his son an injection in the upper thigh. After the injection, he pulls the boy’s shorts up. Buckles his little belt. He pets his son’s face. He kisses his head. “I love you,” says Daddy.
The kid’s father lifts his son up to the sink. The boy is washing his hands. Scrubbing between his fingers.
The boy looks weak and drawn. And his features are more birdlike than I realized. I can see a scar running up his calf. And there are bruises on his forearms.
Despite it all, the kid looks at his father’s reflection in the mirror. His face erupts in a fantabulous smile. The boy says with a yell, “Go Braves!”
“GO BRAVES!” answer the shouts of 50-odd male strangers in the stalls.
“This is the best day of my life, Dad” says Jim Ed.
“Mine too,” says Dad. “Mine too.”
David - September 4, 2022 10:59 am
David Hicks - September 5, 2022 9:33 pm
I love that me and Jim Ed are in this together! Go Braves!
Ed Caldwell (Bear) - September 4, 2022 11:02 am
Go Braves! ❤️
Leigh Amiot - September 4, 2022 11:10 am
Blinking away tears…and my perspective has been momentarily corrected.
Pity that’s not a one and done, but reminders are needed.
Thanks, Sean, and go Braves and Jim Ed!
Sandi. - September 4, 2022 11:10 am
This heartwarming story is a tearjerker as only you can tell it, Sean. Go Braves! GO, JIM ED!
Ann Thompson - September 4, 2022 11:14 am
Go Braves. Go Jim Ed!
Ron M - September 4, 2022 11:24 am
Yep, High cotton!
Debbie g - September 4, 2022 11:25 am
And good going Jim Ed
Love you Sean and Jamie
And love to us all
Mostly this morning to Jim Ed
And his dad 🙏🙏🙏🙏
Suellen - September 4, 2022 11:44 am
Praying for this little boy and all the children like him that have started out life the hard way.
Louise Cammack - September 4, 2022 11:47 am
Thank you for that beautiful glimpse into
the life of one Atlanta Braves fan!❤️
Edward Willis - September 4, 2022 12:00 pm
Go Braves! Always thankful for health. This one touched my heart!
mccutchen52 - September 4, 2022 12:11 pm
Well again I can start my day without eye drops. Jim Ed is a Braves fan and a Brave young man and his father is the type of father every child needs. I only hope he lives a long and happy life,
Donna from Iowa - September 4, 2022 12:29 pm
what an inspiring article–makes us thankful for every breath we can take; we need those reminders every second of the day. thanks Sean.
Susan H Poole - September 4, 2022 12:59 pm
God bless Jim Ed….and his Daddy. I can just hear that brave little boy saying, “GO, BRAVES‼” ⚾️May he attend hundreds more games with such enthusiasm.
Jack Sparks - September 4, 2022 1:10 pm
Life can be a blessing when shouldered by a loving father.
Fred Frederick - September 4, 2022 1:15 pm
Great story, Sean.
It was like I was walking along beside you and Jim Ed.
Melanie - September 4, 2022 1:27 pm
Sean you have a heart of gold. Must be 24 karat because it’s so soft ❤️
Christine - September 4, 2022 1:29 pm
Father God, please heal this young boy and breathe life into him. 🙏 God for a miracle.
Debbie - September 4, 2022 1:30 pm
Beautiful relationship between Dad and Jim Ed.Thank you, Sean. 🙏❤️🥲
edward childs - September 4, 2022 1:37 pm
gwenthinks - September 4, 2022 1:58 pm
wonderful picture of the night. how exciting for little Jim Ed and his dad. Go Braves!
Marilyn - September 4, 2022 2:08 pm
Prayers going up for Jim Ed, his father and others dealing with serious health issues. Peace and comfort for all.
Phyllis Herring - September 4, 2022 2:45 pm
Your stories are like reaching into a box of chocolates. I never know if I am going to smile or cry. You have this gift of making the reader feel like they are there. I read a few days ago where you said that you were not a good writer, but I beg to differ. To make the reader feel like they are there inside the story is a gift. I hope you never forget that. From one writer to another …
sjhl7 - September 4, 2022 2:45 pm
Praying for Jim Ed, his father and family and all those families who are facing daunting problems.
Larry Evans - September 4, 2022 3:16 pm
Thank you Sean for noticing important things we need to hear about and for articulating them so poignantly. You are a blessing from God !
Chasity Davis Ritter - September 4, 2022 3:17 pm
Leaky eyes on a Sunday morning. I’m sitting in my back yard swing a cricket and dog are serenading me. My cat is exploring. There is a hint of a breeze. It’s a beautiful day. In my mind I was at the ball park with you and hearing those sounds and smelling the hot dogs cooking. This was a great story. Prayers for Jim Ed!! Go Braves!
