CARSLBAD, Calif. — Stuck at home while his team wrapped up a World Series championship last week in Houston, Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos wasn't sure how to celebrate when his two children offered an idea.
"They wanted us to pull out the Sprite and spray it all over the place," he said.
The age-appropriate bubbly was a no-go on a school night, but the Anthopoulos family found other ways to be festive after he was forced to quarantine at home with COVID-19 as the Braves ended Atlanta's 26-year championship drought in North America's four major sports leagues.
One week later, Anthopoulos arrived at the MLB general managers' meetings in Southern California on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he smiled wide while recounting the days surrounding the big win.
Anthopoulos, who is vaccinated, had a sniffly nose and tested positive for the coronavirus on the morning of Game 4 in Atlanta on Oct. 30. The Braves won that night, but the Houston Astros survived with a Game 5 victory that sent the World Series back to Texas. Anthopoulos stayed at home while the team traveled to Houston for Game 6 with a chance to clinch.
The 44-year-old said he was a nervous wreck at the start of what wound up being the deciding matchup on Nov. 2, telling wife Cristina he wanted to go for a drive instead of watching the first pitch. She talked him out of that plan, but when Atlanta put runners at first and second in the first inning, Anthopoulos grabbed the remote and turned his attention to hockey, watching an NHL matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vegas Knights.
"As I have gotten older, I have a harder time watching a game that's close," he said, adding he couldn't shake off thoughts about the 3-1 series lead the Braves blew in the 2020 National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons' infamous collapse from a 28-3 edge to lose Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots in overtime in February 2017.
Anthopoulos tuned back in time to see Jorge Soler's three-run homer in the third inning — he shouted loud enough to wake his 11-year-old daughter, Julia. His anxiety eased when Atlanta led 6-0 through five innings, and 9-year-old John was pulled out of bed in the eighth with the team by then up 7-0, the final margin.
"We counted down the outs," Anthopoulos recalled. "We just kind of yelled and cheered."
No Sprite, though. The kids were put to bed, and Anthopoulos returned to the TV, eager to watch postgame interviews with players and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. A few people FaceTimed him from the field, and he said he stayed up until around 5:30 a.m. responding to some 400 text messages and even more emails.
His last act before turning in was jotting down notes with memories from the playoff run.
"You want to soak all that up," he said.
Anthopoulos' family got its own truck during the team's championship parade last Friday, and he addressed a crowd at Truist Park from a suite while the team partied on the field.
A day later, the family returned to empty Truist Park and took photos on the field with the World Series trophy.
"It's really heavy," he said. "Really, really heavy."
Anthopoulos has been praised by peers this week for a string of moves at the trade deadline that pushed the sub-.500 Braves back into postseason contention and set up their run to a fourth straight NL East Division championship and the World Series.
He added outfielders Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Soler in July, and the quartet crushed it down the stretch. Duvall led the NL in RBIs, Pederson was central to the Braves beating the Milwaukee Brewers in an NL Division Series, Rosario was MVP of the NLCS against the Dodgers and Soler was named World Series MVP.
"Yeah, that was impressive. Alex did an extraordinary job," said Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who traded Rosario, injured at the time, to the Braves.
Said Philadelphia Phillies president Dave Dombrowski: "Alex, they did a phenomenal job with their acquisitions."
Anthopoulos is a Montreal native who was the Toronto Blue Jays' GM from 2009 to 2015 and took over in Atlanta four years ago. This week he received the John Schuerholz Award, which is given to GMs who serve at least 10 years in the role. Schuerholz was GM of the Braves from 1990 to 2007.
The Braves have since pivoted quickly into offseason mode. Anthopoulos said the team will try to re-sign veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is now a free agent, and he also has to once again reconfigure the outfield with Pederson, Rosario and Soler no longer under contract.
Anthopoulos is not quite done with the party yet, though. He excited to visit the White House and looking forward to taking the trophy back to Canada over the holidays, joking that he and Braves pitcher Mike Soroka, a fellow Canadian, should arrange a visit with the prime minister in Ottawa.
Anthopoulos is the first Canadian GM to win the MLB title.
"I want to bring it to my family to see it, my wife's family to see it, that will be really cool," he said. "You're reminded what it means to a lot of people in the community."