May 30, 2013. Can we count this as the date the Braves finally got serious? Benching the free-swinging Mendoza three (Uggla, BJ, and Heyward) against the knuckleballer RA Dickey, and designating the Juan Francisco Experience for assignment. For the first time all season fans got their dream lineup: Schafer, Simmons, Justin, Freeman, Gattis, McCann, C Johnson, Pena, and Minor. The lineup produced a resounding 11-3 win over last year's NL Cy Young winner. Even the slumping Justin Upton seemed to get the message, making contact and spraying line drives instead of striking out.
One fun thing about going to a game at Turner Field is talking to the fans while standing in the dollar ticket line. Many are genuine, long-time fans who come to a lot of games. Last night I spoke with a nice old lady who used to be an usher. We reminisced about the old General Admission seats out in Atlanta Stadium's centerfield upper deck. For a long time they were one dollar for adults, and fifty cents for the kids. Eventually even these tickets went up in price.
Unfortunately, most of the time I was standing in line I was one of those fans yakking on the phone. After I left work I had to help handle two emergencies. Wound up making 34 calls between 3:15 and 4:55 pm – right up to when I made it to the ticket window.
Found a seat in the left field stands and was packing away my Freddie Freeman bobblehead when a high fly came right toward me. The young fan in the row ahead of me appeared to be talking, unexcited about the ball headed right for him. But at the last minute he casually head up his glove and easily caught the ball. Then I found my friend John, and we had a nice long chat about many things: our children at UGA, attending minor league games, pastor search committees, catching BP home runs. A young fan slithering past wearing a Blue Jays cap and shirt. Earlier John had seen him wearing a Braves cap. One of those willing to go to great lengths to catch a ball. During the game I saw him constantly on the move, strategically positioning himself in prime foul ball position depending on whether the batter was a lefty or righty. Never saw him get a ball, though during BP both John and his friend Marshal each caught one.
Before the season is over Ramiro Pena may make fans forget the previous number 14. The former Yankee had four RBIs and played flawless defense. Shortstop Simmons seems hexed by last Friday's ESPN report of his errorless season. He's committed three since then, including last night's botching of double play ball. Instead the Jays were able to tie the game. And while we're on fielding, Wednesday night's slow motion instant replay of the normally slick fielding first baseman Freddie Freeman's misplay of a slow-rolling ground ball was strangely similar to Bill Buckner's classic World Series error. Even Freddie's bobblehead pose seemed to recreate the error. My prediction of a Freddie bobblehead hugging an Uggla bobblehead turned out to be false.
Sometimes I try to purposely not mention Evan Gattis, since he is spoken of so much. So forget about his three hits and three runs scored - it's his defense in left field that warrants mentioning. The first two Blue Jay hits were softly hit balls that Gattis couldn't charge fast enough to catch. Both would have been tough to catch in the air, but he got a late break on both balls. Could have been the time of day, when balls are tough to pick up early in night games before the sun has set. For a while I wondered if Minor would throw a two-hitter and miss a no-hitter because of Gattis' defense. The third hit was an infield single by Dickey. Finally a line drive into the left field corner eased my mind. Gattis did make a twisting, turn-right-then-left while backpedaling catch to show off his skillz. Gattis must've gotten a shoe contract. Last night he was wearing all black spikes. His particular route from dugout to left was interesting to watch. Sometimes he touched the bases, other times he didn't.