How Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves honors his late father every day

Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies celebrates his three-run home run off Boston Red Sox pitcher Kutter Crawford during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Credit: Charles Krupa/AP

Credit: Charles Krupa/AP

Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies celebrates his three-run home run off Boston Red Sox pitcher Kutter Crawford during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BALTIMORE – Hey there,

Ozzie Albies wears a gold chain around his neck. The pendant is a small circle with his late father’s face on it.

After Osgarry Albies died of a heart attack at age 40 in 2013, his son, Ozzie, kept his father’s chain and began wearing it every day. A few years ago, his now-wife, Andreia, had the pendant made for the necklace as a birthday gift for Ozzie. You will sometimes see Albies kiss his chain on the field.

Osgarry always told Ozzie, “Go live your dream.” So soon after his father died, Ozzie had that tattooed on his arm. And throughout his career, he’s had an inscription on his glove: “Bolly,” which was Osgarry’s nickname.

“It’s a daily thing,” Ozzie said of honoring his father. “He was the one that pushed me a lot earlier in my life to become a baseball player. He always told me, ‘Be positive. Play hard.’ He always was the guy that, if I needed to be at a tryout, he would leave work early, make sure I’m there. He did everything that he could’ve done for me in his life, for me to be better. That’s why I honor him every single day.”

Sunday is Father’s Day – a day that used to be difficult for Ozzie. Now, it is yet another chance to keep his father’s memory alive.

To reach this point, though, Albies went through the worst time imaginable. His father died about a month after the Braves signed Ozzie out of Curacao.

“First thing on the mind was like, ‘Damn, why is it happening? I’m done with everything in life,’” Ozzie recalled. “All that bad mentality came up, and then I went back to the positive side of, ‘Hey, I worked hard to be here today. Things in life happen. Just get over it.’ It took a long time to get over it, and then from there, it was, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go do it and I’m gonna be a big leaguer.’ The only thing my mind was telling me was, ‘I want to be a big leaguer and tell him thank you when I made it and thank you for all the hard work we put in together to be where I am today.’”

When Ozzie first went to the United States to begin his professional baseball career, he experienced a lot of loneliness as he dealt with his grief. He had only himself.

“Sixteen years old in the United States, you got nobody,” he said. “Crying on the phone with your mom and your (siblings), and stuff like that. You just gotta turn the switch and go for it. You worked hard to be where you’re at in life today, so I had to turn the switch. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m lonely.’ You can’t. You just gotta turn the switch and, I say, like, man up and go do it.”

Ozzie went for it. He is a three-time All-Star who has won two Silver Slugger Awards. He has a World Series ring. He’s one of the best second basemen in baseball.

Ozzie plays for Osgarry. The son knows his late father is looking down on him. He’ll sometimes ask for help during games. After a big hit in the World Series in 2021, Ozzie had a message for his dad.

“Thank you,” he said.

When Ozzie goes back to Curacao, he’ll visit the gas station where his father worked. Ozzie still knows the people there. He’ll drop in and say hello.

“That’s when the moments come back,” he said.

And he has an aunt in Curacao who always mentions his chain. “Hey, you still have that chain, that’s awesome,” she’ll say. Ozzie wears it every day.

What type of person was Osgarry?

Let Ozzie tell it.

“He was a guy that always wanted to help,” Ozzie said. “In the family, he was a guy that always wanted to be there for everybody. He always was the one who would throw a party at the house. ‘Hey, you guys come over’ – 40 people at the house. He was that guy, always.”

And he was a guy who clearly loved his son so much. To this day, Ozzie still cherishes the times when he’d practice baseball with his father.

“Super special,” he said of those memories. “Why? Because it’s hard being without a dad. After I lost him, I know how even more special those moments (are), because if he was here today, I would still do the same thing: Finish a game, we talk. Go back home and we’d talk on the phone if he’s not there with me. Those are the special moments that once you have that in your life, it makes it even better. But I couldn’t have that. When I look back and see all the stuff we’ve been through, it makes me a better person today that I know what it takes to live, I know what it takes to be better, I know all the hard work you put in. And just be blessed with it.”

