In a sports week that has us talking more about the court proceedings of the NFL than of Thursday’s draft, a once beloved college coach dodging responsibility for NCAA violations, and Major League Baseball taking over one of its most storied franchises, it would be easy to forget why we care in the first place.Â I keep my reminder on the right hand side of the page in the form of a thank you note to my grandfathers.Â Sometimes, we all need to be reminded there is more to sports than wins and losses, dollars and cents, and courtrooms and violations.Â We all have our own reasons why and stories of how we came to love our teams.Â Hopefully, Paul’s story will remind you of yours.
On Saturday, August 13th the Atlanta Braves will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1991 team that went worst to first. That 1991 season has a special place in my heart as I started my first season as an Atlanta Braves bat boy. My bat boy career started in 1991 and ended after the 1997 season. As a baseball fan growing up it was a dream come true to be a part of a Major League Baseball team. My day would start early in the afternoon before any of the players would arrive at the stadium. Myself and the other bat boys would make sure they players had a clean uniform hanging in their lockers along with clean shoes and other game equipment was ready for the players when they arrived at their lockers in the clubhouse.
Early afternoon was my favorite time because I was able to be on the field during the Braves batting practice. This was a great experience for me, as a young kid growing up and playing in little league games and those backyard catches with my dad, now I was on a major league field with major league baseball players. Just being on the same field with some of my childhood heroes was amazing, and then having the opportunity to play catch with them along with catching balls in the outfield during batting practice was awesome.
After batting practice was over, myself and the other bat boys would get the dugout ready for the game. We made sure all the batting helmets were in the right place, the bats were in the racks in batting lineup order, and all the catching gear was in the right spot.Â One of the highlights of my day was being able to put on a major league uniform and then walking onto the field for a major league baseball game. There is no better feeling in the world as a kid growing up and loving the great game of baseball.
Early in the 1991 season myself and the other two bat boys would rotate positions on the field. One night I would pick up foul balls behind home plate and run balls to the umpire when he would run out. The next night I picked up the bats after the players hit the ball. I was able to sit in the dugout while the visiting team batted. Just to listen to all the strategy going on during the games while in the dugout was just priceless. The third spot in the rotation was sitting down the right field line. This spot had two duties, catching foul balls hit down the line, and standing in front of the catcher and protecting him while a relief pitcher warmed up. This spot soon became my favorite spot on the field. Midway through the season myself and the other two bat boys agreed to make our positions permanent on the field. I was now the right field ball boy by the Braves bullpen in old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. I really enjoyed this spot, I could sit on the field and watch the game, and also the relief pitchers sat in the bullpen right where I sat. They really made me feel part of the team early on and that continued all the way to the end of my career.
I was fortunate enough to experience 4 World Series (1991,1992,1995,1996) and 6 years of playoff baseball (1991,1992,1993,1995,1996,1997). The 1995 World Championship was the ultimate highlight, being able to run on the field after Marquis Grissom caught the last out in game 6. During the 1995 Braves World Series Parade I was fortunate enough to be able to ride on the fire truck with Javy Lopez and Eddie Perez through the streets of downtown Atlanta while all of the fans cheered and did the tomahawk chop. Some of the other highlights of my bat boy career included being on the field the night Francisco Cabrera got that game winning hit in the 1992 NLCS Game 7. After Sid Bream slid safely into home, it was a sprint from the right field line to home plate where the rest of the team had gathered in celebration. That game was recently voted the 4th best game in baseball history over the last 50 years on the MLB Network. To cap off my career I was able to work the first year of Turner Field in 1997, there is nothing better than being a part of the first game in a new stadium.
I have many lifetime memories of my time with the Atlanta Braves that I will never forget. Truly one of the greatest experiences in my lifetime.
My name is Paul Bodi and I was an Atlanta Braves bat boy from 1991-1997. I can be followed on twitter @PAULBB21