Brian Snitker felt it. He went to his truck Friday – early Friday, managers being fanatics about getting to the ballpark – but even this 66-year-old couldn’t pretend it was just another day at the office.

“(With) the chill in the air, everything was way postseason,” Snitker said. “It was a neat feeling. Then you look and see how busy it is, people outside The Battery (Atlanta), walking the streets. It was a neat feeling to know we’re coming here to play the first World Series game in our park.”

Freddie Freeman saw it. “I started seeing fans walking to the stadium pretty early in my drive,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

He meant that figuratively, but also literally. Said Freeman: “I like the weather because that means we’re playing late into October. That’s a good thing.”

Also a good thing: The sight of Freeman, first baseman, crouching to catch the ceremonial first pitch delivered by Hank Aaron Jr., the son of the man who made the world take note of this club when it moved south from Milwaukee.

Henry Louis Aaron died at 86 on Jan. 22, but his impact is all over this World Series.

When Aaron was the Braves’ farm director, he hired Snitker to manage a minor-league team. When Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974, Dusty Baker – now the Astros’ manager – was on deck. The Braves’ first step on this postseason journey came in Milwaukee, the city in which Aaron began and ended his matchless career.

ExploreAJC remembers Hank Aaron

After a video tribute to the great man, Aaron’s family was introduced to the stadium crowd. Billye Aaron, his wife, was weeping. Baker left the Houston dugout to offer hugs. Hank Jr.’s pitch made it to Freeman on the fly. It was a lovely moment.

Caption
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (left) reacts after Hank Aaron Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of game 3 between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros during the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com )

Credit: Curtis Compton

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (left) reacts after Hank Aaron Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of game 3 between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros during the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com )
Caption
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (left) reacts after Hank Aaron Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of game 3 between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros during the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com )

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Let history record that it rained on the chilly-by-Southern-standards night the World Series came to Cobb County. Let it also reflect that nobody much cared. The Fall Classic graced Atlanta – and two different ballparks – with its presence five times in the ‘90s. For the suburban stadium that sits catercorner from Cumberland Mall, this was all new.

Truist Park, known then as SunTrust Park, opened April 17, 2017. John Hart, then the team’s president of baseball operations, gestured around him and said, “This is a baseball city.” And that was before half of The Battery was open for business. That has changed. The complex has become the big-time attraction Cobb elders had in mind. So has the team that plays there.

The World Series is tied 1-all, but Game 3 – at least in the hours before its first pitch – was about more than winning or losing. Truist Park was supposed to play host to the All-Star game this summer. Politics intervened. Nothing, however, could stop these Braves from winning the National League pennant for the first time since 1999. Not injuries to Ronald Acuna and Mike Soroka. Not the Mets and the Phillies in the NL East. Not the Brewers in the Division Series. Not even the Dodgers.

Two months ago, none of us – and probably not, in their heart of hearts, the Braves themselves – believed the World Series would come here in 2021. But that’s why we follow sports: For everything we think we know, much is beyond all knowing. And surprises, in sports as in life, are often the best.

Record-wise, these Braves aren’t anywhere close to the best Atlanta has seen, but this team has become the most beloved since the worst-to-first bunch of 1991. From Joc Pederson and his pearls to Eddie Rosario and his elan, from the unflappable reliever Tyler Matzek to the small-but-mighty Ozzie Albies, there’s much to like. It took more than four month to nuzzle above .500, but since Aug. 1 they’ve been great.

But you knew that already. The proof could be found at 3 p.m. Friday, five hours before Game 3 was scheduled to start. A live band was playing. The line to gain entrance to the Braves’ Clubhouse Store – not the stadium itself, mind you – wound across the breadth of The Battery.

Despite the threat of rain – a bit after 5 p.m., the threat became reality – this place had become a magnet. If you care about the Braves, you were drawn here, even if you didn’t have a ticket, and not everyone did. Standing-room tickets were going for upward of $1,000. Think about that. Not for a dugout seat. Just to be able to say, “I was in the ballpark that night.” One thousand bucks.

Everything about this October has felt different, and Game 3 was the most different of all these days and nights. Said Freeman: “We’ve been in the playoffs the last four years, so everyone knows what the feeling is like. We’ve got two (World Series) games under our belt, but the first one at home, you’re still going to get those jitters. Game 2. … Tonight’s going to be awesome. The crowd is going to be amazing.

Remember those Octobers when Atlanta was mocked by the national media for not selling out playoff games? Yep, that happened. But it’s not happening. This is all new. This is, to quote Freeman, pretty cool.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks