Originally created 05/26/05

Childers family strikes out again



ATLANTA - There are two things that run deep in the Childers family genes - baseball and patience. Both elements were quietly on display this week at Turner Field.

Terry and Lynne Childers have spent three consecutive nights sitting in Section 201 waiting and hoping to see their youngest son, Matt, trot in from the bullpen in right field. It's the same ritual they went through three seasons ago in Milwaukee.

"We're 0-for-5 so far," said Terry Sr. on the way to 0-for-6 after the Braves completed a sweep of the Mets. "That's baseball. Sometimes it rains and nobody plays."

When you've been immersed in baseball as long as the Childers clan has, you get used to the routines. You can't get frustrated at things that are just part of the game. Relief pitchers don't pitch every day.

The Childers are still waiting for the home-state professional debut of Westside High's only big-league product. The only one in two generations of Childers professional baseball players to make it to a major-league roster has done it out of sight from those dearest to him.

Since being called up last week from Triple-A Richmond (Va.) to fill the roster spot when John Thomson was placed on the 15-day disabled list, Matt has appeared in two games, at San Diego and Boston. He's yielded one run and four base runners in three innings - none of them at Turner Field.

The Braves have only one more home series against Philadelphia this weekend before Thomson is scheduled to come off the DL May 31. The family has other obligations.

"We're going to Douglas (Ga.) tomorrow," Lynne said. "Jason's wife (Stephanie) is having twin girls on Friday."

At the ballpark with Childers' parents Wednesday night were his brother, Terry, sister, Sally, and nephew, Austin. His wife, Francesca, just drove down from Richmond, Va., with their two children - Will, 4, and Abbigale, 20 months.

Matt's other brothers - Jason and Scott - are busy with their own baseball careers. Jason, a bullpen mate with Matt in Richmond, is rehabbing his pulled oblique muscle in Orlando, Fla., and getting ready for the arrival of his twins.

Scott is umpiring in the Southern League.

"It's helped to have such a close family," said Matt's wife. "His parents have moved mountains to see their sons play."

The Childers know too well that major-league opportunities are rare. The father played eight seasons of minor-league baseball as a catcher after graduating from Richmond Academy and Georgia Southern.

All four Childers boys played baseball at Westside for Gerald Barnes - Georgia's winningest high school coach.

The oldest son, Terry Jr., played two minor-league seasons with the Mets after winning a College World Series in 1990 at Georgia.

Jason, 30, has pitched side-by-side with Matt for seven years at every level of the minors with the Brewers and now the Braves. Yet despite strong numbers, he has never gotten the call up.

Matt getting called up by the Braves is a family dream come true. His stint with the Brewers in 2002 lasted 23 days. He doesn't know how long he'll stay in Atlanta.

"There's definitely some uncertainty involved," Matt Childers said of his future status.

"I have no idea to be honest with you. I just try to enjoy each day and hopefully it will be long-term."

The experience so far has been one to soak up.

"It's been awesome," Childers said. "Especially seeing guys like (John) Smoltz who I watched as a kid. It's been a lot of fun being around these guys and seeing how they work and get ready for the games."

Childers' Braves highlight came last weekend in Boston.

"It was pretty awesome being in Fenway," he said. "I got to go behind the wall and sign my name and all that good stuff. And it worked out great that I got to do an inning there."

Playing for the major-league team he grew up watching has been a different experience than his first foray into the bigs in Milwaukee. When he took the mound wearing a Braves uniform in San Diego, the nerves bubbled up.

"It felt like the first time again," he said.

Several teams were interested in Childers this off-season as a free agent, but as soon as the Braves expressed interest he leapt at the chance.

"Obviously the Braves were a dream team to play for," he said.

There is still one more dream the Childers are chasing. Matt and Jason have played together for seven seasons in the minors. Three times they've accomplished a sibling feat believed to be unprecedented in pro baseball - notching a win (Matt) and save (Jason) in the same game.

They want to share a big-league bullpen together.

"We still have a chance to reach that goal," Matt said.

They've been patient this long. If there's any justice, the entire Childers family will get to be there if and when it finally happens.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.