Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Braves 6 Padres 5: Justice Served

With the Rolling Stones set to play Grant Field and the David Justice bobblehead a popular get, I left work earlier than usual to trek down to the Ted. And as usual, traffic was backed up to the 400 merge and remained heavy through downtown. I parked at my usual spot and arrived at the dollar line at 3:35 - in time to get reasonably close to the front. As the queue lengthened John Parkes limped up. I waved him over and let him break in line with me. Lightning flashed and thunder roared, and the rain came off and on during our wait. Two bobblehead junkies chatted behind me. I checked the regular ticket window and learned my BOGO coupon is only good on line – a poor play on my part. Crazy Darryl arrived at 4:25 and expertly maneuvered to the front of the line. Several regulars greeted John and asked where he had been.

As we waited I thought to ask John what he did with all his bobbleheads, since he attends every game. Before he retired he’d give them to his supervisor, but now he had no plans in particular. I didn’t press the issue but as we approached the gate he volunteered to give me his bobblehead. John retired to his usual 4:45 – 5:15 spot in the leftfield shade. I ran out for one more Justice, passing my new friend Kevin on the way. Seeing me headed for the exit he jokingly acted official, saying “Sir, you can’t go there.” We exchanged greetings and I returned to the dollar line, which soon closed with fifty still in line. Stuck outside the gate, my only option was to purchase a $14.00 general admission ticket to get back in. Still, discounting the free Designated Driver Coke, my haul of three bobbleheads for $4.00 each wasn’t bad.
John recounted his spring trip out West and the details of his poisonous spider bite. His hospital stay was followed by three weeks in therapy. We chatted past his usual departure time. After he left I checked my phone and called Ceil. Craig Kimbrel signed dozens of autographs (above).

To my left I spotted my friend Marshall – who was being interviewed on camera by a Braves hostess. I walked down to get the details. They picked him because he looked like a devoted fan. While I sported my Braves road cap, I could do a better job in that area. As I passed the radio booth I once again made eye contact with Chris Dimino. I had the presence of mind to mouth a “Chris” greeting and nod, and he nodded in reply.

I spotted Kevin in the Fan Plaza and chatted with him and his friend for a while. We discussed the goal of staying to the end of games and how young kids and work made that harder. We agreed bobbleheads like Javy and Justice were better to trade than sell since they only sell for $20.00 on eBay. Kevin said Pearl Mississippi was a land flowing with bobbleheads, making it easy for him to secure extras to trade to me. He said I was to be his Gwinnett Braves bobblehead (and Ron Gant card set) connection. When I told him I only lived eight miles from SunTrust Field and considered biking to games, Kevin called me the “biking bobblehead guy”. We helped a black teenage autograph hound accumulate bobbleheads but got the idea too late to go out with him.

I commiserated with the two ladies at the Designated Driver booth about the bad traffic. Checked out the Game Worn Shop but didn’t pick through the jerseys – my hopes of ever finding another Bobby Dews jersey are long gone. The autographed Justice bobblehead in the store was priced at $100.00. I moved on, making my way upstairs to a front row seat. Bobby Cox and Dave Justice videos played on the Jumbotron. I learned the Braves had made yet another bullpen move, which is becoming an almost daily occurrence.
The tarp remained on the field until 7:30. The rain had washed out batting practice and the game didn’t start until eight. As I have several times, I watched pitching coach Roger McDowell stroll back to the dugout from the bullpen after watching his starting pitcher warm up. As usual, Roger sidled over to the stands and handed a baseball to a little girl. Then he walked down further, reached into his back pocket, pulled out another ball, and handed it to another girl. Roger does this before every game.

Acting like the plate was a great distance away, David Justice fired a fastball to Todd Cunningham for a first pitch strike. After warming up before the first inning centerfielder Cameron Maybin uncharacteristically held on to the ball. He faced the outfield stands looking for someone to catch the ball. Many waved, but Maybin lofted the ball deep into the stands. I forgot to watch to see if he did this every inning. I like Maybin’s smooth, graceful style. Later in the evening Ceil would ask about him and I shared the story.

San Diego’s leadoff hitter singled to right. Nick Markakis lined a single up the middle to lead off the second. A Padre homer down the right field line rattled past The Chief, one of the few friends I hadn’t spoken to during the evening. Another line drive sliced foul. The bullet was headed toward the stands but the ball boy reached out his glove and made the catch, probably saving a fan from injury. He immediately turned to rightfielder Markakis and held up one finger, signaling one out. Markakis repeated the back the signal.
The afternoon clouds cleared away to reveal a beautiful sunset. Later I made my way downstairs and watched a few more innings. No Brave homered during the RaceTrac Inning. Phil the Bucket managed to wipe out all three of his competitors during the Home Depot Tool Race, as well as himself. By then the Braves had only three hits and trailed 5-0. A 6-4-3 dampened one Padre rally and made me wonder whether a pitcher’s best friend really was the double play. Why not a strikeout? What about his wife? And he might be good buddies with his catcher, or another starter, or someone in the bullpen. I’ve got lots of questions but few answers.
After six hours at the ballpark I made my way back to my car and headed home. Not sure all that walking was the best thing for my blood clot, but it was a good test. As I passed Grant Field I turned down Jim Powell to hear a tiny bit of the Stones. The Howell Mill Wendy’s drive thru line once again moved at a snail’s pace. The Delk Road RaceTrac had closed for some reason. I stopped by the East Cobb Library to drop off The Stand. I listened as the Braves rallied to tie, and was home on the couch when BJ Upton got thrown out at home, Terdo hit his go-ahead homer, and Grilli make things exciting in the ninth. The win drew the Braves within 2-1/2 games of the Eastern Division lead – not too shabby.

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