I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. I lived in South Carolina until I was fifteen years old, so it helped that they were the closest team to our home. Occasionally my dad would drive my brother and me (me in my "Maddux 31" shirt and my brother in his "Jones 10") to Atlanta for a weekend to see our heroes in action.
We were the perfect age for Braves baseball during the 1990s. I played a lot of softball and watched games on television with my family almost every night from what I remember. My dad, brother and I would spend hours in our backyard fielding pop-ups and fly balls.
Several times a week, my dad would bring home two packs of baseball cards: one for me and one for my brother. We both loved collecting those cards and had them all organized in binders. I also had a separate book just for Greg Maddux cards. If someone had a Maddux card (most specifically: my brother), I would trade practically anything in exchange for Maddux. Lucky for me, quantity is an appealing thing to elementary schoolers, so I always got my card. That book of Maddux cards has always kept a special place on my desk, where it still remains today.
My family knew that my player was Greg Maddux. I loved Greg Maddux. I wanted to pitch and field like Greg Maddux. When I learned of his jersey being retired into the Braves Hall of Fame before their game versus the New York Mets July 17, I called my dad and asked if he wanted to come. "Of course," he said. "You pick us some good seats."
It was a perfect night for a ceremony. My parents drove seven hours to attend the game with me. We were in prime seats up a little behind home plate and to the left in the Henry Aaron seats. I was in heaven (and I'm pretty sure my dad was too).
Above the tomahawk behind home plate was a uniform painted with a 31. Thirty-one also was placed on top of the bases, and Greg Maddux was on the cover of the night's program. "31 Greg Maddux 31" played on the marquees around the lower parts of the field around the stadium.
A stage was set up between home plate and the pitcher's mound. Former Braves players Phil Niekro and Dale Murphy, each with a retired jersey of their own, were in attendance on stage. After a brief ceremony, Maddux took to the podium. The sold out stadium roared with applause. He ended his speech with, "Thank you, and let's beat the Mets tonight," which was followed with equally loud screams from the stadium.
Up in left field, his number was unveiled among the other retired numbers, and fireworks filled the air. Maddux is the sixth player to have his number retired by the Braves.
Maddux and his son Chase took to the field to throw the first pitches together.
The Braves played an incredible game and went on to win 11-0. Greg Maddux was Player of the Game.
For me, this night will go down as one of my favorite moments with my family. Thank you, Greg Maddux, for bringing me so many great memories during my childhood, which are now continuing into my adulthood.
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