rainn.png
Saturday June 19th, 2021 11:31PM

Baseball gathers behind home plate to honor Hammerin' Hank

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Snitker choked back tears as he remembered Hank Aaron’s affection for those who didn’t possess his unparalleled talent on the baseball field.

During his post-playing career running the Atlanta Braves farm system, the Hammer had a penchant for looking beyond the can’t-miss prospects.

“He always wanted to move a player up, and he preferred that it wasn’t the so-called bonus babies," said Snitker, who has managed the Braves since 2016 and got his start in the dugout thanks to Aaron. "He wanted to get that grinder guy, the guy who was overachieving.”

Snitker was among those who spoke Tuesday at a memorial service honoring Aaron, who died last week from natural causes at the age of 86.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and former Braves outfielder Marquis Grissom were among those who spoke at the ceremony, which was held before a small, socially distanced crowd — including Aaron’s widow, Billye, and other family members — on the concourse directly behind home plate at Truist Park.

The remarks were delivered in an exhibit known as Monument Garden, which prominently features a statue of Aaron delivering the swing that produced 755 homers.

Others sent videotaped tributes, including Baseball Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, one-time Aaron teammate and current Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman, and former Braves great Dale Murphy, who captured back-to-back MVP awards in the 1980s.

Aaron’s famed No. 44 was painted in the dormant grass of center field. Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk noted the unseasonably warm January weather — the temperature climbed into the upper 60s — as a sign from above honoring one of the game’s greatest icons.

Noting the 10 Baseball of Famers who have died in the past year, Manfred said Aaron “belongs on our sport’s Mount Rushmore. He stood — on and off the field — above all others.”

Most of the remembrances focused on Aaron’s humbleness and the impact he made after retiring as a player in 1976. Few spoke about him being the one who famously eclipsed Babe Ruth’s home run record, or the unprecedented, two-decade-long run of sustained excellence that helped him establish several other marks that still stand today.

Snitker remembered being a non-descript minor leaguer who got a shot at another calling when Aaron offered him his first managing job in 1982 with the Anderson Braves, a team in the Class A Sally League.

“The reason I’m here today is because of Hank Aaron,” Snitker said, pausing to maintain his composure.

Snitker toiled in minor league obscurity through most of his coaching and managing career before finally getting the call to become Braves skipper at age 60. Since then, he has guided the team to three straight NL East titles, earning NL Manager of the Year honors in 2018.

“I’ll miss the times he used to stop by, come by my office and we could just sit and talk,” Snitker said. “I’ll miss the friend and the mentor that I had in my life."

Jones recalled how Aaron pushed the Braves to select him with No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 amateur draft, when many considered pitcher Todd Van Poppel to be the leading prospect.

“Hank was very instrumental in me becoming an Atlanta Brave,” Jones said. “The room of Braves decision-makers was split on who they were going to take with their first pick. As legendary scout Paul Snyder once told me, the vote came around to Hank. He paused, looked at everybody in the room, and he said, ‘Y'all better draft that Jones boy.’ I’ll never forget that. That comment must’ve carried some weight.”

Van Poppel didn’t do much in the big leagues, finishing with a 40-52 record. Jones spent his entire career with the Braves and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2018.

Jones said he once asked Aaron — who played in an era with dominating pitchers such as Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal — if he was ever intimidated at the plate.

“He said, ‘Chipper, I fear no man when I have a bat in my hand,'” Jones said, breaking into a smile.

According to former Braves third baseman, Aaron could be summed up in one word.

Beautiful.

“His swing, his smile, his spirit,” Jones said. “They were all beautiful.”

A private funeral service for Aaron will be held Wednesday. He will be buried at historic South-View Cemetery, the city's oldest Black cemetery, where he will be interred alongside civil rights leaders such as John Lewis, Julian Bond and Martin Luther King Sr.

The Braves plan to honor Aaron during the upcoming season. McGuirk announced the first of those initiatives: a $1 million donation to establish the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, which will work to increase minority participation among players, managers, coaches and front-office personnel.

