Today is my baseball anniversary.It was on this day June 20, 1987 that I saw my first big league game in person. I was only 11, but I remember the game as vividly as any I’ve ever attended.I remember the date because we tend to remember important milestones in our lives.For me, I recognize June 20asthe day I fell in love with baseball.It was a Saturday afternoon. My dad and I left Charlotte, N.C., at 5:30 a.m. with a church group for a Father’s Day weekend outing to watch the Braves host the Reds in Atlanta. To that point, I’d been a casual baseball fan. I enjoyed playing the game, but I didn’t really watch it. My knowledge of players came mostly from collecting baseball cards, which I started doing in 1986because my mom wouldn’t let me buy Garbage Pail Kids.I was excited to see some of those cardboard images in the flesh: Dale Murphy, Dion James, Pete Rose, Kal Daniels.When my dad and Iwalked into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, my response was a clich but it’s also the truth: I’d never seen anything quite like it.The field, with the green gra s, and the stadium, with all those seats, were a glorious sight to behold. The stadium looked ma sive yet intimate. I can still picture it all.As we sat down, I remember telling my dad that the outfield fence didn’t really seem that far from https://www.padresedges.com/san-diego-padres/tony-gwynn-jersey home plate.”It looks like it would be easy to hit a homer,” I thought. The Braves and Reds apparently agreed.After only a few pitches from Braves starter Doyle Alexander, the Reds’ first two batters Daniels and Tracy Jones had gone deep. An inning later, the Reds’ Kurt Stillwell also homered. Then Braves catcher Bruce Benedict homered. An inning after that, Murphy homered. Then Ken Griffey. The Launching Pad was at its launchiest.Reds starter Bill Gullickson did not enjoy serving up all those launches. So, after Griffey’s homer, he plunked Braves shortstop Andres Thomas, who immediately charged the mound and set off a bench-clearing brawl. The whole series of events was, as you might imagine, quite enjoyable to my 11-year-old eyes.Not bad for a first MLB experience.MORE: The 20 best baseball brawls since 1976Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and thetwo teams took a four-inning homer break, until Cincinnati’s Ron Oester went deep off Alexander in the seventh the seventh and final homer of the game. From there, it was just normal baseball. Braves reliever Gene Garber held the Reds at bay, and the Braves held on to win 8-6.I can still see the final pitch in my head: a swinging strikeout of usual Braves killer Nick Esasky with the tying runs on base. (Note: Almost every other time the Reds and Braves metin the ’80s, this situation would resultin a three-run Esasky homer.)And just like that, I was allin. From that day on, Idevoured all things baseball. The Braves became my team. I watched them religiously, even though they usually lost 90-plus games the first few years. I was hooked.Coincidentally, June 20, 1987, was also the first MLB game Braves great Chipper Jones attended. He talks about it at length in his book, “Ballplayer.” His takeaway was the same as mine.”It was the greatest game I’d ever seen in my life,” Jones writes. “Balls were flying out of the park; guys were getting plunked and charging the mound. I was hooked. Ozzie Smith Jersey “But despite all the awesomene s, myJune 20, 1987, experience has beensomewhat incomplete for nearly the entire three decades that have followed. The reason:I never saw video of the game.Not a single play. But, believe me, Itried. Iaskedthe Braves, the Reds, MLB. Nothing. Iscoured the internet: YouTube, me sage boards, tape traders. Nothing.Until now.Today, on this 30th anniversary of me falling in love with baseball, I received quite the unexpected anniversary present, thanks to some helpful folks on Twitter. Before today, allI had weremy memories, which, again, are plenty vivid.But this is the kind of thing I want to have around when my memories get a little hazy, something to confirm my mental picture, to keep me honest if my nostalgia for the day ever tweaks facts and inadvertentlycreates an experience that doesn’t exactly match the reality.Before today, June 20, 1987, was my holiest of baseball holy grails.Because June 20, 1987, isthe day baseball grabbed Cory Spangenberg Jersey hold.That’s the day that set in motion hours upon hours of watching, reading about and enjoying the game. That’s the day that at least partly led me to marry a woman who agreed that we should honeymoon at spring training.That’s the day that started me on the path to the job I hold today.MORE: Remembering the groundbreaking, forgotten”It’s a Long Way to October”So it’s not an exaggeration to say that June 20, 1987, was a pivotal day in my childhood, and in my development.But then, baseball is often a personal game. As fans, we remember random things that even other die-hards have forgotten or, perhaps, never knew about. We often recall things from 30 years ago with the same clarity and detail as something that happened yesterday. We a sociate games and plays and seasons with important events or people in our lives.We’re able to personalize things in ways unique to us.That’sjust part of baseball’s beauty, another reason we often describe our interactions with the game, or with our favorite team, as a relationship. Yes, that sounds weird and perhaps overdramatic. But I’m not wrong.My relationship with baseball began in earnest on June 20, 1987. And now I have video.Happy anniversary, my dear.
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