Atlanta Braves: The Top 5 Moments of 2010
This past year presented Atlanta Braves fans with plenty of moments to relish.
This was the first time the Braves had reached the playoffs since 2005 and was the final season for venerable manager Bobby Cox.
But, I'm staying away from those topics for this slideshow.
Instead, I'm focusing on singular moments over the course of the calendar year that Braves fans will be talking about for years to come rather than events that involved a culmination of years/months of dedicated work to draw their fanfare.
So, without further adieu, my top-five moments for the Atlanta Braves for 2010.
No. 5: Walk-Off Walk-Out
The date was April 20, 2010.
The Braves were down three-zip in the bottom of the ninth inning versus Ryan Madson and the Phillies with only one more out with which to work.
With a Chipper Jones on, Troy Glaus sent a 402 foot homer to left to bring the score to within one.
Then, Jason Heyward pulled out a little magic of his own with a 427 blast to center to tie the game...extra innings.
Billy Wagner came in to pitch the top of the tenth and retired the trio of Polanco-Utley-Howard (including one strikeout).
Then Braves fans started to shake their heads.
Nate McLouth, who was sporting a .167 average and .267 slugging percentage and an 0-for-2 mark for the night, was coming up to bat.
Facing Jose Contreras, McLouth didn't stand a chance.
At least, that's what I thought until McLouth sent the first pitch he saw 381 feet to right field.
But, that's not what makes this moment so memorable.
As McLouth rounded the bases, he found no one waiting for his arrival at home plate.
Instead, the entire team had retreated into the clubhouse and forced an ecstatic McLouth to rush down the tunnel to greet them.
That was pretty awesome.
No. 4: His Name Is Dan...Yeah, That's Pretty Stupid
Maybe this qualifies for the "culmination" thing I was talking about...but I have yet to talk about this move on this site and I feel that the skill set acquired has been a long time coming for the Braves.
On November 16, the Braves swindled the Florida Marlins by sending Omar Infante and Mike Dunn to South Florida for Dan Uggla, the only second baseman in Major League history to hit 30 homers in four consecutive seasons.
Uggla, 31 in March, posted a ,287/.369/.508 line with 33 homers (a career-best mark that would have led the Braves).
The presence of legitimate 30-homer power has been missing from Atlanta's line-up for a while, and a potential line-up of (this my official proposition, by the way)...
LF R Martin Prado
3B S Chipper Jones
RF L Jason Heyward
2B R Dan Uggla
C L Brian McCann
SS R Alex Gonzalez
1B L Freddie Freeman
CF L Nate McLouth
...can compete with any other MLB line-up.
And if the Braves can manage to ink Uggla to a long-term deal, there is reason to believe that the Braves will be more-than-capable of competing for years to come (keep this in mind: as Uggla regresses, Freeman, Heyward, and others will be maturing more and more).
No. 3: Making the Reds Red
On May 20, the Braves were in line for a loss.
They were down 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth and looking at falling under the .500 mark yet again.
But, in typical 2010-Braves fashion, they did the unthinkable.
Scrapping together a homerless three runs, the Braves found themselves with the bases loaded and Jason Heyward coming up.
But, Arthur Rhodes eliminated the obvious hero with a K.
One out with Brooks Conrad coming up and Francisco Cordero jogging in.
After donning the wrong helmet to the plate, Conrad scraped the third pitch he saw over the left field wall for an opposite-field grand slam.
Thinking that Laynce Nix had brought it back, Conrad held his head in frustration only to see his jubilant teammates rushing to the plate to greet him.
Seven runs capped by a walk-off granny...movie stuff.
No. 2: McCovey Cove, Meet Rick Ankiel
A night to remember for sure.
My high school's football team had just experienced a big win and I pulled in my driveway at bout 11:00 ready to catch the game score and go to bed in to rest up for my SAT the next morning.
About three hours later, I was pumping my fist after Rick Ankiel blasted a Ramon Ramirez offering 425 into McCovey Cove to lead off the 11th inning and give the Atlanta Braves a one-run advantage they would not relinquish.
For a guy that had struggled to a .210/.324/.328 line with only two homers in 47 games following a July 31 trade with the Royals, the postseason heroics the former top-pitching prospect displayed was something that Braves fans will be able to appreciate for years to come (even if the Braves would go on to lose the series in four).
And, for the record, the SAT went fine.
No. 1: Trading Jesse Chavez
But, that was a pretty cool moment.
No. 1: Welcome to The Show
Opening Day versus Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs.
Bottom of the first, two on, one out.
Jason Heyward coming up.
One swing and 476 feet later, a packed house at Turner Field was going crazy.
Jason Heyward had arrived.
Twenty years old and a powerful stroke...makes me smile for what the future holds in Atlanta.