Paul Kocak, author of the future book 'Baseball's Starry Night' asked me a few questions regarding my thoughts on that fateful evening... the last game in 2011 when the Braves blew the wild-card & playoff chances. Here's The Q&A (it's written in 'gibberish' style ha, so sorry about the grammar):
Q: Perhaps a few words on what you do, where you were born, where you live, your age.
A: I'm a 24 year old college student and soccer coach/aspiring teacher from Dahlonega, GA.
Q: Then the night of 9/28, when the Braves agonizingly lost 4-3 in 13 to allow STL into the postseason. (Maybe some words on days leading up to that; Kimbrel's approaching fatigue??) Were you there? Where did you watch? Could you sleep afterward? Others in the room? Tears? Rage? Numbness? None of these? Did you follow the other games afterward, the Red Sox and Rays? (A Phils fan who was at that game in ATL said the crowd rooted against the Red Sox so the Braves would not be alone in their collapse.) Stuff like that.
A: I will say I have always been a huge Braves fan since I was about 10 years old, the whole 9 yards; spring training every year, 10-30 games (in 2009 I went to 50+ games) in person, every game on TV or the radio... had to listen, big autograph and memorabilia collector, etc. I would describe myself as a die hard, loyal fan- win or lose, but I am without a doubt a HUGE PESSIMIST. (its hard not to be with 13-14 div titles and 1 WS championship...) I am a huge 'stats' guy, a number cruncher and so on... So as the days approached and the season got closer to the end, I would always analyze the schedule and try to figure out what exactly we needed to do to get in the playoffs, you could feel the team wearing down, you could see they were in one of the typical season valleys... and it wasnt looking good, nothing was clicking on offense (and the pitching was starting to struggle...I remember thinking on 9/8, when the Braves has a series against the Cardinals in St. Louis, Alright- we have a 7.5 game lead with 18 to play..If we go 7-11 (91-71) and STL goes 14-5 (90-72) we win, theres no way we don't win 7-8 more games with 12 more against FL, NYM & WAS... the team is in a funk but not bad enough to have the 'train fall off the tracks' so to speak. Then we go and lose 7 out of our next 9 ballgames, so i start to look at everything again...we have 14 to play 4.5 game lead, we have this...9/23 Hudson pitches a gutty one against WAS, we have a 3.0 game lead with 5 games to play... its in the bag now, we can breathe easy go out and win another game and its practically over... We lose,I think well the cardinals will lose, they dont...theyll lose...they dont..then 2 games to play 1 game lead, we gotta win 2 we dont.. and then the unthinkable happens.... its over.. Its hard to really describe the feeling, Atlanta really is OWNED by Philly, and its not one of those things that really you start to hate them, because it was a rivalry... because it wasnt, they just beat us.. they arent obnoxious, they dont talk a lot of trash, they just play hard-nosed, good baseball... they arent a team thats easy to just hate like Florida or NYM... and you could start to feel we werent going to win a game, you could literally see it on their faces...then you felt like they were gonna pull a 2010 when they got the lead heading into the 7th, but every pitch and every inning seemed like an hour long, we werent really trying to win, we were just trying not to lose, sort of like when you play your big brother... your know he's better, you've got the lead... but you know hes coming for you, and its scary. the wheels fell off... I really felt numb, a strange feeling, not really rage or anything, you were just feeling well... we dont deserve this... its not meant to be, its just not meant to happen... I had tickets to the game, i chose not to go, I didnt WANT to be there, in all that emotion. I did root for Boston to lose, I didnt want the media to rock the Braves alone... You werent really mad at anyone either, usually you can pin it on a certain play, a certain player, etc.. you couldnt- it was a total group effort, a total group working together to not do anything well, everything was just off... and it had been for a very long time... every run a complete stuggle.
Q: Working back to your life, how long a BRAVES fan? How many games a year, if any? How much the team does or does not consume your day. Are you involved with a community of fellow fans, in person, on blogs or Twitter?
A: Since age 10, anywhere from 10-30-50 a year, huge autograph hound... I was featured in an AJC article once "how to get an autograph from a brave" - http://jgwb.us/bravesauto
The team totally consumes my daily life, haha (good or bad) I follow all the news and talk during the season and just as much during the offseason, fantasy baseball etc. I am fairly well known as a braves source, a lot of people have told me they just check my facebook statuses for braves news instead of reading braves.com or espn... I have my own blog atlantainsight.com and you can see some of my photos from braves games, past/present, memorabilia, etc. at flickr.com/gralton/sets
My prized possession is a framed autographed pair of Chipper Jones batting gloves, i caught both of these above the dugout after to seperate braves games (2 diff dates) I remember the first one I got was July 3, 2010. One of the best days of my life....what a moment, i was glowing for a week.
Q: Baseball as a kid? Play catch with father? mother? brothers? sisters? First MLB game memory?
A: No, soccer... no one in my family is a super fan like me, just box score checkers... my dad took me to my first ball game one day at old fulton co stadium (hes not a big fan of sports) when I was about 8 years old, he actually told me we were going out to eat and suprised me, I fell in love that day with the game, the sounds, the players, the stadium, the food, the total atmosphere... I only went to 1-2 games a year but started watching on TV, one day when my dad was taking me to school he didnt go the right way... he handed me a newspaper that had the spring training schedule on it (i was about 11), he said we are going to florida... pick the games you want to go to, its up to you... I have been a huge baseball fan ever since... through thick and thin... I used to lie and say i was going to the movies, and actually head to the ballpark when i first got my license, sometimes by myself, it never bothered me...just something i truly loved, keeping score, etc. I am an only child btw.
Q: What would you tell your grandchildren about the night? someone in China who doesn't understand baseball? Anything else you want to add. Any encounters any of the BRAVES players in person?
A: I wouldn't personally bring it up again, the past is past.. focus on the good times... even that day wasnt really so bad to me in the big picture, chances are we were prob only going to play 3-4 more games anyway. LOTS AND LOTS of encounters... if you want specifics Ill write again...to many to start on...