WASHINGTON -- It's not often that the Atlanta Braves win an extra-innings thriller in the City of Brotherly Love one afternoon, then head 140 miles south to the nation's capital to get an earful of praise from the world's most famous Philadelphia Phillies fan the next morning.
Yet that once-in-a-lifetime sequence occurred Sunday and Monday for the first Braves team to win it all in 26 long years. Missing a few pieces, most of the 2021 World Series champion Braves – and several key new additions – ditched their jerseys for tailored suits, toured the White House, and heard President Joe Biden sing their praises to a packed East Room at the Executive Mansion.
The pomp and circumstance came after the Braves beat the Phillies 8-7 in 11 innings with both teams fighting for playoff leverage as October comes quickly. During the ceremony, President Biden said he told the Braves that First Lady Jill Biden is a typical "Philly girl...convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else."
Naturally, he joked, he had to "be careful how nice I am to these guys today."
President Biden then gamely told America what Braves Country knows well.
"The Braves will be forever remembered for the unstoppable, joyful run that this team made last year," President Biden said to team staff, Atlanta leaders, Georgia U.S. House members of both parties and other visitors. "Atlanta is a great ... American sports city. And the Braves are a big reason for that."
A few departed 2021 Braves, including all-everything first baseman Freddie Freeman (now with the Dodgers), team spirit animal Joc Pederson (Giants) and clutch home-run-hitter Jorge Soler (Marlins), did not make the trip. But their presence was felt, especially when Biden chronicled the adversity the team overcame.
He went through the list: Hank Aaron's difficult passing in January. Injuries and inconsistency to start the season. A sub-.500 44-45 record before the All-Star Break. A totally rebuilt outfield, practically overnight.
"Play by play, inning by inning, you grinded and you ground it out, and you did it together," Biden said. The 2021 squad listened to the President on risers at his back as new Braves such as Michael Harris II, Vaughn Grissom and Sunday relief-pitcher hero and Alabama native Jackson Stephens sat in the crowd.
The Braves made several players available to discuss their experiences after their time browsing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Third baseman Austin Riley confirmed: "They rolled out the red carpet for us."
Meanwhile, newly ensconced 20-game winner Kyle Wright, a pitcher and former American Studies major at Vanderbilt, loved the history he saw, marveling at "being at the building and all that's gone on there."
"One of the most exciting moments I've had in my life so far – meeting the president and just seeing around the White House," second baseman Ozzie Albies said before mentioning he only has another week and a half in a cast to repair a right pinky finger he fractured after fighting his way back from a broken left foot. "You always watch it in the movies and stuff, so seeing it in real-life was fun."
And while they enjoyed looking around and thinking back to 2021, the players were decidedly forward-looking in tone. After all, they are here in Washington as heavy favorites in a three-game series against the cellar-dwelling Nationals with a critical series looming this weekend at Truist Park against the NL East-leading Mets.
And don't forget the postseason.
"You want to do it again," Albies said with a smile. "One is not enough."
Chris Carroll is a Chattanooga native and former Times Free Press reporter residing in Washington, DC. You can reach him at ChrisCarroll887@gmail.com.