For me, the perfect vacation includes going to a professional baseball game.
And the bulk of the time it’s the Atlanta Braves.
Seeing the Braves in person has gone from the old Fulton County Stadium, to Turner Field, to SunTrust Park, the new home unveiled by the Braves in 2017.
A couple of weeks ago I made my second visit to Sun-Trust, located 10 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.
The trip had been planned since the start of the season - two games versus the Washington Nationals.
I’ve been a Braves fan for, I guess, 30 years. But there was another reason I was excited about seeing the visiting team on Thursday and Friday nights, July 18-19. Brian Dozier plays for the Nationals.
I moved from Hamilton, Ala., to Fulton, Miss., in 1984. I met Pam a few years later and we were married there in 1989. Two of our good friends at church were Mike and Jan Dozier. Their son Brian was 4 years old when we left Fulton for Aberdeen in 1991.
I kept up with Brian’s baseball career in both high school at Itawamba Agricultural High School and then in college, at the University of Southern Mississippi. He helped lead the Golden Eagles to the College World Series in 2009.
He came up through the Minnesota Twins organization. He was called up to the big leagues in 2012. He was a major league all-star in 2015. On September 12, 2016, he became the first American League second baseman to hit 40 home runs in a season. He won a Gold Glove at second base in 2017. He next played for the Los Angeles Dodgers for part of 2018, including a World Series, and he is in his first season with Washington.
The morning we were scheduled to leave for Atlanta, my son Andy arrived with four baseballs and Sharpies. Our main goal, as far as autographs, was Brian Dozier’s. Barrett Donahoe and his son Hardy made the road trip with us.
The first night we arrived at SunTrust in time just to enjoy the game. And, we had a great time, even with the wrong outcome – a 13-4 loss for the Braves.
The second night we made it a point to get there just in time for the Nationals’ batting practice. Most of the autograph seekers were hanging out near the Braves’ dugout. We made our way to the Nationals’ side and hung out a few minutes at the fence, near the dugout and third base.
A few minutes later, Andy spotted Brian Dozier.
He had on his Southern Miss shirt. I had on my Southern Miss cap.
He stopped first to talk to a group of USM fans nearest to the Nationals’ dugout. Then he was kind enough to walk over to us, too. We introduced ourselves, shook his hand, asked for autographs and then had our photo made with him. He’s a great person and a great athlete. He represents Fulton, Mississippi and USM well.
I told him about once living in Fulton and knowing his mom and dad. He said they would be at the game, always coming if possible when he is playing in Atlanta.
We didn’t try for any more autographs. That’s the only one we wanted on these particular baseballs. Our night was off to a great start. And it got even better, when the Braves won 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth.