Hundreds of thousands fans celebrate Braves title in parade

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA- The Atlanta Braves were cheered by hundreds of thousands of fans in a two-stage parade on Friday celebrating the team’s first World Series championship since 1995.

Some area schools closed, and students seized the opportunity to attend the event.

“That’s what the fun part of this is,” Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said. “Every block it was just kids and it was all kids. Never, never did I expect to see that many little guys.”

The parade started in downtown Atlanta, near the Braves’ former home at Turner Field. The route took the busses, floats and pickup trucks past a memorial to late Hall of Famer Hank Aaron at the site of old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The procession then headed to Peachtree Street, where fans packed sidewalks several rows deep.

Atlanta police estimated 300,000 to 400,000 fans attended the downtown portion of the parade.

The fan turnout was similarly strong for the final mile of the parade, which ended at the Braves’ current Truist Park in suburban Cobb County. The stadium was filled. Thousands more fans packed the mixed-entertainment complex outside the stadium.

The Braves were lured to Cobb County by tax incentives and the ability to build a complex of dining, shopping, apartments and entertainment adjacent to the new stadium, which opened in 2017.

McGuirk said he thought “there were well more than a million people” overall.

“This city has lost its mind and it’s so wonderful to be a part of it,” McGuirk said.

The Braves clinched the World Series by beating the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, a native of Marietta in suburban Atlanta, had a hometown perspective on the fans’ 26-year wait to celebrate another championship.

“This city has been wanting a championship for a long time,” Swanson said. “It’s just so cool they let schools out. To see kids be able to enjoy this moment and be inspired by this moment, it’s second to none.”

Despite temperatures in the mid-40s at the start of the parade, Braves outfielder Joc Pederson wore shorts. Most of his teammates and fans in the street bundled up.

Pederson stayed warm by remaining active. Wearing a pearl necklace and puffing on a cigar, Pederson tossed more pearl necklaces to the fans as if he were in a Mardi Gras parade on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Pederson also won the World Series last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he said this was his first parade.

“This is incredible,” Pederson said. “The turnout is unreal. I didn’t expect anything less. The A-T-L is the best. … I’ll remember it forever. It’s a special moment.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker rode in the back of a pickup truck with his wife, Ronnie. Snitker described the fan turnout as “insane.” He said riding in the parade was “phenomenal. … I’m so proud of our city and Braves country. What a day.”

Aaron’s wife, Billye, said at the Truist Park celebration that Hank, who died on Jan. 22, “is here with us. He loved the Atlanta Braves and I am so very, very happy to see these young men who have picked up the mantle and carried it on.”

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, unable to attend Game 6 because he tested positive for COVID-19, spoke at the ceremony from a luxury suite and said “Flags fly forever, 2021 will fly forever!”

Fans at the stadium were encouraged by broadcaster Joe Simpson to participate in the controversial tomahawk chop chant.

The celebration at the stadium included a free concert featuring Atlanta rappers Ludacris and Big Boi.

Report: Brandon Nimmo staying with Mets on 8-year, $162M deal

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the free-spending New York Mets, agreeing to an eight-year, $162 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is subject to a successful physical and no announcement had been made.

A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a .385 career on-base percentage, Nimmo became a free agent last month for the first time. He was a key performer as the Mets returned to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2016.

The left-handed hitter batted .274 with 16 homers and a team-high 102 runs, a career high. He also set career bests with 64 RBIs and 151 games played. His seven triples tied for most in the National League.

Bringing back Nimmo means New York is poised to return its entire everyday lineup intact from a team that tied for fifth in the majors in runs and won 101 regular-season games – second-most in franchise history.

But the Mets remain busy replenishing a pitching staff gutted by free agency, including Jacob deGrom‘s departure for Texas and Taijuan Walker‘s deal with Philadelphia that was pending a physical.

On the final day of baseball’s winter meetings Wednesday, the Mets completed an $86.7 million, two-year contract with former Houston ace Justin Verlander that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. New York also retained All-Star closer Edwin Diaz last month with a $102 million, five-year contract, and the team has a $26 million, two-year agreement in place with veteran starter Jose Quintana, pending a physical.

Those moves add to a payroll that was the largest in the majors last season. Under owner Steve Cohen, who bought the Mets in November 2020, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.

Nimmo was selected by New York with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He declined a $19.65 million qualifying offer from the Mets last month.

The 29-year-old Wyoming native made his big league debut in 2016. He is a .269 career hitter with 63 homers, 213 RBIs and 23 triples in 608 games. He has an .827 career OPS and has improved his play in center, becoming a solid defender.

Nimmo’s new deal with the Mets was first reported by the New York Post.