ALWAYS BRING A SHARPIE TO THE GAME. ALWAYS.
So I'm standing with my friend in the SunTrust club room at Turner Field after probably the best game I will ever go to in my life. I know while it's happening that it's quite likely the best time I'll ever have at a baseball game and I'm cool with that. I had the realization that every subsequent game I go to will not be diminished by the fact that the experience is far inferior to that of this game, but instead will be enhanced by the good feelings I get as the baseball atmosphere brings to mind this near-perfect ballgame. If you believe in the Zen of Base and Ball, you could say that tonight, I was Enlightened.
I have to explain further. I knew I was going to the game, and i knew that they were really good seats. I've sat in company seats before and they were very good. A few rows behind the visitor's dugout. I remember one time Rafael Ramirez was playing for the Astros and a buddy of his was waylaid by an usher as he walked toward the dugout, but Rafael said something in Spanish and his buddy got to go anyway. Those were really good seats and I thought I knew what I was in for. No, I had no clue.
These were not merely really good seats, these were Oh My God These Are Possibly The Best Seats Ever Seats. The I Don't Belong Here But Here I Am Anyway Seats. My friend tried to explain to me how good these seats were, but I didn't listen. He tried to explain to me that I needed to bring lots of fives and ones to tip all the servers but I figured they were like the ushers I've seen at Hawks and Thrashers games who take your order and then you pay them when they get back with your food. I didn't realize this section was catered by Dantana's and had Tapas with scallops and shrimp sitting out for the taking and the server would bring you a Yuengling just because you asked. The food was just the appetizer, The main course was outside in our seats.
There's no way I can describe the seats right now with any justice. I took a ridiculous amount of pictures and as soon as I can download them and develop them I will show them off. I can't do it at 12:By God AM though. Here's the best I can do right now to describe these seats. Imagine you are at a fast food joint. McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, The Varsity, whatever. Imagine you are second in line to the counter. The cashier behind the counter is Jason Heyward. What'll ya have? THAT'S how good these seats were.
The actual game was fantastic. Tommy Hanson pitched a gem. Billy Wagner got a save. Rick Ankiel got to every ball that was hit anywhere near the outfield. Freddie Freeman make a good debut where he got robbed by the ump on one at bat, but proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can play first base in the majors. Raw Dog Brooks Conrad reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt to rub on his hand and bat before every plate appearance. Omar and Marteeen hit like the couple of All-Stars that they are. And Jason Heyward - the guy whose name and number I was wearing on my t-shirt - went four for four with every hit being a rocket. And the Braves beat the Mets. You can't get better than that.
So back to the beginning, I'm standing in the SunTrust club room at Turner Field after probably the best game I will ever go to in my life. I'm hanging out with my buddy just sort of winding down after the experience. People are talking and drinking and generally having fun at the bar. Our server from earlier in the evening brought us some of the Butter Pecan Popcorn you see above. My friend has asked for some during the game, but they had ran out. She found some bags and brought him the two he requested and had an extra one for me. This stuff is fantastic. It's like little crunchy balls of pure butter with some pecan pralines thrown in for good measure. So we're standing there with our popcorn and my friend is teasing me about how I totally didn't expect these seats would be this good when all of a sudden Don Sutton comes down the stairs and walks right by me.
Repeat: Hall of Fame pitcher and Braves Broadcaster Don Sutton just walked right by me.
I see this, turn to my friend and tell him of course I didn't expect to have a Hall of Famer walk by me in a bar after the game. Nope, I didn't expect that at all.
Here's a little more explanation. My friend told me that we might get a chance at some autographs so to bring some baseball cards. Last night, I picked out some cards of current Braves players and a few coaches and broadcasters in the hopes of maybe getting one or two signed. I managed to find the entire starting lineup, most of the bench, all of the rotation and a good chunk of the bullpen. And Bobby Cox of course. The only players I was missing was Alex Gonzalez (looked but couldn't find a single card) and Jonny Venters (flaked and forgot to bring one). in that pile of cards was not one Don Sutton. I was looking through my Braves boxes and picked out broadcasters like Lemke, Glavine and Smoltz, but I didn't think of Don at the time because the cards I have of him are vintage and in my Braves binder and not the boxes of random Braves flotsam. We ended up getting stuck in traffic on the way so I ultimately ended up leaving the cards in the car rather than lug them in to the game. I didn't leave the blue Sharpie that I hoped would sign those cards in the car though, that remained in my pocket.
I'm standing there utterly dumbstruck that I'm in the same room breathing the same oxygen as Don Sutton when my buddy pipes up "why don't you go get his autograph?". Autograph? Get? Me? I can do that? Oh yeah! I can! So I did.
There was a small line at Don's table. A hello, a please sign, a hi Don. After chatting with the guy in front of me while I stood there grinning like a goofy schmuck, Don looked at me standing there like a galoot and said to the guy "Looks like you brought your bodyguard!"
I immediately went into dorky fan mode, and enjoyed every second of it. I shook Don's hand (Same one he won 324 games with, I realized afterward) and told him how glad I was that he was announcing with the Braves again. He said he was glad to be back and then I meant to say that I was sad when he left the Braves' announcing crew but I was able to hear him call a few games for the Washington Nationals and I enjoyed hearing him call a game even if he wasn't doing a Braves game but I my mind was malfunctioning at this point and I actually said "I got to hear a few games that you did for the Nationals and that was pretty cool". I always say stupid stuff like that when I'm talking to someone that I'm really impressed with, it must be some kind of primal defense mechanism kicking in. I have not gotten mauled by a celebrity yet, so it works really well. Don corrected me and said that he belongs with the Braves and that he's glad to be back here. Or something to that effect, I don't remember it clearly because like I said my brain was malfunctioning and I don't recall the words he used exactly. I finally asked him for his autograph and Don signed his name on the only thing that vaguely resembled memorabilia that I had on my person and I thanked him and that's when Don called me Double Deuce because I was wearing a #22 Jason Heyward shirt.
And that's how I got Don Sutton's signature on a Braves vs. Mets Gameday program featuring Rick Ankiel.
Thanks, Don, for capping a perfect night. Your fan Double Deuce the Bodyguard will always see you as a Brave no matter how much those Dodger fans protest. (The Nats game you called was cool though, I really enjoyed that)