Esteemed colleague Dave O’Brien reports Martin Prado is returning to Atlanta to see what’s causing his headaches and dizzy spells, and if you’re a student of Braves’ history you’re concerned. You’re concerned because of two words:
You young folks won’t remember the name, and you old-timers might have forgotten it. Because Nick Esasky wasn’t a Brave long. He played nine games in 1990. Then he developed vertigo. He never played another game.
This came at a time when nothing had gone right for the Braves for so long you figured this was simply par for the overgrown course. The team hadn’t had a winning season since 1983 and had pretty much sworn off any big offseason moves after Bobby Cox — then the general manager — got burned in the Steve Bedrosian swap of December 1985. (On cue, Bedrosian won the 1987 Cy Young Award as a Phil.)
But in November 1989 the Braves gathered their courage and their money and signed Esasky, who grew up in Marietta and who was coming off a big season (30 homers, 108 RBIs) for the Red Sox, to a three-year contract worth $5.6 million. (Serious money back then.) He played nine games.
The Braves’ signing of Esasky as a free agent was such news that an AJC guy wrote a column — it happened on a Friday — for the Saturday paper. And the next day the guy was doing the pregame show with Loran Smith in Athens when the Georgia head coach broke in. “I thought Georgia-Auburn was a pretty big deal,” Ray Goff said, “but I see where Mark Bradley wrote about baseball this morning.” (FYI, Goff’s team lost to the Tigers 20-3.)
Nick Esasky got vertigo, retired and dropped from sight. The last I heard — and this was a long time ago — was that he’d taken up bodybuilding. (Reader Count Von Count turned up this 2006 link from Erin Moriarty of the Atlanta Business Journal, who reported Esasky, living in Alpharetta, had set up a foundation to help kids fight meth abuse; he’d had a daughter who’d gone into rehab.) He was also a nice guy who, as I recall from a conversation we had when I worked in Lexington and he was a Reds rookie, was the son of an airline mechanic.
He came home to be a Brave, and he became just another footnote of that weird time in Braves’ annals where everything turned to sludge. (Remember Alex Trevino? Ozzie Virgil, who was traded for Bedrosian? Jody Davis? Ernie Whitt? And those were just the catchers.) Let’s hope for better things for Martin Prado, who had become one of the feel-good stories of a feel-better season.