The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 8, 2014

There was no escaping being a baseball fanatic

In 11 days, I will reach a milestone in my life: The big 4-0, or as I have jokingly referred to it, the beginning of the end.

I admit, I’m struggling with it. There’s no logical reason for my apprehension, an uneasiness that I am sure many men have felt. It is, after all, just a number — 40. Still, a little part of me just can’t help but cringe a little when a high school athlete calls me “sir” or “Mr. Fauber.”

Then again, I have always believed that I was born in April 1974 for a reason.

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am a baseball nut. If I didn’t have a wife and kids, I would probably try to hibernate from December until the start of baseball season.

My fascination with the sport started just days before I turned 8. The Atlanta Braves were dubbed “America’s Team” by Superstation TBS, which did make the team a sensation with its national broadcasts. I was totally susceptible; all my friends were getting into sports, so I adopted baseball and the Braves as my outlet to the sports world.

I was immediately hooked. The Braves started that 1982 season by winning their first 13 games. I had no clue what was going on, but it seemed every time I turned the channel to TBS, the Braves were winning again.

A love affair between a goofy 8-year-old boy and the greatest game God ever created was born, partially slowed only by the inevitable responsibilities of adulthood.

I am a Braves fan, so by that association, I am a fan of the great Hank Aaron. Forty years ago today, Aaron — the Hall of Fame outfielder for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves before finishing his career back in Milwaukee with the Brewers — realized his destiny when he surpassed Yankees legend Babe Ruth to become baseball’s home run king.

I wasn’t quite born to hear Milo Hamilton’s historic call of Aaron’s 715th career homer — “There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron!” — but I actually bought a recording of that game against the Los Angeles Dodgers from April 8, 1974, and listened to every run and every out.

(Sick? Maybe. So what?)

And how old was Hammerin’ Hank when he broke baseball’s most hallowed record?

Yep — 40.

I guess some things are just meant to be.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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