Home run trip
By Samantha Carr
In March 2008, I was finishing up my Master’s Degree and found out that my baseball hero, Javy Lopez, was attempting to make a comeback with the Atlanta Braves, my favorite team. More importantly, Lopez would appear in Spring Training.
When I told my mom the news, she simply said, “We have to go!”
I had never seen Lopez play in person, although I had been to a Braves game and Spring Training before. I either caught the team on his rest day or after he had left as a free agent. So I had to settle for watching him take BP and getting a wave before the game.
We left the winter of upstate New York for the sunny ballfields of Florida, scheduled to watch 5 games in 7 days. For a kid who grew up playing softball in New York, there is something about seeing the dirt and grass for the first time that makes you feel good. Baseball season is here.
At our first game at Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Hall of Fame legend Phil Niekro brought the lineup card to the umpire at home plate for the Braves.
Standing in awe as the knuckleballer waved to the crowd, little did I know that a short time later I would consider Niekro one of our guys at the Hall of Fame – someone who I would meet and get to know in Cooperstown.
My parents and I spent the week enjoying the sunshine and catching ballgames each day. We’d keep score, eat hot dogs and argue over who was going to be better this year, the Braves or my parents’ favorite team, the Yankees.
In the first at-bat I would ever see Lopez take, he homered over the left field fence. As I jumped up and cheered, my parents and I both figured it was for me. I had patiently waited to watch him all these years.
Although Lopez retired before completing Spring Training and ended his comeback bid, I could now say I saw him play. As we headed back to the winter-like north, I couldn’t help but think that most 22-year olds can think of a better way to spend a spring break than a week in Florida with their parents. But not me. It was the trip of a lifetime with memories I will keep forever of both my baseball hero and sharing the game with the two people who taught me to love it.
What could be better than that?
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.