When a Baseball Team Breaks Your Heart

Posted on | November 15, 2013 | 8 Comments

iVX2BnhDm_KI[image via \ Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves via Getty Images]

This definitely isn’t a sports blog, or even a baseball blog. It’s a me blog. But if you’re at all a fan of me you’re well aware of my affinity not only for my hometown of Atlanta but also for the baseball team I grew up on, The Atlanta Braves. Earlier this week, my team made a big announcement. In 2017, our team will relocate from downtown Atlanta to the suburb of Cobb County. They will leave a stadium they’ve played in for only 20 years and the area where they’ve played since relocating from Milwaukee in 1966. Like so many people in Atlanta have done before, they will leave the city and move out to the ‘burbs. I feel betrayed by a team I have loved for so long and I feel depressed by the state of affairs in my city.

When my boyfriend heard the news his reaction was simply “it just feels so Atlanta.” And sadly, he’s right. Atlanta has long been a city divided and this move just shows nothing has changed. And perhaps it never will. I was born and raised intown, in one of Atlanta’s greatest neighborhoods, Inman Park. My parents were some of the first gentrifiers. When they first made the move people called them crazy but they did it anyway and for that I cannot thank them enough. Growing up intown meant we lived near poor people and black people and homeless people even though we were none of those things. I grew up aware of other types of people and this instilled in me an acceptance and tolerance that I am fortunate to have. I believe it is important to be around people that are different than you. I think it is our only hope of breeding some tolerance and understanding. And now that I live in New York City, these beliefs have gotten stronger. Sometimes I’ll be on the subway and I’ll look around and realize I’m the only white person. If I ever have kids I hope they can grow up in a place where they’ll be exposed to other types of people. I think it’s perhaps one of the most valuable things my parents did for me.

628x471[image via]

So obviously this Braves move isn’t just about a fancy (and wasteful) new stadium or about a team moving ten miles north. To me, it feels much bigger and more personal than that. It’s about the clashing of races and classes that has long plagued Atlanta. There’s a reason those of us Atlantans who grew up intown are so fiercely proud of that fact. Because so many other people ran away and moved out to the suburbs to be around a bunch of other people exactly like them. Maybe they were uncomfortable or maybe they were scared but either way it drew a line in our city; intown and out there, us versus them. I grew up thinking they were the bad guys. And perhaps the pivotal thing that solidified my destiny as a city lover/suburb hater was learning as a child that this faraway place known as Cobb County (the proposed home of the new stadium) had voted to keep MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation service, from expanding into their county. Even to a child the message was so clear: Cobb County wanted to keep certain people out of their county. And now the Atlanta Braves, the team I love so dearly, are moving to that exact place and I can’t help but feel like they’re joining ranks with the bad guys.

I have never been quiet about my love for Atlanta. I want so badly for it to be a “real” city and our intown baseball team whose stadium sat in the shadow of our sky scrapers was a huge help in furthering that cause. Turner Field felt like a vital part of the heart of a city that needs all the help it can get. Cities don’t just exist on their own, they need support and effort from people, businesses and organizations. I wish more people understood this, especially those making the decision about where the Braves play. Moving our team to Cobb County feels like a final blow against any chance Atlanta had of ever becoming a city again.

oldsweetsong_AtlantaBravesForever[photo by the adorable Matt Land]

As a born and bred intown Atlantan and a Braves fan through and through, my heart is broken. I can’t imagine being able to forgive this. Maybe things will looks different in three years. For now, I’ll just share this fitting personal piece I wrote about my late older sister.

As always, thanks for reading.

On Most Summer Nights
by Amy Ferguson

Even though biologically Michelle was only my half sister, it never felt like that. I’m not sure what my parents said or how they handled it, but there was never any question; we were just sisters.

And having an older sister like Michelle meant growing up faster. I knew all sorts of bad words and dirty jokes long before any of my friends. I listened to the uncut version of Two Live Crew “Banned in the USA” and saw every single Porky’s movie. Michelle sometimes forgot I was nine years younger. We drove around in her white CRX listening to her amazing signature mix tapes. She took great pride in her unmatched ability to perfectly curate and order the songs. She decorated the tape cases with detail and precision. She even had a special set of “mix tape pens” that were specifically for this purpose. I marveled at the cases adorned with her perfect handwriting, which was especially beautiful in the jewel-toned ink color schemes she put together. We went out to eat or to the record store or anywhere Michelle decided to take us. She never wanted to be alone and I made the perfect sidekick.

The summer that I was 11 and Michelle was 20 would go down as one of my favorites. That was the summer Michelle taught me to be an Atlanta Braves fan. We went to a game almost every night. The Braves were awful that year but being at the stadium at night, the smell of the grass, the heat, the lights illuminating the diamond; it was that summer that my love for baseball and my love for my sister and for my family and my hometown became inexplicably linked.

