That’s baseball, and it’s my game. Y’know, you take your worries to the game and you leave ’em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. It’s good for your lungs, it gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops. Pretty girls, lots of ’em.
— Humphrey Bogart
So remember this? My little story from about a year ago about watching my Braves collapse yet again while I’m in attendance? Yeah, it nearly happened again Friday night in Atlanta. The tickets and trip were my birthday present from David; I’ve longed to see the Braves play in Atlanta, so he made it happen.
We flew in Friday afternoon and headed to the stadium around 5:30. As you can tell by the picture, the weather was looking ominous; I wasn’t even sure they’d get to play at all. Derek Lowe, the Braves’ new ace, was on the mound for the home opener, and he’d recorded 5 strikeouts through three innings and the Braves were up 3-1. After two pitches in the top of the 4th, the game was delayed due to rain. And then hail. And then the left field grass flooded. And then it poured some more.
But the rain let up and the super-awesome grounds crew went to work, and after more than two hours, play resumed at around 10:40. I don’t remember many of the details, except that in the top of the 9th inning, with the Braves leading 5-4, our closer – why can we not find a decent closer? – gave up the tying run (after the relievers had already allowed three additional runs prior to that). I’m not going to lie: I teared up. No actual tears fell, but it was close.
You have no idea how into this game I was. I love these boys, and I rise and fall with them all season long. And being at Turner Field for the home opener felt a little like coming home – I had my McCann jersey on, and my hat, and for the first time ever, I got to do the Tomahawk Chop – in person – with 40,000 other people. That was amazing. And having never seen them win in person, I was *this* close, and it felt like it was slipping away.
I was on edge the rest of the inning til they got the third out. I couldn’t Chop with the rest of the fans or yell or cheer – I was standing, bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet with my hands over my face, barely breathing.
We couldn’t get a run in the bottom of the ninth, so we went into extra innings. We managed to hold them in the 10th, but just barely. David and I had moved down to about 20 rows from the field by now, and being so close to the action was exhilarating. When Schafer hit his single in the 10th, I screamed like a lunatic. When he got bunted over to second by the pinch hitter, I yelled and cheered. When Johnson hit a line drive just over the infielders’ heads, I screamed wildly as Shafer raced around third and headed for home. When he slid into home plate and the umpire signaled he was safe, I lost my mind, jumping up and down, whooping. And then a tear or two really did escape: They’d done it; they’d finally done it! David was looking at me with the biggest smile on his face – knowing how happy I was made him happy.
At 1:26 in the morning on Saturday, my wish came true. I could not have been more excited. As we exited the stadium, the fans started another round of the Tomahawk Chop, and I joined in at the top of my lungs, thrilled to be a part of something so much bigger than I am: Braves fandom.