Sunday is Father’s Day and, with it, comes an extra reason for Ozzie to honor the man he loved so dearly.

“(Father’s Day) used to be really difficult, but now, every year on Father’s Day, I just want to go out there and play hard for him – get a homer, get a knock, play great so he can see that I honored him,” Ozzie said.

Extra Innings

* In Washington, 40-year-old Jesse Chavez picked up the 1,000th strikeout of his career. After the game, I asked him what he would tell his younger self.

“Put both of them together – of what you knew, and (the fact) that what you thought was gonna happen, happened. And if you would’ve meshed them both together, it would’ve been a smoother ride,” he said. “Things like the other day in the bullpen, when I was throwing in the bullpen, when I was throwing before the game. I’ve always been able to put the ball where I want to. I’m human, but yeah, all I did was a pitch as a kid. The only time I played a position was if I threw a shutout and that was a reward, just so I can get an at-bat, you know? But it was like, that’s all me and my dad did.”

Chavez would throw to his dad. It got to the point, Chavez said, where “he would move his body more than he would move his glove to catch the ball.”

For Chavez, all of this clicked in 2018. He said that if he would’ve put this mindset – think about what you’re doing and focus on your target – with the mechanics, his journey would’ve been simpler.

“You don’t need a guru, you don’t need guidance, you don’t need to go spend thousands of dollars somewhere else to tell you, ‘Hey, practice. Believe in what you’re seeing, and things will happen,’” Chavez said. “That’s one thing I regret not doing early on, because stuff got in the way, ego got in the way. And that happens as a pitcher. We see a guy take a gangster hack and we want to throw it harder, instead of, let’s just throw a pitch, get a swing and miss and get on to the next one.

“And that got me in a lot of trouble early on. I think controlling that – the competitive ego, we call it – I think that’s the biggest difference: Putting that aside and understanding what I was talking about earlier, putting both of them together.”

* When answering a question about how to evaluate the club to this point, Braves president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos mentioned the National League at one point.

“The one thing, you look at the standings obviously, but the fact that the majority of the National League hasn’t played well has been good for us, because it’s very similar to ‘21 where no one was playing well in the (NL) East, and the rest of the divisions – like the NL West that year, was taking off with the Giants and the Dodgers,” Anthopoulos said. “So as much as you can look at the standings and you’re still looking at playoff spots and so on, we have to play better obviously. But the fact that you can keep your head above water when you’re not playing well -- we are fortunate that the NL hasn’t played up to its capabilities across the board.”

Anthopoulos is correct: Entering Thursday, only five NL teams had winning records. The Braves, despite their recent slide, had the NL’s fourth-best record.

In the American League, for reference, six teams went into Thursday with winning records. The Red Sox were .500.

But the NL’s struggles should allow the Braves – who still hold the top Wild Card spot – to find their way out of this slump without a significant drop in the standings.

* An unfortunate situation in Mississippi: The Double-A club had to move their series against the Rocket City Trash Pandas from their home in Mississippi to Madison, Alabama, – where the Trash Pandas play – because of “unplayable field conditions” at Trustman Park. The series was originally scheduled for June 11-16. Tuesday’s game was postponed.

Mississippi and Rocket City were scheduled to play a five-game series from Thursday through Sunday, with a doubleheader on Saturday.

“Our grounds crew became aware of field conditions that affected playability and made immediate attempts to remedy the situation in time for our scheduled homestand against Rocket City,” Double-A Mississippi general manager Pete Laven said in a statement. “Despite best efforts, the decision was ultimately made to move the series so that we could continue making improvements to the field and prioritize player safety. We apologize for any inconvenience to our fans; our staff and grounds crew are hard at work to return home on June 25 to take on the Montgomery Biscuits.”

This is a brutal situation, especially given the fact that this is Double-A Mississippi’s final year in existence. Fans and staffers are watching this team in its final few months in town, and now there are even fewer games in Mississippi.

On Tuesday, Diamond Baseball Holdings – which owns the Mississippi Braves and will move them to Columbus next season – held a groundbreaking ceremony at Synovus Park, which will host the Double-A Columbus team. That same day, Mississippi had to postpone its home game and begin to find a way to move the series.