On most summer nights, Michelle and I would find ourselves at the stadium. We always sat in the same place, right by the bullpen. The usher befriended us because there weren’t many regulars and because he had a crush on Michelle. It was around that age that I began to comprehend the power she had over men. Not only was she beautiful, she could cast a spell on them and they were rendered useless. She always had guy friends who were totally devoted to her and clearly in love with her.

fulton-county-stadium5Atlanta Fulton County Stadium where the Braves played from 1966 – 1996 [image credit]

“Oh look, it’s old man shuffle pants…” I said, pointing up a few rows where a crazy old Georgia redneck, a fellow regular at the games, was arriving. We had lovingly nicknamed him “Old Man Shuffle Pants” due to the way he shuffled around in his weird man sandals. He wasn’t even old.

“Aw, good to see you, buddy.” She smiled and gave him a point and a wink.

One of the players warming up in the bullpen kept staring at Michelle. She was smiling and waving. This went on for several innings until finally he approached the edge of the bullpen and handed her a ball. She laughed and thanked him and showed me. It was signed in blue pen with his name “Francisco Cabrera,” and he had drawn a little heart above that.

“Oh my god. He totally likes you!” I squealed. Inevitably, there were moments when I showed how much younger I really was.

After the games, we would stand by the parking lot and wait to watch the players leave. Because the Braves were the worst team in baseball, there were never more than approximately 11 other people out there. That night, Francisco saw us and walked over.

“Hello,” he said smiling at her. His accent was so thick and it completely surprised me.

“Hi.” She answered, “thanks for the ball.” She giggled in a really cute way and he was putty in her hand. They talked for a while and he got her number. On the walk back to the car in the sweet Georgia summer heat, she was laughing and smiling and cracking jokes.

It turned out Francisco was not the love of Michelle’s life. I only remember them going on a couple dates. And I’m pretty sure it came out that he had a wife and kids back in the Dominican Republic. Two years later, when the Braves had suddenly gotten good, it was Francisco, the back up to the back-up catcher, who came up in the bottom of the ninth and hit a line drive that drove in two runs and won the National League Championship, sending the Braves to the World Series.

It lives on as one of the most exciting moments in Braves baseball and as a beloved piece of folklore in our family history. I mean, not everybody can say her sister dated an Atlanta Brave.

When-Sid-SlidWhen Sid slid.  [image credit]

Comments

8 Responses to “When a Baseball Team Breaks Your Heart”

  1. margaret
    November 15th, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

    i have no words, just wails of sadness and despair.

    also, was it intentional that you used the picture from the field when chipper’s number was retired? DOUBLE BETRAYAL, DOUBLE HEARTBREAK.

  2. Amy@OldSweetSong
    November 15th, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    @margaret – I knew there might be a comment or two on the 10. BUT I really like how that photo shows the proximity of Turner Field to downtown. There aren’t that many that do that. So I had to make some tough choices.

  3. margaret
    November 15th, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    It’s a good picture, you’re right. It is a beautiful stadium. I will miss it.

  4. Karen
    November 15th, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    SID BREAM. I think I cried when he slo-mo ran around third base and came into home like molasses. I got Francisco Cabrera’s autograph at spring training the following year, and it was like gold. It was inexplicable when the team announced the move from Fulton County Stadium, but the Olympics made it okay (even though it should have been named Hank Aaron Stadium, rather than The Ted). So much history with that team, so many exciting moments, and so much heartbreak. Seems like the team gets almost there so many times, and then just falls short. This decision is the epitomy of that.

  5. thenik
    November 15th, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    I love you so much for this whole awesomely written post, and I don’t even love baseball. You touched on so many things about culture in this country and I just found myself nodding and sighing with you. I’m sad for you. I’m mad for you. I’m super mad for Atlanta. Grrr. Grr.

    Thanks for sharing your broken baseball heart with us and that piece about your sister is just perfect.

  6. Amy@OldSweetSong
    November 15th, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

    @Karen – Feel like the final heartbreak.

    @thenik – Thank you, sweet friend. You are the awesomest.

  7. Rebecca Contreras
    November 22nd, 2013 @ 5:11 am

    I randomly found your blog, but oh so glad I did.
    Your post resonates with me soooo much. I may have left Atlanta five years ago… but Atlanta is forever in my heart.
    I grew up an hour away from Atlanta and was super sheltered; however, I went to college in the ATL and boy did it open my eyes. It’s given me such a bigger view of the world and for that I am incredibly grateful.

  8. Amy@OldSweetSong
    November 22nd, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

    @Rebecca – Glad to hear it. And so glad you found me! Atlanta is forever in my heart also.

Leave a Reply