That was an issue that Aaron took a keen issue in throughout his life. He often criticized the lack of Black managers and general managers in Major League Baseball. He fretted fewer African-Americans were playing the game.

The Braves donation will be matched by $500,000 apiece from both MLB and the players’ association.

Manfred pointed to a “strong desire to continue with the good work he did throughout his life, particularly with encouraging minority participation in baseball.”

Grissom said he'll always remember the advice Aaron gave him during his college days at Florida A&M, when the team got an impromptu tour of the Hammer's Atlanta home on the way to a game in North Carolina.

“If you get an opportunity, do your very best," Grissom recalled Aaron saying. “Those words stuck with me. They lit a fire in me that is still lit today.”

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Major League Baseball, AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Baseball gathers behind home plate to honor Hammerin' Hank
Emotions ran high today as baseball came together at Truist Park to honor to life and legacy of Hank Aaron
3:46PM ( 4 minutes ago )
AP sources: Phillies, Realmuto agree on $115.5 million deal
Two people familiar with the deal tell The Associated Press that the Philadelphia Phillies and two-time All-Star catcher J
3:30PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Senate rejects GOP motion to dismiss Trump impeachment trial
The Senate has rejected a Republican attempt to dismiss Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, a vote that allows the case on “incitement of insurrection” to move forward but also foreshadows that there may not be enough votes to convict him
3:29PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Chelsea hires Thomas Tuchel as manager on 18-month contract
Chelsea has hired Thomas Tuchel as manager on an 18-month contract to replace the fired Frank Lampard
2:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Chiefs coach Reid's patience in struggling players pays off
Mecole Hardman could have become an afterthought the rest of the AFC title game after a fumbled punt gave the Buffalo Bills an easy touchdown
2:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Spurs-Pelicans game called off, as NBA's virus woes continue
San Antonio’s game in New Orleans was called off in the latest virus-related postponement for the NBA, one that came when the league determined that neither team would have enough players available
1:13PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Cactus League asks MLB to delay spring training due to COVID
The Cactus League and Arizona community leaders have asked Major League Baseball to delay the start of spring training due to coronavirus concerns just over three weeks before pitchers and catchers are supposed to report
9:11PM ( 18 hours ago )
Brantley rejoins Astros to complete unfinished business
Michael Brantley is back with the Houston Astros after signing a two-year, $32 million contract
8:23PM ( 19 hours ago )
'No Hard Feelings': Patriots fans still rooting for Brady
Patriots fans are sticking with Tom Brady even though he's now playing for Tampa Bay
7:05PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
Yankees get Jameson Taillon from Pirates for 4 prospects
The New York Yankees have made a second offseason addition to their starting rotation, acquiring Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four prospects
2:17PM ( 2 days ago )
Springer, Blue Jays finalize $150M, 6-year contract
All-Star outfielder George Springer has finalized his $150 million, six-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the most prominent free agent to reach an agreement this offseason
7:46PM ( 2 days ago )
Aaron's death prompts call to change name: Braves to Hammers
As his adopted hometown mourned Hank Aaron’s death, some fans called on the Atlanta Braves to change their name to the Hammers in his honor
2:29PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
AP sources: Phillies, Realmuto agree on $115.5 million deal
Two people familiar with the deal tell The Associated Press that the Philadelphia Phillies and two-time All-Star catcher J
3:30PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Senate rejects GOP motion to dismiss Trump impeachment trial
The Senate has rejected a Republican attempt to dismiss Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, a vote that allows the case on “incitement of insurrection” to move forward but also foreshadows that there may not be enough votes to convict him
3:29PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Schumer: Democrats must pass virus aid with or without GOP
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats are prepared to push ahead with President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package
3:28PM ( 21 minutes ago )
EU approves more state aid to boost car batteries industry
The European Union has approved 2.9 billion euros in subsidies from 12 member countries to develop a project aiming at developing the electric battery industry
3:24PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Packers' Rodgers clarifies postgame remarks about his future
All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers says that “I don’t think there’s any reason why I wouldn’t be back” with the Green Bay Packers next season
3:21PM ( 29 minutes ago )