Tough day to leave work early - at least six people were out. I was able to get in almost eight hours and left around 2:15. Since 85 south was jammed back to the 400 merge, I took PIB to 285 to 20 - a speed limit drive. Walked up to the stadium around 3:30 wearing my official Braves Facilities shirt, home cap, and khaki shorts. I quickly noticed that employees were going out of their way to greet me. This would happen throughout the evening.
Few were in the dollar line except John Parkes, but we had plenty to discuss. Later we were joined by LJ and later Kevin, who had my Glenn Hubbard bobblehead and 1991 NL Championship ring. Kevin had 14 Andruw bobbles to gather. Old Johnny T had brought grandson Josef. Bobby Myers, the nurse, and her husband were in line. Renee called from work, and emailed me the four company tickets. We chatted up the security guard monitoring the dollar line, and messed with Crazy Darrell.
Bought the dollar ticket and entered the gates to get my first bobble. John abled in and generously gave me his, though LJ had asked him for it first. I immediately exited and was able to secure a second dollar ticket, and a third bobble. By now LJ was sitting with John, holding my growing backpack. I try to unassumingly walk out the gates with my eyes on my phone, and was never bothered when I did - perhaps because I was wearing my uniform. I didn't mind making eye contact with the stadium employees. I went to the nearby west gate for bobble number four, the BBQ gate for number five, the main gate for number six, and the east gate for number seven.
At that point I checked out the nearby game used store, which had a $300 Niekro spring training jersey. Saw BP regulars Norman, Johnny, and Marshall, all taking shelter. Since I was having such success and LJ was keeping my bag, I gave him one of my bobbles. The sky had grown dark and it began to sprinkle. LJ and I headed from out perch near the left field foul pole around to the right field corner to see if there would be a pre-game parade, but none was scheduled.
We grabbed our free designated driver cokes and sat out in the tents overlooking the player parking lot. With some time to kill, I checked work email and made a couple of calls.
We continued our clockwise circumnavigation of the lower deck, paying a visit to the season ticket holder lounge, to ask some questions about future games. Then we took the elevator to the upper deck and headed counterclockwise from the Coke bottle all the way around to the other end of the upper deck. Since it was raining we took the elevator down to the club level. Saw the Coach and the Duke fan at their usual hangout near Chickfila. Later Katie would get Andruw to autograph Duke's bobble. We proceeded clockwise all the way around the stadium again, taking in all the photos of old Braves and who wore which number, pausing at 96 (Bill Voiselle), 41 (Eddie Mathews), 31 (Greg Maddux), 28 (Mike Lum), and 8 (Bob Uecker).
Went through the 755 Club, past the massive buffet. Sliders, chicken tenders, brats. Nothing healthy there, but there were healthier options on the club level. Also BBQ and Moes-type burritos.
Thought I saw a ghost at the bar. Nice jersey. We took the elevator down to the Fan Plaza. LJ greeted an usher friend he knew. She asked "need a bobblehead?" and handed each of us a box. Number eight.
With the game delayed due to the rain we took shelter under the Sweetwater Brewing Beer kiosk, people-watching as fans entered the main gate. This turned out to be a fun thirty minutes. Every now and then a fan would forget to grab a bobble, so I might "remind" them what they missed. Most would thank me, some ignored me, others outright lied to me, saying they already had one. Only once did someone give me their bobble (nine) that I passed on to LJ (my backpack was full). Many thought I worked there, asking directions and calling me "sir."
As first pitch neared we circled the park counterclockwise from the Fan Plaza in centerfield around to our seat in section 115 by first base. Row 20. I quickly posted bobbles for sale on Facebook and eBay. One sold pretty quickly. The Nationals first batter popped a foul behind us. I scrambled that way and came close to nabbing it. With two out in the top of the first, leftfielder Matt Kemp dropped a very catchable fly ball near the foul pole - allowing two unearned runs to score. When the third out was finally made, I watched as Kemp lumbered to the dugout, his trot slowing to a walk as he crossed the foul line. Perhaps next year the Braves should switch to the third base dugout at SunTrust Park to give Kemp a break.
Snapped photos of the stadium and rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson, who had made his major league debut the night before.
Swanson struck out to end the all-important RaceTrac inning, but later made a nice running catch in the outfield.
As always, the Braves organist played creative tunes as the opposing Nationals came to bat:
Shaggy-haired Jayson Werth: "Jesus is Just All Right with Me"
Anthony Rindon: Billy Joel's "Movin' Out" - "Anthony works at the grocery store..."
First-baseman Clint Robinson: Simon & Garfunkel's "Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson"
Trea Turner: Tina Turner's "Rolling on the River"
As we made our leave I stopped for a chat with Johnny Pierce, sitting behind the plate instead of his usual spot on aisle 222. Wasn't surprised that he'd been visiting with Dansby's father, as the Swanson's had attended the Cobb County church Johnny had pastored. We learned our daughters might be crossing paths at UGA's Wesley Foundation. LJ and I circled back clockwise to the right field west gate to exit - our fifth trip around the stadium, not counting my six trips in and out of the turnstiles after the gates opened.
I hadn't eaten supper, but I didn't stop on the way home. By the time I pulled in the driveway all five of the bobbles I'd posted on eBay had sold, at the market rate set by the bobblehead mafia. C and B had gone to bed but I wasn't sleepy. Unpacked my backpack, edited the photos I'd taken, watched some Olympics, and washed a load of clothes. Hit the sack at midnight. Oddly, I couldn't sleep. Not sure why. Was almost 1:20 am before I finally nodded off.