Aaron #44

Growing up in the South in the 1960’s, it was an experience and had lots of diverse influences on kids growing up in a very challenging time. Entertainment options in my hometown of Statesboro, Georgia were limited. I was very fortunate to work and play at the Skater-Bowl owned by my Grandparents. Other options were basketball and baseball games at Georgia Southern, going to the Drive In or riding around the A&W in my aunt’s 66 Mustang. The biggest news to me as a little league baseball player was the news in 1966 that the Braves were moving to Atlanta! It was also the fact they had the best player in baseball coming with them, Hank Aaron. The Braves put on a promotional tour and every little leaguer wanted to go and I went to the one at Georgia Southern. Joe Torrie was my instructor and even signed my catcher’s mitt. I wish I knew where it was now.

It was with great sadness to hear of Henry Aaron’s death this week and really reminded me a childhood vision of what it means to be an American Hero. There will be untold stories of Hank Aaron this week but I wanted to write about my personal experience with him. In 1991 the Braves made it to the National League Championship Series against the Pittsburg Pirates. My dad had always wanted to see the Braves play in a Championship Series and I wanted to make sure he got to see a game. I had been working for Major League Baseball to create a sports bar in Pittsburg and thought I might ask for tickets to the game, knowing that it a long shot I asked. To my surprise I got tickets confirmed and made plans to meet my brother Mike and my dad in Atlanta to fly to Pittsburg for the opening game of the series. While driving to the airport in Orlando I realized i had no Braves Hat, shirt or anything Braves so I stopped at the Florida mall and went to a sports shop. I asked for anything Braves but the clerk laughed and said man they are in Championship Series we have been sold out for months, but I have a special collection edition Milwaukee Braves Jersey. I saw an expensive sales pitch coming. He brought out the Jersey and it was number 44, he said this was a replica of Hank Arron’s Jersey in Milwaukee but it cost $300. I’m thinking my wife Ashlie will kill me if I pay $300 for a replica jersey. So I drove towards the airport and then changed my mine I had to have that jersey. I turned around and went back to purchase the Jersey, and now pressing time to get on board I stuffed it in my carry on bag and ran to the flight.

Once in Atlanta I met my brother Mike and Dad in the terminal at the gate. We sat along waiting on our boarding and you won’t believe it; but Hank Aaron came into the waiting area and took a seat just in front of me! My brother, Dad and I were quite surprised to see our baseball hero sitting just feet away. I immediately reached into my carry on bag and pulled out the 1958 Jersey and with much trepidation approached my childhood idol! Mr. Aaron I said, I am from Statesboro Georgia and have been a fan of your since I was 8 years old, would you please sign this Jersey for me? He looked at the Jersey and said “this is a special Jersey of mine”, and then pulled a pen out of his jacket pocket and signed it for me. I was so proud to have met him, and had evidence to show that it was real not fake news! We went to the game and picked up our tickets at MLB Will Call and I wore my signed Jersey with pride. We entered the stadium hoping we had good seats. We met an usher and he led us down towards the field and we were amassed he kept walking down, we usually walk up to the nose bleed seats. We got to the third row from the field just behind the Braves Dugout and he said take your seats! What a game, just feet away form the on-deck circle we had a major league expereince.

I think meeting Mr. Aaron was a real good luck charm. Needless to say we enjoyed the Game and my dad had a great night! That Jersey hangs in my Home today! I pride myself on being inspirational to others but have never know a bigger inspiration to young people than Henry Aaron. Rest in Peace in that great Field of Dreams.

Our third row seats