“Sports do not build character – they reveal it.” – Heywood Broun
In 2009, I was a freshman at Collins Hill High School when the Gwinnett Braves played their very first ballgame in Gwinnett County. My parents bought four season tickets for our family of five, assuming, rightfully so, that one of the five of us would be willing to sit out a game or two in a four or eight game homestand. To be truthful, I had no real interest, but in an effort to appease my dad, I put on a ballcap, hopped in the front seat of his Chevy, and off we went. Within minutes our bags were checked, our tickets scanned, and our seats on the first base line found, peanuts and cracker jacks in hand. It was in that moment – sitting down, feet up, looking out across the field – that I fell in love with the sport. Everything about the stadium and the experience captured my heart; the electrifying atmosphere, the rowdy crowd, the competitive ballplayers, the entertaining mascot.
I went to every home game for the next two years, rain or shine, collecting everything from game balls to ticket stubs, game notes, and rosters. I made friends with the parking attendants, front gate staff, ushers, the grounds crew guys, cameramen, and even the MC. I took a liking to the old school third baseman and, to my surprise, he took a liking to the wide eyed, impressionable teenager learning the ropes of the game he loved. I found myself the most content when I was out in right field, by myself, with the wind blowing in my hair.
In 2012, my senior year of high school, I began my first of what would unknowingly become a seven-season “career” with the Gwinnett Braves (now the Gwinnett Stripers) as part of the Guest Relations Staff. I spent every spring, summer, and fall out in the elements with some of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing and working with. We waited out countless rain delays, ducked from numerous foul balls, met hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, and celebrated every major holiday from April to September together year after year.
In roughly a week, the seats will fill again and the ballpark will erupt, finally coming back to life after a long off season, and a brand-new set of gameday staff will begin their journey as mine officially comes to an end. Baseball taught me everything I know – things like how to swing for the fences when everyone around you is prepping for you to bunt, how to follow through despite the odds stacked against you, and how to get yourself out of an untimely slump, to name a few.
That will always be my home away from home, so to speak. Through all the seasons of this life, good or bad, you can find me in right field.