HOUSTON – On the night the Braves became World Series champions, Jorge Soler entered the interview area carrying the Willie Mays Trophy, which goes to the World Series MVP. He set it on the table in front of him. It’s a big trophy. Interviews completed, Soler left the room – and the trophy. Thirty seconds later, Braves staffer Franco Garcia burst back in, looking for guess what.
On the night the Braves became world champions, the style influencer Joc Pederson posed in the infield for photos with his pearls, naturally, and his victory cigar, ditto. Also with his cap turned backward, allowing his blond hair to show for full effect. Also with his wife, his daughter and his son, the latter of whom was wearing little brown boots.
On the night the Braves became world champions, manager Brian Snitker asked if there came a moment during these playoffs when he believed his team could really do this. He said, “Yeah, there was. I think after we got through the first round and beat Milwaukee because I knew what a challenge that was going to be with their pitching. We won that. Then you win a tough game, some close games like we did in Atlanta (against the Dodgers) in the (National League Championship Series), and then it’s like, ‘You know what, I think we can pull this off. We’re pretty good. We’re peaking at the right time.’ (NLCS MVP) Eddie (Rosario) got hot. The pitching was really good. And honestly I thought and said, ‘You know what? We can pull this off.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, Rosario – who dubbed himself “Super Rosario” after his astonishing catch at the wall in Game 4 – draped himself in the Puerto Rican flag.
On the night the Braves became world champions, John Schuerholz – Hall of Famer, architect of the 1995 World Series title and the man who, in 2014, triggered the rebuild around pitching – walked around the pitcher’s mound with his wife. He wasn’t so much taking questions and accepting congratulations. He has retired from active duty, but this never happens without him moving to fire Frank Wren as general manager.
On the night the Braves became world champions – heck, at the very moment they became world champions – Freddie Freeman took the ball he caught from Dansby Swanson for the 27th out and stuck it in his back pocket. Then he hid it. He said he planned to give it to Snitker, who, he said, “has put on every hat there is in this organization.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, just before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed the aptly named Commissioner’s Trophy to Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, third-base coach Ron Washington stepped in front of the commish and bent down to inspect the trophy. As manager of the Texas Rangers, Washington had lost two World Series, the second against St. Louis in excruciating fashion. He was checking to make sure this was real. It was. It is.
On the night the Braves became world champions, just before they became world champions, Swanson got momentarily miffed at his longtime infield partner. Having fielded Yuli Gurriel’s grounder, the shortstop looked to make the shorter throw to second base for the force out. “I got ticked off at Ozzie (Albies),” Swanson said. “I looked at him right before the play, and I pointed at him. ‘Hey, you’re going to be at second base, right?’ Yeah. And he wasn’t. I’ve already gotten onto him about that.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, McGuirk stood in the infield and spoke of more championships. “We’re in our renaissance years,” he said. “We had a long-term plan, and we stuck to the plan. We actually got there a little early, and we’re not through. These next five years should be something.” McGuirk also said: “I haven’t slept in a month.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, starting pitcher Max Fried was stepped on by Michael Brantley two batters into the game. “He stepped on the back of my leg,” Fried said. Did it hurt? “It didn’t feel good, but this is the World Series. … At that point, the only thing I worried about was (runners on) first and second, nobody out.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, McGuirk said of Fried: “He was going to will himself to win.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, Ben Ingram called the final out thusly on the team’s radio network: “0-2 on the way. Chopper out to Dansby. Ehhh … (This was where Swanson looked to second base, where Albies wasn’t.) Throws to first base! Is this happening? IT IS!”
On the night the Braves became world champions, Freeman said: “We hit every pothole, every bump that we possibly could this year, and somehow the car still made it to the other side.”
On the night the Braves became world champions, Soler didn’t see his humongous home run clear the railroad tracks atop the left-field wall at Minute Maid Park. “I knew I hit it well,” he said. “I turned around to look at our dugout and start celebrating.” Someone asked what he’d said to his mates. Said Soler: “I just said, ‘I’m here.’”
On the night the Braves became world champions, the general manager who brought Soler – and Rosario and Pederson and Adam Duvall – here at the trade deadline was home in Atlanta with his wife and children. Alex Anthopoulos tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, something almost nobody else knew until Game 6 ended. In a late, late Zoom call with Atlanta reporters, Anthopoulos said: “I was trying not to let it get out.” Watching on TV, he said, was “like New Year’s Eve, only better.”
On the morning after the Braves became world champions, Anthopoulos – who is asymptomatic – texted an Atlanta reporter: “2021 Braves … expect the unexpected … All the way until the end.”