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Walking Out the Tunnel at Turner Field: Living Every Little Kid's Dream

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIMay 15, 2009

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 31:  Mike Cameron #44 of the New York Mets returns to the dugout against the Atlanta Braves in a game on July 31, 2004 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

I was six years old at the time and an avid Atlanta Braves fan. Our family always focused on living the 10 Commandments, but Granny had an 11th commandment:

"Thou shalt not root against the Braves."

You never rooted against Granny's Braves, especially in her presence. If you did, you suffered the consequences.

I can remember one day sitting on my grandfather's knee watching a game and he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I remember looking at the TV and how cool it was to see some of the announcers just chatting it up with the players. So, I said I want to cover the Braves.

I can still remember it just like it was yesterday. I was the sports editor for the student newspaper at Kennesaw State University and the Braves had called up Willie Harris from Triple-A Richmond in the spring of 2006.

So, as the sports editor, I was credentialed to cover a Braves game to do a feature of Harris before the game and to take in the game in the press box.

As I get through the security check, I'm taken down to the clubhouse by a person in media relations and told to wait, that Willie will be available for an interview soon.

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So, as I'm sitting there, everyone is walking past me: Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Julio Franco, Tim Hudson, Bobby Cox and Terry Pendleton.

Then, Willie walked in and I conducted the interview with him, mainly talking to him about his experiences at Kennesaw State and how that helped him when he made it to pro ball.

Once the interview was over, it was out to the field to take photos of Willie warming up and taking batting practice.

So, as I walked down the tunnel from the clubhouse to the dugout, everything felt normal. Next thing I know, I'm stepping into the dugout, just by the steps that lead onto the field.

STOP!

Was I really here? Was I really living this dream of mine I had as a kid?

The site was unbelievable. I took a minute to call my mom to say, "Guess where I'm at?" She knew exactly where I was at, but I just wanted to share that moment. The little kid in me was jumping for joy on the inside, although I barely showed any outward emotion.

After taking a moment, and walking up the steps of the dugout onto the field, I did a full circle looking around the near-empty stadium.

Willie was out warming up and taking batting practice, so I used the next 30 minutes to take photos and take in the scenery as I had never seen it before. It's a much different view of Turner Field from the field, instead of the stands.

As Willie was taking batting practice, I noticed Pendleton was standing on the back of the batting cage on the field focusing on what the players were doing.

Stepping up next to him, I was able to talk to him a little bit about what Willie's been doing right and how he would describe his approach at the plate. Then, we just talked baseball for a few minutes before he had to get back to work.

Then, I walked back towards the dugout and I just sat on top of the bench and just watched everything going on in amazement. Then, the player I idolized as a kid (Ron Gant), sat up next to me and we started talking.

It wasn't anything important, it was just baseball, the Georgia heat and everything in between. And, this went on for 20 minutes.

Here I was talking to Ron Gant, the guy I grew up emulating and I relished the moment. How many 23-year-olds (which is how I was at the time), get to sit in the dugout with their childhood idol, talk about baseball, and live a dream?

I considered myself the luckiest guy in the stadium that day. I was on Cloud Nine and nobody was bringing me down.

So, some will say, what's the point of this article? All I'm really doing is reliving a past experience.

But, what it comes down to was I was a 23-year-old living a dream I had when I was a kid. Something that only thousands of people do in this entire world, cover a baseball game, I was doing and letting the 6-year-old in me live.

And, isn't that what sports is to most of us? Didn't we dream as kids to have something to do with a sport? For me, I lived a dream and wouldn't trade that experience.

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