The rain didn’t stop Tina Shamlian’s drive from Savannah to the Holy City so she could talk to former Atlanta Braves players with an envelope full of pictures she had developed at Walmart.
At this point, Shamlian is on a first name-basis with many of the former Braves. So she wasn’t too starstruck Friday when fans got to meet about 20 Braves and New York Yankees legends at Riley Park.
“I’ve gotten to know several of them through a fan program I’m in that allows me to meet the players,” she said about an hour before the Charleston RiverDogs had to cancel the annual Legends in the South game.
The field was too wet for gameplay, but fans were still treated to time with the players, who signed bats, hats and other memorabilia.
Talking to Braves legend Steve Avery was a treat for Shamlian and fellow Savannah resident Rob Kramer, who attended the meet-and-greet with his nephew, Lucian.
He’s actually a Boston Red Sox fan, so Rob remembers jumping for joy when Avery left Atlanta in 1997 and signed with his team. By that time, Avery had become an All-Star and captured a World Series ring with the Braves in his seven years in Georgia.
“I just came to see him and all the ones that played for the Red Sox,” he unapologetically admitted. “And Avery was such a great pitcher, so we were lucky to get him.”
For Avery, the fan experience brought him back to the glory days of hearing the applause at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
“It’s really cool for us, especially for me getting to come down from Michigan,” he said. “To see my old teammates, and kind of revisit that atmosphere is really fun for me.”
It wasn’t just Braves fans interacting with the players on the top level of the stadium.
Local resident Rob Wise shook hands with former pitcher Ramiro Mendoza, and catcher Jim Leyritz – two players who helped the Yankees return to glory when they won the World Series in 1996.
That championship season stands out among the others for Wise.
“They provided great entertainment and fun for me, especially after suffering through the late 1960s as a kid,” he said. “Seeing them get back to winning baseball was a proud moment.”
Former Yankees pitcher Willie Banks missed that 1996 run, but he was there for part of the team’s 1998 championship season.
Embracing his South Carolina roots, Banks said it was great being back in Charleston, just 75 miles away from where a lot of his family lives in Kingstree.
“Any time you get a chance to be back in a stadium, it’s better than heaven,” he said. “These fans make it all worth it.”