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franklin county times

MLB spring training brings back memories

By Staff
March 3, 2003
Stirring up sports memories while sipping that last cup of hot tea on a Sunday morning …
It almost caught me by surprise, but Spring Training is here.
For years I followed every little movement of Major League Baseball, but over the last few years my interest has dwindled.
Sure, pro baseball is still my favorite sport to follow, but NASCAR is gaining ground.
I'm not really sure why baseball doesn't do the same things it did to me when I was 15 or 25 or even 35. Maybe I've grown tired of some of the players and some of the owners. Maybe there is actually too much of it on television to watch.
I really don't know.
I will still pull for the Braves, and this year I will also be rooting for the Texas Rangers. Not only have they loaded themselves up with interesting talent, but I would like to see former West Lauderdale start Jay Powell one of the newest Rangers return to the World Series.
He's a good guy who deserves that opportunity.
Back when the Atlanta Braves were sorry, sorry, sorry I would begin each season not necessarily hoping to win the World Series, or even the National League West or even finish in the top three. I just wanted to get out of the cellar, and then possibly be at the .500 mark. After that, everything else was gravy.
But, things have changed. Anything less than a division title will be a disappointment. Many are counting out the Braves this year, but they really shouldn't. With just a couple of folks stepping up at the right times, Atlanta will once again be in the hunt.
As Spring Training comes around it makes us thing of Greg Maddux and John Smoltz and Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. But it also brings back other memories to me. Some glorious, others disappointing.
So, for the next few paragraphs just join me for a trip down my personal baseball memory lane. Some will be about the Braves, while others will cover pro baseball in general. Some you will remember, some you likely never knew, or even cared about.
Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson making outstanding defensive play after defensive play against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series …
Ron Swoboda and Art Shamsky hauling in fly balls in the gaps as the Miracle Mets of New York won the 1969 World Championship …
Atlanta's Bob Horner, complete with a cast on his hand and dressed in street clothes, going out on the field to protect pitcher Pascual Perez following a beanball incident …
Hank Aaron ripping a line drive home run to left and the ball hitting the 715 hung just behind the outfield fence to commemorate his record setting blast …
Kirk Gibson, he of just one good leg, ripping a pinch-hit homer to guide the Dodgers past Oakland in the World Series …
Actually standing on the street behind Fenway Park and looking up and realizing you are looking at the back of the Green Monster …
Eating hot pretzels outside of Fenway Park. Believe me, this is a much bigger deal that it sounds like …
Being there on opening day the year after the Atlanta Braves finally won the World Series to see them get their championship rings. It's a good thing that was a thrill, because it was very, very cold …
Sitting down the left field line in Kansas City to watch the game in which Phil Niekro, then a member of the Cleveland Indians, would pick up his last ever pitching win …
Watching my then very young stepson Ryan catch a baseball tossed to him by Kansas City relief pitcher Mike Magnante at a Spring Training game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. …
Listening intently on the radio back in the early 1970s as the Braves games faded in and out on the radio and barely being able to hear Milo Hamilton call the names of my favorites Niekro, Dusty Baker, Ralph Garr, Marty Perez, Aaron and Johnny Oates …
Finally attending a World Series game in Atlanta, only to see the Yankees beat the Braves, once again …
Watching any no-hitter any time. That is always very intense and very neat …
Mailing a letter written by my son Bradley to Andres Gallaraga, then suffering with cancer, telling the baseball star he was praying for him …
The look on Bradley's face when it was announced that Gallaraga's was healthy and would return to play baseball ..
Watching Tony Gwynn hit, Rickey Henderson run, Randy Johnson pitch, Andrew Jones run down flies and Rey Ordonez pick grounders …
Of course, there are many, many more. And maybe I will share a few more with you at a later date.
But for now, that's just enough to get us ready for the best time of the year, baseball season.
Let's play ball!

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