by Mark Jent
On Saturday Simply A Fan took a fun group of fifty-five from East Commerce Baptist Church in Lewisburg, TN to Atlanta for a charter bus church trip adventure to see the Braves take on the Dodgers. Knowing that we had a diverse group of ages represented, I guessed with a group that size we would have a few people who were attending their first ever Major League Baseball game.
This idea had been brewing with me for a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t until the day before our trip that I decided to execute the plan. I wanted to pass out red stickers commemorating every one who was attending their 1st MLB Game! They would be placed strategically on their game day lanyard and remain there in perpetuity! Or until they got home and threw it away in the trash, lol. I really had no expectation on what they do with the sticker or the lanyard, but don’t we all want an extra special red sticker some times in our life?
If you know me, you know I love celebrating things – both the big and the small. Whether it’s beautiful Beth Jent’s birthday with an extra large cookie cake or a new hire who had patiently waited for months to receive the big news, it’s fun to recognize, honor and celebrate others in their milestones. Whether it’s passing out a game ball to a boy who just went 0-4 but gave his best effort or throwing a party for a friend who arrived in town from overseas who we haven’t seen in years, no matter the significance of the occasion to that person, you can make it a big deal if you give it just a little extra attention.
I’ve tried my best to carry that over to Simply A Fan, reminding people that even baseball games are worth celebrating! So the red sticker came to mind because I knew it would make their lanyard look different. Somebody sitting beside them at the ballgame or in front of them at the concession stand might see it and say “Hey congratulations on coming to your first baseball game!”
You can see in the featured image that we had 10 rookies on Saturday who got red stickers. These ten people were with our group of 55 that boarded the bus that morning in Tennessee and rode the bus for eight hours round trip to Atlanta and back. Although mostly younger folks, the span of ages from youngest to oldest was quite diverse. We had 8 year old Gray who came with his family and then we had 75 year old Nanny who came by herself, but seemed to be the group Grandma. Despite the nearly seven decades of life that separate them, Gray and Nanny were experiencing the same thing for the first time on Saturday! Nanny told me she has watched the Braves on TV for so many years, through the good and bad, and she was so excited to get to walk in the ballpark for the first time.
I didn’t get a red sticker, but I remember when my parents took me to my first big league baseball game. It was the summer of 1987 and was also in Atlanta, albeit two ballparks ago at the old Fulton County Stadium. I was 9 years old and had only been a baseball fan a few months dating back to October ‘86 when the Mets played the Red Sox in the World Series. We were on our way to a family vacation in Florida, but my parents graciously planned our trip so that we could go see my team play on the way to the beach.
On that scorching hot Georgia day in July of ‘87, I proudly wore my Gary Carter #8 Mets jersey, along with my white baseball pants from Little League. I was all decked out and ready just in case they needed me to fill-in! The stadium was humongous. Being from a small town, I had never seen something so big in all my life. My team (then) was fresh off a World Series title, I had just started collecting baseball cards and my favorite player Darryl Strawberry was playing right field for the Mets.
Then the game got rained out.
I was devastated! We had been planning this for months. This was my team. This was my favorite player. But then a torrential downpour washed it out! Fortunately, on our way back home from vacation we were able to exchange our rainout tickets to see my “first official game” as the Braves took on the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, July 11, 1987. Future hall of famer Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt hit a home run along with Phillies 1B Von Hayes that night, but the hometown Braves won 5-4. It wasn’t my Mets, but it was my first game! (click here for the box score)
I didn’t get a red sticker that day, nor did I expect baseball to still be intersecting my life now three decades later, but what I got was something that no one could ever take back – my first major league baseball game!
When was your first game? Who was playing and what happened? Do you still have the ticket stub or have you ever gone to baseball-reference.com to look at the box score? Go find it! It’s so much fun as it will tell you the batting order, pitching line, final score, attendance, the umpires, how long the game lasted and more!
I can’t wait to pass out more red stickers to rookies on upcoming adventures. If you’ve never been to a big league baseball game before, come with me, I’d love to give you a red sticker and I’ll tell you what, because you read this story I’ll buy you a hot dog and a box of cracker jacks to go along with it.
August 2019, Atlanta – The ten first timers from the East Commerce Baptist trip
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Mark Jent is the chief trip planner and designated storyteller for Simply A Fan. He lives in Nashville with his wife Beth, and their three kids, Brooklyn, Harrison and Zach. He enjoys cheering on his Dodgers, reading baseball history, hiking at Radnor Lake and chasing waterfalls throughout Tennessee with his family. He launched Simply A Fan in July 2018 with the two-fold purpose of taking people on adventures to ballparks across the country and providing fans a platform to share their baseball stories. He is currently on a quest to meet as many of the living Brooklyn Dodgers as possible.