“I get the chills when I talk about it right now,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s incredible. What an honor.”
“Any time the White House rolls out the red carpet for you, that’s pretty special,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “This is my first time being here, and getting to see the whole history in the White House, just the whole tour, meeting the president, I think it’s something I won’t forget.”
“I’m going to tell you what: It didn’t disappoint,” Snitker said. “It was really a neat thing to experience.”
“One of the most exciting moments I’ve had in my life so far, meeting the president and just seeing around the White House,” second baseman Ozzie Albies said.
In the address, with the Braves standing behind him, Biden displayed his sense of humor while also congratulating the club. He touched on serious topics (like Braves legend Hank Aaron’s legacy) while mixing in a few jokes (“Given 0.4 percent chance of winning on CNN,” he quipped about the Braves’ unlikely run to the World Series). Biden, who began by joking that he could not treat the Braves too well because first lady Jill Biden is a Phillies fan, told the story of the 2021 Braves.
He remarked about the Braves spending most of the season without a winning record before turning around their season. He mentioned the rebuilt outfield, with its architect, Anthopoulos, standing behind him. Then he lauded the team’s will to overcome its obstacles. “Play by play, inning by inning,” Biden said, “you ground it out and you did it together.”
“People counted you out,” Biden said. “Heck, I know something about being counted out. And I know in Georgia, you show up when it counts.”
At one point, Biden brought up a quote from the late, great Aaron: “There is no shortcut in life. You have to take it one step at a time and work hard. And you have to give back.”
And soon after the president invited McGuirk to take the podium, the Braves’ chairman said this about Aaron and the club’s postseason run: “We still think we had a special angel looking over us, having our recently passed friend – Hank Aaron – pulling the strings from on high. There was no question Hank was a part of what we did, and he would’ve been there every step of the way with us if he was here.”
Almost all of the Braves attended the White House event, including starting pitcher Ian Anderson and Adam Duvall, who are both sidelined with injuries. The players who were not on last year’s team – including outfielder Michael Harris II, relief pitcher Collin McHugh and infielder Vaughn Grissom – sat in the crowd in front of the stage, surrounded by team staff members.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens attended the event at the White House. So, too, did former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who now oversees the White House Office of Public Engagement and helped put together the celebration.
Upon their arrival at the White House, the Braves received a small tour. Anthopoulos found himself struck by the presidential portraits. Starting pitcher Kyle Wright loves history, “so kind of feeling just all the things that have taken place in that building was kind of crazy to think about.” Riley thought it was cool to see the Secret Service and everything that goes into protecting the president.
The magnitude of the day hit many members of the Braves, who could not see this celebration coming when their team struggled to gain momentum early last season.
“Not in this scenario, being a World Series champion,” Riley said. “You dream of this as a little kid.”
“You never even think about it,” said Anthopoulos, who is Canadian. “You see this on TV and these different sports teams that have been here and had these ceremonies. You’re sitting up there on stage, and I can’t believe the president of the United States is standing right there, especially being Canadian.”
After Biden honored the team, he invited the Braves to a reception. They knew they had a game later, but the Braves soaked in this experience. They have celebrated their World Series in many ways since winning it. This time, they did so on a national stage.
They will be champions forever – the instrumental of “We Are The Champions” by Queen, which played after the Braves exited the East Room, wouldn’t let them forget it.
As much as Monday’s White House visit allowed the Braves to bask in last season’s accomplishments, they might have left with even more motivation to win another World Series.
“That feeling you get when you win a World Series, there truly is nothing like it,” Wright said. “It’s a high you can’t describe or really put into words.”
“Once you win the World Series, it always passses through your mind that you’re a World Series champion for the rest of your life,” Albies said. “You want to do it again. One is not enough.”
In the daily grind of a baseball season, the Braves are not thinking about the special little moments and memories from their incredible World Series run. Monday provided them with a chance to reflect on that, as Biden acknowledged their amazing season. But the second they stepped on the bus and left, they refocused on achieving this season’s goals.
As he spoke to the crowd at the event, with Biden to his side and the team behind him, McGurik perfectly summed up the Braves’ mindset going forward.
“And so finally, Mr. President, we have a very young and very talented roster, and we hope this isn’t a one-and-done visit to your home,” McGuirk said. “In short, we plan to be back.”