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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Get outta here!

Though I’m delayed, I’m sure this post will surprise just about nobody.

The Braves are World Series Champions! In some ways, it feels surreal typing that and, in other ways, it feels silly. I realize professional sports aren’t the most important thing in life, but I’ll admit they’re pretty significant to me. I can’t remember the exact moment I became interested in sports, but my love for the Braves started in childhood.

I loved wearing my Braves hat, often backwards, and cheering for my team. One night, in elementary school, we went to Pizza Hut to eat our free Book It! pizzas, and Ryan Klesko held the door open for us as we entered. I was over the moon. I was so disappointed during the MLB strike, but then 1995 happened.

During the 1995 World Series, I watched every minute of every game, no matter how late it was. I slept hugging my foam tomahawk, thinking it would help lead the team to victory. When the Braves won it all, I got a championship hoodie from a roadside stand, which I now realize was far from legit — but I wore it relentlessly.

The next year, I acquired a yearbook of the 1996 Atlanta Braves. I’m not sure where I got it, but each player had a page that included things like their name, birthplace, birthday, height, and weight. Before bed each night, I studied the booklet until I had all of the details memorized. I can still tell you that Andruw Jones celebrates his birthday the day before Chipper’s, which is two days before mine.

My parents let me put a clothesline along one of my bedroom walls, and I used it to hang photos, artwork, and pin-ups from Tiger Beat. There, right in the center, I used clothespins to hang a large Braves team poster. I often looked at the players’ faces, testing my knowledge from the yearbook. When the Braves traded David Justice (#23) and Marquis Grissom (#9) at the same time, I remember sitting in my fifth-grade classroom heartbroken that they were no longer on my team.

Fast forward to young adulthood. I’d just graduated from college and started working full-time. My anxiety was becoming difficult to control, and the Braves were one of many distractions that kept me from spending time with my unending thoughts. One season I went to almost 30 games, many of which involved riding MARTA straight from work to meet friends at the stadium. The Braves gave me a means of finding joy when it was otherwise elusive.

When Ramón and I met in 2011, he quickly realized that I was a pretty die-hard fan. Having grown up watching the Braves on TBS, he, too, liked them — though I forced him to like them more. One year soon after we met, he planned a surprise trip for us in late February. I was convinced we were going to Braves Spring Training.

I was wrong, but because of how excited I was by the thought of Spring Training, Ramón planned a trip to see the pre-season Braves in Florida the next year. And the year after that. I hardly remember the games, if I’m honest, but we had so much fun. One year the hotel we stayed at had a lazy river, which we floated around in for hours, summery drinks in hand. The bottom absolutely fell out of the sky as we were making our way back to the hotel from a game. We stumbled into the hotel lobby soaking wet, laughing hysterically as we rushed to get into dry clothes.

We continued to follow the Braves over the years, but our interest peaked in 2019. Spending a lot of the season in the hospital, the games became a primary source of entertainment. As the Braves became increasingly known as the Comeback Kids, Ramón was working on a success story of his own. He finished [what we thought was] his last round of chemo in the final weeks of the season. We were ecstatic when the Braves made the playoffs, but disappointed when they were eliminated in the first round. But we still had other things to celebrate — what we’d hoped was the end of the cancer era.

Unfortunately the leukemia returned, and those playoff games in 2019 were ultimately the last Ramón watched. He relapsed in February 2020, right before COVID-19 took the world by storm, postponing the season’s start. Next came Ramón’s successful bone marrow transplant, followed by the freak episode of epiglottitis that resulted in the cardiac arrest that left him minimally conscious.

I remember the night at the hospital when I looked at my phone, surprised to discover we’d received an email from Hank Aaron. Then came the videos from Brian Snitker and Chip Caray. I was fangirling so hard. Countless times throughout the final weeks of his life, I said to Ramón, “Do you remember that time Hank Aaron emailed us?” Each time, I became giddy with excitement again. Though Ramón died a few days before the season started in late July, I will always believe that Braves Country had our back when we needed it most.

The day that Hank Aaron died, I cried my eyes out. He lived a remarkable life, but I was overwhelmed thinking of just how much joy that man brought me during some of the hardest days of my life. From the very beginning of the season, I had a gut feeling that the Braves were going to get it done this year — mostly because I knew two particular men who would be pulling strings on the team’s behalf.

Yesterday’s parade was incredible. I was overcome with childlike enthusiasm as the Braves passed by us on Peachtree Street. I jumped up and down while screaming in celebration, so grateful for this victory for so many reasons. We did it!


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