Seated next to me at the Atlanta Braves game on Tuesday night was a true fan hailing from Cedartown, Ga. He cheered on the home team with a distinct Northwest Georgia accent that would blend in at one of my family reunions.

Like me, he knew (better than the future Hall of Fame manager who led the team to a record 14 consecutive division titles) exactly what the Braves should be doing at every point of decision making. We talked about all aspects of the current game and recalled players of yesteryear like Ralph “the Roadrunner” Garr and Rico “Big Boy” Carty.

Before the game, a young rapper known as Big Boi stirred the cheering crowd out in the outfield plaza. He was a true fan of the home team as well. A Savannah, Ga., native who came to Atlanta to study music in high school, he showed a solid knowledge of baseball.

Big Boi has been hangin’ with Braves rookie phenom Jason Heyward recently, he acknowledged. The former member of the hip hop duo Outkast spoke the language of baseball with an urban sound.

The absence of a time clock and the unique nuances of the game are not the only attributes that separate baseball from lesser sports. It has a broad appeal that crosses racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines.

Whether one cheers in Spanish or Japanese — or in English with tints of the Bronx, Boston or Birmingham — the sounds resonate with the movement of the game. And whether one enjoys the comfort of private, corporate-funded luxury boxes or rides the backless bleachers beyond the fences, the status of fan has more to do with a keen understanding of the game and an allegiance to the team than those superficial factors.

There are few places, including churches, where such diversity is routinely found. The ballpark is common ground — for Big Boi, good old boys and anyone else who grasps the joy of the national pastime.

[ABOVE: Big Boi (a.k.a. Daddy Fat Sacks), born the year after Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, gets Atlanta Braves fans going before last Tuesday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo by John Pierce, to prove to his daughters that his musical knowledge exceeds Haggard, Jones and Cash.]

Share This