The Atlanta Braves announced yesterday they non-tendered Brooks Conrad. While the moved surprised me, I’ll admit that it makes sense. Doesn’t mean I have to like it and it doesn’t mean I won’t miss seeing Brooks in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the ninth, getting ready to bat by rubbing the dirt from the field on his hands. There’s a story to my family’s affection for Brooks and it all goes back to May 20, 2010.
If you’re a Braves fan, you likely know the story of what happened on that day, so bear with me. The last game in that series against the Cincinnati Reds was an afternoon game. Outside of Sunday, 1 p.m. games are few and far between. However, living almost 4 hours away from Turner Field, they’re perfect for a quick trip down and back to see our favorite team play ball.
So, on that Thursday morning, my wife and I surprised our oldest son (then 6-years old) by telling him he wouldn’t be going to school that day. Instead we were going to watch the Braves play ball. Who wouldn’t want to skip school and go to a ball game?
This was our second game at Turner Field and it was a rough one. Tommy Hanson was having a bad day and late in the game the Reds were leading 9-3. We discussed leaving early, but decided since we drove 4 hours we wouldn’t leave early (a decision that would haunt us in 2011 – but, that’s another story).
In the bottom of the ninth, things started to fall apart for the Reds. Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, Yunel Escobar, Nate McLouth all got hits. After David Ross was walked, Martin Prado loaded the bases when the Reds third baseman couldn’t get the ball cleanly out of his glove.
You could feel the electricity in the air when Jason Heyward stepped to the plate. After his opening day homer, Braves fans were expecting a lot from this rookie left-fielder. While he did deliver a few walk-off wins in 2010, he struck out and left the bases loaded for Brooks Conrad.
I can’t say we were familiar with Brooks Conrad that day before he hit the game winning, walk-off grand slam. I can say that after that he became someone we enjoyed watching every time he stepped to the plate or took the field. From the time the ball got lost in his shirt to his 3 errors in the NLDS, we rooted for Brooks.
Every time we saw the a few seconds of his walk-off grand slam in commercials in 2011, we would always look at each other and smile. My wife, son and I have all told that story to countless people and I’ll always tell it to anyone willing to listen.
My favorite time telling that story had to be September 3, 2011 when we participated in the Atlanta Braves Family Field Day. It just so happened that Brooks was one the six players participating that day. At the autograph session afterwards I made it a point to thank him personally for creating a memory my family and I will share and remember forever.
So long Brooks Conrad and thanks for the memories. You may not be an Atlanta Brave anymore, but you’ll always be one of our favorite Braves.