July 15, 2024

Hall of Famer Bobby Cox’s rare visit to Truist Park stirs emotions of Braves players, fans

ATLANTA — When Bobby Cox made a rare visit to the ballpark Saturday night, there were many Braves team officials, coaches and fans with moist eyes when the legendary former manager stood and waved to a sellout crowd that gave the 83-year-old Hall of Fame manager and Atlanta icon a long standing ovation during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It was only the second game Cox attended at Truist Park since suffering a stroke in April 2019. His other visit came in 2020 when he watched from Braves chairman Terry McGuirk’s suite in an empty ballpark during the pandemic.

Saturday’s visit was a much happier occasion for everyone. Cox stopped by the clubhouse before the 5-1 win, meeting players who knew of him but had never met him. While Cox’s right arm remains paralyzed and his speech limited, he was in good spirits and seemed as thrilled to see the players as they were to meet him.

“It was awesome,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, a close friend of Cox, his mentor and former boss. “I brought him in the clubhouse. You don’t realize, none of these guys had ever met him. Once he had his stroke, it’s all these new guys (since then). Everybody went up and introduced themselves, we took a team picture. It was awesome.

“I think he had a great time. I know Pam (his wife) did. That was really special.”

Braves first baseman Matt Olson, an Atlanta-area native who grew up a Braves fan, smiled as he described meeting the man he watched guide the Braves during his childhood.

“My first time meeting him, to be able to shake his hand — I told him he was a legend,” Olson said. “Just a cool moment. I always saw him running the show here growing up, so it was really cool for me.”

“Oh, super cool,” said Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, who had a home run and three RBIs and was glad the Braves could win the game with Cox present. “He came into the clubhouse. We all said hi to him and took a cool picture. It was phenomenal. Happy to see him doing good.

“We talked, he told me, ‘Hey, good to see you, Ozzie,’ and ‘Keep playing hard.’”

A statue of former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox outside of Truist Park. (Simon Bruty / Sports Illustrated / Getty Images)

Snitker, who shared details of Cox’s visit to the clubhouse, has seen Cox regularly since the stroke, first in the hospital, then in a rehab center, and eventually at his home in the northern Atlanta suburbs.

“He had a few more words, really,” Snitker said of what Cox was able to say. “I could tell he knew who the players were. He had a really cool reaction when Chris Sale came up and introduced himself. He saw Austin (Riley) and said something about picking (groundballs), and as soon as Ozzie walked in he said his name.”

Like Olson, Marcell Ozuna is one of the veteran players on the team who was most familiar with Cox’s impact on the Braves.

“It’s cool to meet that legend,” Ozuna said. “Lot of World Series and a lot of winning titles in this organization. He’s one of the special guys for the organization. I feel happy for him, that he’s still alive and that he can recognize everyone.”

Pam Cox stood next to her husband in the private suite where some family members, plus McGuirk and a few others, watched the game. When Cox was shown on the large video board in center field, dramatic music played and the stadium P.A. announcer asked the crowd to greet “the very best manager in the history of the game, our beloved No. 6, Bobby Cox.”

Fans and media weren’t made aware that Cox would be at the game, and when he appeared on the video board, the ovation was immediate and grew louder. Pam Cox fought back tears, as did countless fans who could be seen wiping their eyes as Cox stood, smiling and waving. His No. 6, retired by the Braves, was shown on the board as the ovation continued.

“We were talking and I said, this place is gonna go nuts when they see him,” said Snitker, who stood in the dugout and clapped, doing his best to fight back emotions as well. “They did a great job with the presentation. I’m glad he experienced that because hopefully, he’ll come back. Everybody loved seeing him. Holy cow, that was pretty special.”

(Photo: Matthew Grimes Jr. / Atlanta Braves / Getty Images)