Mary Harrison, Campus Carrier sports editor

Collin McHugh (07C) signed on with the
Atlanta Braves in 2022 for his 10th season
as a pitcher in MLB. Men’s Baseball Head
Coach David Beasley coached McHugh.

Major League Baseball (MLB) completed its 2022 season on Saturday, Nov. 5, as the Houston Astros clinched a 4-2 win of the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although the Atlanta Braves did not repeat their championship win this year, getting knocked out in the quarterfinals by the Phillies, some baseball fans on campus have worked jobs or known players within the Braves organization that keeps them invested in the team, regardless of each season’s outcome.

David Beasley, who has been head coach Berry’s baseball team for 25 years, has seen 11 Vikings sign on with MLB-affiliated professional clubs during his career, but Collin McHugh (07C) is the only one, as of yet, to play in the major leagues.

“[McHugh] continued to develop as he continued to play,” Beasley said. “I’m super proud of him because he had a goal, a dream, he chased it, and he reached it, and that’s the American way.”

McHugh’s 10-year tenure in the majors has included playing for the Astros in their last World Series win prior to Saturday, in 2017, but the Georgia native signed on as a relief, or backup, pitcher with the Braves, his hometown team, for the 2022 season.

“I’ve been a Braves fan for as long as I can remember, which has been a long time,” McHugh told MLB writer Mark Bowman in March. “There’s a lot of who I am today that is that way because the Braves were competitive when I was growing up. It’s like the arc of my career is full circle right now.”

Beasley said that while some Braves fans may have just become excited about McHugh now that he is playing with the Braves, he has followed McHugh through his entire major league career, including his first pitch for the New York Mets.

“I’ve been proud of him the whole time,” Beasley said. “It’s pretty neat when you watch Houston play and one of your players is on the field.”

The Braves also maintain a unique connection with the Berry community because the organization’s minor league affiliate team is located in Rome, less than two miles from Valhalla Stadium.

Ron Taylor, a Berry mathematics professor, remembers a time before the stadium was built. In fact, in his first election as a Georgia resident in 2000, he voted “yes” on a proposition to bring the Braves minor league affiliate to Rome.

AdventHealth Stadium opened three years later, and Taylor, who has been an Atlanta Braves fan since childhood, became the team’s first official scorer, recording the outcome of each play in the game. Taylor said this job gave him a front row seat to the baseball career beginnings of many players who went on to have successful major league careers.

“That’s nice, to see the stars of tomorrow,” Taylor said. “It was really cool to, look back at the score sheet and go, ‘I know that guy’s in the [National Baseball] Hall of Fame now, but I’ve got a score sheet that’s got his name on there when he was brand new.’”

Although Taylor grew up in West Virginia, he has cheered for the Braves since he could first watch the games through cable television channels, as a young teenager. Taylor said that he remained an occasional baseball fan until after he earned his undergraduate degree, when he began coaching little league baseball and learned how to score games.

Taylor worked as an official scorer for the Rome Braves until 2010 and said that afterwards he returned to being more of a causal baseball fan. Taylor is no fair-weather Braves fan, but he said major league action piqued his interest again last summer, as the Braves grew “hot,” or began winning many games, as they approached their 2021 World Series win.

“It was like ‘okay, the team I’ve been following my whole life is now in position to do the thing they haven’t done since 1995,’” Taylor said, referring to the Braves third-ever national champion title.

Railey Borman, a junior and Rome native, said that, as a Georgia resident, she has always considered the Atlanta Braves to be her MLB team. However, Borman did not follow baseball or understand its scoring until last summer, when she began working in the Rome Braves stadium as an attendant to the VIP suites up to six days a week.

“My love for the Atlanta Braves just kind of grew exponentially,” Borman said. “I saw the potential in certain players to move up, and I started realizing, ‘Oh my gosh, one day I might see the guys I’m seeing right now in the big leagues.’”

Borman also worked one game at Truist Park, the Braves’ home stadium in Atlanta, during the 2021 World Series. Similar to her time in the minor league stadium, Borman said that behind-the-scenes experience helped her to appreciate her time in Atlanta when she returned this season, her first time as a self-described diehard fan, to watch a game against the Boston Red Sox.

“I can see what’s going on behind the scenes,” Borman said. “I understand how it works, how it operates a little better, so as a fan, it was really cool to watch.”

Becoming invested in the Braves for the first time during their championship season set the team on a pedestal in her eyes, Borman said, which made their playoff loss this season harder to watch. However, Borman said her excitement as a Braves fan, fostered by her time behind the scenes, extends beyond the team’s record, as exhibited by her experience at the game against the Red Sox.

“The fun part is I don’t even remember whether we won or not, that’s how exciting the whole experience was,” Borman said. “Because sometimes you don’t even have to win to have a good time.”

Borman added later, “But there is still hope for next year.”

Posted by Campus Carrier

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