Monday, June 25, 2007

Meeting Skip

ATLANTA, June 24 -- Forget the scoreboard.

Sometimes the cosmos, and the baseball gods, and whatever else you want to mention, all come together to create something really special. Something you talk about, laugh about for days afterwards.

Something you never forget.

Such it was tonight at Turner Field. And it had nothing to do with the game.

Nope, the baseball was forgettable. Atlanta lost a laugher 5-0 to the surging Detroit Tigers. About the only interesting thing on the field was impressive plays by Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur and Detroit's Carlos Guillen (AL player of the week, by the way).

But something happened before the game. Something I'll never forget.

We get to the ballpark early, as is my custom. I like parking before the horde arrives. I like to walk around the park, soak up the sounds.

An 8 p.m. start meant we hadn't eaten yet. So we ease over to the BBQ joint in the stadium -- only to find longtime Braves announcer Skip Caray signing autographs!

Skip has been my longtime connection to the Braves. I've spent more time with him and Pete Van Wieren than I have members of my family. He kept us chuckling when the team was losing 100 games a year. He kept us excited throughout all the championship runs in the '90s.

And there he was, friendly as can be, signing a publicity photo for the folks in line. I tried to think of what to say. How do you tell a guy thanks for nearly 30 years of memories?

Skip takes one look at my Braves Hawaiian shirt and says two words.

"Nice shirt."

I laugh -- you always do that with Skip -- thank him and tell him he's brought me many years of joy.

"I'm glad to hear that," Skip says.

He tells Drew Weaver (who addresses him as "Mr. Caray") to call him Skip -- then asks Drew if he has a military background. Drew wears a buzz cut and says "sir" a lot.

Drew says his dad is a Marine. Skip smiles and says "Good."

Off we go. I'm still on cloud nine. I don't think much about the game. I keep checking to see if Skip's autograph is OK.

It was something. The whole thing felt like one of those MasterCard commercials.

Braves parking pass: $10

Ticket to a Sunday night game: $39

Gas for the truck: $50

Meeting Skip Caray? Well, you know the answer to that one.

Priceless.

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