CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Knights manager Wes Helms was like millions of Americans on 9/11: home and watching the news in horror.
“I was laying in bed with my wife," Helms said. "My mother-in-law called me and told me to turn on the TV. We did and saw what was happening.”
Major League Baseball games were suspended for about a week as the nation mourned. When play resumed, Helms and the Atlanta Braves were part of an unforgettable night in New York City.
Their game against the Mets would be the first sporting event in the city since the attack.
"The amount of emotions that came in to play before that game," Helms said. "Taking batting practice. We knew the fans needed this."
The pregame was full of moving and emotional displays, as families of victims watched on the field.
"When they rolled that American flag across the field, took up the whole outfield, if you just looked down the Mets line, and looked down our line, you’ve got grown men tearing up," Helms said. "It just showed what it meant to the world, what it meant to the game.”
The game itself was memorable, too, as the division rivals dialed up another classic. Mets slugger Mike Piazza was the hero New York needed, hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.
"For Mike Piazza to hit that walk-off home run, you just tipped your hat to him," Helms said.
Bobby Cox, the intense and fiery Braves manager who hated to lose, understood the moment.
"He said, 'I want to win every game, I hate when we lose, but I'm happy they won tonight,'" Helms recalled. "The city of New York needed that, the team of New York needed that."
Now 20 years later, like all of us, Helms reflects with a personal perspective.
“It’s something you’ll never forget," Helms said. "It’s going to be 20 years later, and on Sept. 11 I still get chills. Just because I was right in the middle of being in one of the first things to happen in New York after that, that meant a lot to those people to get their spirits lifted.”
The game will honor first responders and those fallen on 9/11.
For tickets, visit here.