Ever wonder why Martin Prado wears eye black in night games? On Friday night it came in handy to hide a few tears, the former Brave joked.
In his first game back at Turner Field since he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Prado was greeted by two stirring ovations – one when Chipper Jones acknowledged him during his pre-game jersey retirement ceremony and again when he walked up to the plate for his first at-bat in the second inning.
“They showed a lot of emotions and a lot of respect for me, which is…I don’t know how to explain it,” Prado said in the visiting clubhouse Saturday afternoon. “I was so emotional, so it was pretty good.”
Prado, who signed with the Braves out of Maracay, Venezuela at age 17, was a fan favorite over his seven major league seasons with the Braves, an All-Star, and known as one of the hardest workers on the team.
“I’ve got a lot of memories here so it’s hard to forget,” said Prado, who tipped his helmet to a sold-out crowd of 48,282 and then laughed as he dropped it. “I learned a lot of things from a lot of people. When you’ve got people around you that make you better it makes those people better and it makes those people special for me, always. This organization and fans and everybody around made me better, which I’m always going to appreciate.”
Prado was always engaging with fans and children, and that continued Friday night when Jones’ two young sons Tristan and Shea went over to the visiting dugout to see one of their favorite players.
“Tristan has a man crush on Prado,” Jones said. “It’s unbelievable. Dad’s down here, Prado’s up here. It’s crazy.”
Prado said Tristan was at a loss for words at first, before finally hugging him and chatting a while. Prado was much the same way when he went out to hug Jones as he circled the warning track in a convertible Friday night. Prado said he thought he’d be around Jones and the Braves longer, and had more to say, but in that moment, said he thanked Jones for all he’s done for him.
Jones was one of the first to reassure Prado the day he was traded in January, telling him if he were ever a manager or general manager someday he would come after Prado.
“I think the world of that kid,” Jones said. “He plays the game the right way. He’s a guy that helps you win 95, 100 ballgames because of his versatility. He plays them all at an All-Star level. He’s one of the best two-strike hitters in the game. He’s intense. He’s got some fire in his belly. He makes guys around him better. And I love the guy to death.”