Mild-mannered manager Lipso Nava strolled into Lake Olmstead Stadium on Sunday seemingly without a care in the world. His GreenJackets had pulled off an improbable, come-from-behind win the night before, and his family was in town. In fact, it was his daughter's 11th birthday.
"I was relaxed, feeling good, feeling happy," he said. "My family is here, and it was my youngest one's birthday. Everything was good."
So he didn't plan for Sunday's game to be the setting for his first ejection as a manager. One questionable call changed his attitude.
The GreenJackets were threatening for a big inning in the third after falling behind 1-0. Ryan Lollis ' grounder to shortstop with the bases loaded gave Matt Lipka only one option: throw to third to try to get Carlos Willoughby running from second. Third baseman Edward Salcedo caught the throw in foul territory behind the bag, but Willoughby was ruled out.
Bases umpire Blake Felix , positioned behind the mound, might have had his view of Salcedo blocked by Willoughby's slide, but Nava, in the third base coach's box, had a better angle and argued the call.
It didn't take long for Felix to toss Nava.
When Lollis saw the ejection and Nava's helmet spike, he couldn't help but have a flashback.
"I saw a little bit of (Dave) Machemer out there," he said.
Machemer, last year's manager, was known for his energetic tirades that usually came once every other homestand. Nava, despite having trained under Machemer for the past two seasons, had yet to show his angry side.
"It's nice to see him fighting for us," Lollis said. "We know he's got our backs."
REPLACEMENTS: After Nava's ejection, pitching coach Steve Kline was in charge of the team, and assistant coach/interim hitting coach Nestor Rojas moved from first base coach to third base.
Rojas, 27, started the season as a player rehabbing from knee surgery but was never activated and has acted more like a member of the coaching staff than the roster.
"Nestor and I were already talking about giving him some days (as the third base coach)," Nava said. "Just to give him some experience."
Rojas said the chance to coach third base was an eye-opener, calling it "way different" than coaching first.
"There's a lot of decisions that have to be made, and you have to make them fast," he said. "But it was fun. I love it. There's a little bit of pressure the first time, but it was what I needed."
Injured third basemen Raynor Campbell and Adam Duvall split duties as the fill-in first base coach when Rojas moved.
HOT STICK: Duvall is still rehabbing from a hamstring injury suffered almost three weeks ago but is likely to return sometime during the upcoming road trip. In his absence, Lollis has put the team on his shoulders offensively.
The 24-year-old left-handed batter entered Monday's game 15 for 26 in August and 9 for 13 through the first three games of the series with Rome.
He said he's returned to a set routine on game days, which has helped his concentration at the plate.
"When I get to the ballpark, I'm trying to do the same thing every day so I'm comfortable," he said. "When I do that, I know in the back of my head I've put in all the work that I could and I just need to rely on that, go up there, see the ball and hit it. That's pretty much all I've been doing."
Lollis doesn't hit for power -- he has just two home runs this season -- but he is a contact hitter. He's got a .390 on-base percentage, and his batting average rises (.339) with runners on base.
DONATIONS: A pro ball player rarely stands in front of the stadium an hour before game time, but that's what Josh Mazzola was doing Saturday night.
Though the Augusta GreenJackets Diamond Club had raised more than $3,000 for local Special Olympics athletes that morning with the annual Bowl with the GreenJackets event, Mazzola didn't think that was enough. So he grabbed a bucket and stood at the gates getting more donations from fans.
Fans who share Mazzola's passion for the Special Olympics can donate by calling (706) 922-9467.
BACK IN BLACK: The GreenJackets planned to wear San Francisco Giants jerseys just once this homestand for a Major League Night promotion Friday. But the team won, and minor league superstition kicked in.
Nava instructed the team to wear the black big league jerseys again Saturday, and the team scored three runs with two outs in the ninth and won in the 10th. The streak continued into Sunday with another come-from-behind win in the jerseys.
You look good, you play good, right?" Lollis said. "It's just a change, and we like it."
Nava said fans shouldn't expect the jerseys to stick around much longer.
"It's just something for the homestand," he said. "We're not going to do this on the road."