Back in 2001, one of my life long friends came to visit me in Chicago all the way from Oregon. Thanks to Portland not having an MLB team and to TBS, where-back in the good old days-they would broadcast almost every Braves game in Oregon, my friend Geoff became a hard core Atlanta Braves fan, just like me.
So, when he came to visit, I made sure to take him to one of baseball’s greatest icons-Wrigley Field. This was his first time ever going to Wrigley and I wanted to make it as memorable for him as I could. I was lucky enough to get us FRONT ROW seats right by the Braves bullpen down the first base line in shallow right field. The tickets we had were for the final game of the series against the Cubs on September 9th, 2001. The Braves had won the first two games, so we got all decked out in our Braves gear hoping for a series sweep. The game started off great with the Braves scoring 4 runs in the first inning with Andruw Jones and B.J. Surhoff each hitting home runs. With each blast out of the park, we made our presence known by standing to cheer while waving our Braves Tomahawks and doing The Chop, all to a chorus of BOOS from every direction by all the Cub fans. The game turned a bit with Sammy Sosa hitting a home run in the bottom of the inning. He went 3 for 4 in the game; however, it was the one out he made that gave Geoff and me our greatest baseball experience ever…
It was the bottom of the 5th with a runner on first and Sosa at the plate with 2 outs, Braves reliever Kerry Lightenberg was in to pitch. He winds, delivers the pitch and BAM! Sosa sends a pop-up sky high right in our direction! As the ball begins its descent, it is clear that it’s right on top of us. In fact, it was right above Geoff and he was prepared, already standing ready to catch his first foul ball ever! As the baseball comes closer and closer to us, I could actually see the laces spin as it starts to fall right into his glove, when all of the sudden ...SNAP! Another glove reaches out and practically takes the ball right out of Geoff’s glove. After a brief moment of disappointment, we realized that we were so focused on catching the ball; we didn’t notice who was standing right in front of us, Braves Second Baseman Marcus Giles! When Sosa hit that pop up, Giles raced from second base to the Braves bullpen, reached into the stands to make a highlight reel catch as he slammed his body into the brick wall. Once we figured out what had happened, we cheered so hard and so loud that Marcus Giles actually heard us! He looked right at us-in our jersey’s, waving our Tomahawks-and he tossed us the ball, which landed right into Geoff’s glove!!!
Later that night, Marcus Giles gave us our second gift as his catch made ESPN’s Web Gem highlight reel, showcasing us in the crowd! It was the first time that either of us had ever been on TV!!! That was Geoff’s last day visiting me and it could not have ended better. He went back to Oregon with the greatest baseball game experience ever and a souvenir (which we send back and forth to one another every couple years) that will always let us cherish an unforgettable moment in both our lives.