Mike Roberts - September 4, 2022 4:24 pm
WOW! Just WOW!
Peggy M. Windham - September 4, 2022 4:59 pm
NancyB. - September 5, 2022 10:06 am
In writing my original comment about “GO CARDS” I completely overlooked where my main focus should be–praying forJim Ed, his father, and the other members of his family. This family and others like it epitomize the very essence of courage, steadfastness, and love. GO JIM ED!
Debbie Patton - September 4, 2022 5:42 pm
Thanks for the sobfest. Great writing.
Joy - September 4, 2022 6:30 pm
My husband and I attended that game, honoring and praying for the children with cancer. So sad and so hopeful, all at the same time.
Linda Moon - September 4, 2022 7:12 pm
Go, Brave Boy, Go!!
pattymack43 - September 4, 2022 8:35 pm
Hosea Long - September 4, 2022 9:28 pm
Great read! The human spirit can not only survive, but thrive through just about anything.
MAM - September 4, 2022 9:39 pm
I was smiling until the last lines, and tears erupted. You tell stories better than anyone I can think of, Sean. Never belittle your skills at writing and storytelling. The human perspective and understanding you have is rare and is definitely God-given. Bravo!
David Britnell - September 4, 2022 9:43 pm
Love that kid and I’ve never met him! God be with him and bless him and his awesome dad!
marthajaneorlando - September 4, 2022 10:21 pm
Such a touching and heartfelt story, Sean! Living in Atlanta for ages, my family are die-hard Braves fans. It broke my heart that my mother passed away in July before the Braves won the World Series. I pray she was able to cheer the outcome from heaven.
I’m a new subscriber, and I’m looking forward to following you in the days and weeks to come. You can check out my blog at marthaorlando.blogspot.com
Fossil - September 5, 2022 2:39 am
Go Jim Ed!!!!!!!
Israel Gallegos - September 5, 2022 4:28 am
Yup yup my name is mentioned Israel the biggest Braves Fan 4rm Visalia CA 👍👍💪💪💪💪
NancyB. - September 5, 2022 7:11 am
My eyes were leaking a bit as I read your blog today, Sean. So glad Jim Ed and his dad were able to share that day at the ballpark. Wonderful memories are made at ballparks! As I was reading about Jim Ed, memories of my days at the ballpark were flying through my mind. Trips with 4H groups. Family. Friends. Alone. Sitting in the cheap seats, no money for anything but a pretzel enjoyed with the bottle of water I took in with me. Sitting in suites all food and drink included. Division clinching games. League championship games. World Series games! Yes, many memories flying through my mind of my visits to Busch Stadium!! GO CARDS!!!!!!!!
Could be our teams will meet in October. If that happens, for those few days you will be the enemy. That, of course, will only be temporary. You could never be my full-time enemy. We have too much in common. Plus you are the only human who can make my eyes leak on a regular basis. Just don’t trash my “birds on the bat” team! GO CARDS!!!!
Te - September 5, 2022 11:23 am
Good one, Sean. Another angel in the making.
Kelly - September 5, 2022 11:53 am
That is the sweetest story about joy. Even in the midst of hard we need and are called to find joy. Oh, what kids can teach us.
And it’s true, going into the stadium is like a herd of animals. 😂
Mark MacIntyre - September 5, 2022 12:49 pm
I only knew of one other Jim Ed and that was Jim Ed Rice of the Boston Red Sox. Seeing as the young Jim Ed’s father is an old school baseball fan, I wonder if that was the impetus for naming his son, Jim Ed…bc the original Jim Ed was an awesome role model for young men back in that day.
I have sent up healing prayers for young Jim Ed as well!
Cate B - September 5, 2022 1:16 pm
I have learned to NOT put any eye makeup on before I read your beautiful prose each morning. Such a tender, touching story about the day in the life of Jim Ed. Prayers for him and his family. Thank you Sean. You are the best!
Pat - September 5, 2022 5:52 pm
In the midst of my flowing tears, I pray to God to heal Jim Ed!
Joe - September 5, 2022 7:03 pm
Another heartwarming story told by a heartwarming storyteller
Peggy Lovelady - September 6, 2022 3:32 am
I am crying. May God bless them.
Lynn B - September 6, 2022 4:22 pm
I had a little friend like that once. Now she is a healthy, happy wife and mommy and takes her own kids to the Braves games! I hope Jim Ed will be able to share this story and show his kids the magic that is Truist Park! Chop on, Jim Ed!!
Sheri K - September 9, 2022 5:36 pm
Beautiful! And a gazillion prayers have been raised to Our Father on Jim Ed’s behalf. For him and his family and all the other families dealing with challenges – God loves you and you are not alone. He is with you. Thank you Sean for your loving stories.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 15, 2022 9:26 pm
Renee Welton - January 12, 2023 6:40 pm