Talking Baseball (Spring Training edition)

Failed diving catch attempt by left fielder Willie Harris during Tuesday’s game.

Yesterday (Tuesday, March 6th) I took my two oldest sons (Haddon and Isaac) along with fellow Bible Conference preachers James Shutt and Howard Estep to the Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Spring Training game in Viera, FL. I’ve been an Atlanta Braves fans since the ’80s (before they were good). Since I’m staying in Titusville (which is only about 30 minutes away from Viera) this week it was a great opportunity to see the Braves play.

When we arrived we saw the starting lineups written on a dry erase board. I was pleased to see that All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria, slugging right fielder Jeff Francoeur, and potential rookie starting 2nd baseman Kelly Johnson and 1st baseman Scott Thorman had made the trip. Kyle Davies was the starting pitcher and Ryan Langerhans played centerfield. I was pleased by these players’ presence because many times the regulars do not travel for road Spring Training games. I had no expectations for players to be there (other than Davies who I had read would be pitching). Therefore, I was excited about who was there, rather than disappointed about who was not (the Jones boys).

We had excellent seats for the game (1st row right next to the Braves Dugout on the 3rd base side of the field. We were right on top of the field! As we made our way to our seats a few moments before the game was scheduled to begin I noticed a crowd near our seats on the front row. Turns out that Braves prospect James Jurries was signing autographs for the fans. Before I could try and get his autograph, former Braves third baseman and NL MVP (’91) and current Batting Coach Terry Pendleton appeared right near us and began signing. I had just seen Tim Ellsworth’s post the night before about TP’s involvment in a Christian school in the Atlanta area and viewed the video clip which he linked of the segment detailing Pendleton’s volunteer work. When I saw Pendleton, I immediately remembered that story and I spoke up and mentioned it to him. He chuckled looked up and took my baseball and Sharpie and signed the ball. Great moment! I also was able to get Jurries autograph through the kindness of a fan who was closer to him. I took two baseballs (which we brought to Florida to play with in my dad’s yard) and got both of them signed within ten minutes of arriving at the ballpark.

Later, after the game began, a foul ball was hit down the thirdbase line which a batboy picked up and tossed to a player in the dugout. After the inning, the player whom I didn’t know (catcher with the last name of Franco) pointed to my son Haddon and tossed us the ball as he ran out to the bullpen to warm up a pitcher. I guess we’ll have to use this official MLB baseball to practice with in the yard while we’re in Florida!

To top it all off, it was a great game that went back and forth in the early innings. The Braves eventually turned out on top 10-6. Another great day at the old ballgame!

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