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Young ball players eat up their time with Sid Bream

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Camren Jones, a junior third baseman for the Cordova High School Wolfpack, gets a photo made with former Atlanta Braves star Sid Bream on Sunday, May 1, at Easthill Baptist Church in Bartlett.

Former Atlanta Braves baseball star Sid Bream engaged several dozen young ball players at Easthill Baptist Church in Bartlett on Sunday, May 1, giving personal advice on how to get better, signing autographs, and professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

Bream played for the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros for a season in an 11-year MLB career, but is best known for “The Slide.” He recounted that moment in 1992 for the audience at Easthill, playing a short video clip of his slide into home base in Game 7 of the NLCS that lifted the Braves into the World Series.

The Braves entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-0 to the Pirates in the decisive seventh game of the NLCS series. Bream was walked on four pitches by Doug Drabek, who happened to be the godfather of his children, and eventually found himself on second base. The bases were loaded, there were two outs, and the Braves trailed 2-1. Francisco Cabrera hit a drive into leftfield where Barry Bonds tracked down the ball and prepared to come home with the throw.

Bream, who was certainly not known for his speed, said he never hesitated and rounded third heading for the plate. He slid, touching home base just before the catcher’s tag, and the Braves were headed to the World Series. 

“I shifted down a little so it could be that close at home,” Bream joked about striding down the third-base line.

“God had it all planned out. That’s why I’m here with you today,” he said.

He gained much fame from that safe slide into home 30 years ago, and today is using that notoriety to influence young players and encourage audiences where he speaks to follow Christ and embrace what the Bible teaches.

Some teams represented at the Easthill gathering and banquet were the Cordova High School Wolfpack, and the Athletics, Cubs, Crushers, Cardinals, and Bears of the Bartlett Little League. 

Wolfpack head coach Dee Warner handed out season awards to his players and spoke about how important character and work ethic are to getting better.

Bream, wearing a bright red Braves jersey, had been a Pittsburgh Pirate and became a free agent in 1991. The Braves made a good offer for him, he said, but he wanted to keep playing for the Pirates, who had gained a lot of momentum in his five years there and were winning again. But the Pirates never acted to keep Bream. 

“I cried my eyes out that night. Me and my wife both cried our eyes out,” he said.

Some Pirate fans were so angry at his departure he received death threats, Bream said, but he was never going to let those threats affect him. Pirate fans even gave him a standing ovation when he hit a home run against them. 

“That was the only home run I hit over the centerfield wall of the 90 home runs in my career,” Bream said. 

He recounted many other memories for the audience, even playing from his cell phone the call by announcer Vin Scully when Bream got his first hit as a Major League baseball player for Los Angeles. 

At the banquet at Easthill after his talk, Bream signed autographs and fielded questions from the young ball players, ranging in age from high school seniors to 4- and 5-year-olds. Here is a brief recap of some questions and Bream’s answers:

What was it like to have Deion Sanders as a teammate?

He was always very energetic and focused on learning. It was always a conversation about learning and getting better.

Was there a specific coach who had the greatest impact on your career?

Al Worthington, my coach at Liberty University, was by far the greatest influence on my game, but I also appreciated Jim Leland, my manager in Pittsburgh. What you want out of a coach is the truth. You don’t want someone who is going to blow wind up your skirt. One thing I admired about Bobby Cox (Braves manager) is in team meetings he would allow me and Terry Pendleton to sit down with each player and get things out in the open.

Thoughts on hitting to the opposite field?

If you can hit it to all fields, they can’t pigeon-hole you into where you are hitting the ball, they have to play you the whole field… that’s one of the things that’s messed up with the game of baseball today. You have players who are only thinking of themselves and not thinking about team. You have someone on second with no outs, they are not worried about getting that guy over to third base anymore. You should give yourself up and move that runner to third, having faith that the guy behind you will bring him in. That’s how you build a team. Nobody knows how to bunt anymore.

On Tommy Lasorda?

He was my manager in Los Angeles. I would say I’m not a big Tommy Lasorda fan. Tommy was great in front of a camera, but off the camera he was one who would belittle anybody that wasn’t his favorite. You see that in coaches today in college, you see it in high school some, but coaches never need to belittle their players.

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