Upon learning that he was two days from realizing his childhood dream of becoming a Major League pitcher, Aaron Blair was told not to announce or reveal anything on social media. The highly touted Braves prospect reacted to the directive by immediately asking if he could at least alert his parents, who would need to travel from Las Vegas to Atlanta to share this special moment with him.
Craig and Janice Blair savored the news and then began a whirlwind cross-country trip that enabled them to join more than 30 other friends and family members at Turner Field on April 24, when Aaron made his Major League debut and provided a glimpse of why he stands as the No. 52 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com.
"We were all standing, watching Aaron run out to the mound, with everyone cheering," a proud Janice said. "I looked over at Craig. We both took a big deep breath and wiped a tear or two away. Neither of us could speak for a few seconds. Then I said, 'Wow, he's really here.'"
After allowing three runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Mets, Aaron walked out of the Braves' clubhouse and admittedly felt a little more emotional once his mother provided a congratulatory embrace.
"It was cool," Blair said. "My mom was crying. It was special to share that moment with her. It was more emotional to share it with my mom than my dad, just because it was more emotional for her."
"I didn't notice that Aaron was emotional, as he's always calm," Janice said. "However, I know I hugged him for a long time, told him how much I love him and how happy I am for him."
While Craig Blair played an instrumental role in Aaron's childhood development in baseball, his job at a power company in Las Vegas did not afford him the same flexibility possessed by his wife, who could construct her schedule as a nurse in a manner that allowed her to be present for many of the athletic endeavors her two sons (Aaron and his older brother, Garrett) experienced during their youth.
Challenging travel issues were not a deterrent to Janice, who would make the trip from Las Vegas to West Virginia at least once a month during the baseball season to watch Aaron pitch for Marshall University, which is located in Huntington, W. Va.
She was there to provide motherly concern when Aaron turned his ankle on a stray baseball while shagging balls in the outfield before his first college game, and she was present for many of the stops her son made while establishing himself as a top prospect in the D-backs' system.
"She's just always been willing to travel wherever I am to see me pitch and help me with whatever I need," Aaron said. "It's not just with baseball. She was always good with helping me with my school work and anything that would help me down the road."
Aaron has garnered plenty of attention dating back to December, when he was included in the rich package the Braves received from the D-backs in exchange for Shelby Miller. But through it all, Aaron has maintained the same sense of humility that has long added to the pride his parents have felt while watching him work toward his dream.
"What makes me the most proud to be Aaron's mom is how humble and thoughtful he is," Janice said. "It really makes me beam with pride as I get text messages, phone calls or just read posts where people tell us what a great young man we have raised and how humble he is."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.