I just recently turned 21, and I can honestly say I have been an Atlanta Braves' fan my entire life. From telling people my name was David Justice when I was three and four, to listening to Braves' games through earphones on the radio late at night when I was nine and ten.
The Braves have been ingrained in my life since the beginning. I have witnessed many good times as well as bad, from winning 13 pennants in a row and one World Series, to a five-year playoff drought.
Through all the good and bad memories, different players and uniforms, pennants and struggling to make third place, there was one thing you could always be certain of -- Bobby Cox would be sitting in the dugout. As I watched this year's Braves season end with a disappointing loss in the first- round of the playoffs, I couldn't help that a few tears came into my eyes as I watched Cox walk around Turner field one last time. Whether it was knowing when to put in a crucial pinch-hitter, take out or leave a pitcher in, or take young players under his wing and mold them into stars, Cox was the driving force behind the Braves for 25 years. He was arguably the greatest manager in Major League Baseball history and certainly a future Hall-of-Famer. I never had the privilege of meeting Cox. But, I had the honor of meeting several of his former players and heard them speak about him. All of them had nothing but respect for him. According to his players, he was a very encouraging man. He always lifted his players up and protected them, either with a "you'll get 'em next time, kid" or getting ejected from the game because he felt an umpire wronged one of them.
Those who played for Bobby Cox knew he would stand up for them.
This year's team was the most exciting I have seen since the early 90s' teams. They actually were excited to win and fought for it; and, all that is thanks to Bobby Cox. He took a team that wasn't the most talented and had a lot of young players, and taught them how to win. If it wasn't for a few crucial injuries, who knows what might have happened this year.
At the end of the season, Bobby passed the torch to former assistant coach and former Florida Marlins' manager, Freddie Gonzalez. I don't know much about Gonzalez, but I know he has some big shoes to fill.
On behalf of Braves' fans everywhere, I would like to say thank-you Bobby Cox for all the memories. And, good luck to Freddie Gonzalez in making some of his own.