I will never forget my first baseball game.
I walked into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium as an 11-year-old kid in 1993 and I literally thought I was in Heaven.
Watching the Atlanta Braves on the TBS Superstation paled in comparison to a kid experiencing the sights, smells, and sounds of his first game in a real big league ballpark.
David Justice, Ron Gant, Terry Pendleton, and Jeff Blauser were all in the lineup that day. After watching these guys on TV for years, being there in person was definitely an experience.
They were playing against the St. Louis Cardinals. I even witnessed the great Ozzie Smith make an error.
Of all the things I remember about that day one thing sticks out.
The guy on the mound was my equivalent of a baseball hero. He was the guy I wanted to pitch like. The guy whose starts I never wanted to miss watching on TBS.
That guy? John Smoltz.
Smoltzie was a beloved figure in Atlanta for many reasons.
Braves fans watched him overpower the power hitters, out-finesse the slap hitters, and we watched his slider get nastier and nastier.
Some wept when he had surgery and missed an entire season. Then we cheered when he became the greatest closer in the National League for three seasons. We cheered even louder when he returned to the starting rotation.
I watched in admiration as he defeated the Mets and Tom Glavine for his 200th career win. His 3,000th strikeout was a thing of beauty.
I, for one, thought he'd be an Atlanta Brave for life.
Then he was allowed to walk. I, along with many other Braves fans, was quite ticked. First at the Braves, then at Smoltzie. After coming to grips with my favorite Braves player for much of two decades leaving for Boston I became bitter toward Smoltz—especially after he began to run his mouth against the Braves.
Even I can forgive. And I eventually did.
I thought he'd surely retire after seeing that he was nowhere near the same pitcher he had been during his last full season in Atlanta.
Even after playing better with St. Louis, I thought he'd hang it up and call it a career.
Now it appears as though Smoltzie hasn't had enough.
The 42-year-old is rumored to be in talks with the hated New York Mets to help bolster their starting rotation in 2010.
Perhaps the Braves most bitter rival, the Mets would be the last team I would expect a former Atlanta Braves hero to land. Sure, in today's age, money talks. But wow. The Mets?
I cannot help but draw the comparison to another former hero. A guy that played in a little Wisconsin city for 15 years, whose organization finally decided to move on, decided he wasn't done, after deciding that he was done (Or something like that).
Of course the only major difference is that Smoltz never planned on retiring. But still, the point is made.
Smoltz is way past doing anything useful in Major League Baseball. At least Favre can still play when he has unbelievable talent surrounding him. But raise your hand if you aren't sick and tired of Favre's dog and pony act.
Favre ticked off a fanbase that absolutely adored him for a decade and a half. So did Smoltz. Favre went to a team in the opposite conference. So did Smoltz.
After a rather unsuccessful season in the opposite league, Favre went to a bitter division rival of the team whose fans adored him. Smoltzie is on the verge of doing the very same thing.
The only positive to come out of this potential move is that Smoltz would have nowhere near the success that Favre had in what should be his final season.
No, as a matter of fact, the Mets actually depending on John Smoltz to make their rotation "solid" is actually quite laughable. And when one considers the lack of success most former Braves have had in the Big Apple (Tom Glavine, Julio Franco, Gary Sheffield, etc) this might actually be a positive for the Braves.
For Braves fans, however, it would be a horrible sight to see this once beloved icon in a Mets uniform.
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