'We counted down the outs': Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos recalls winning World Series title from quarantine

·4 min read

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos was initially stunned, which turned to shock, and to prayers.

"Please Lord," Anthopoulos said, "do not let them test positive. If they do, I’m going to get blamed."

Anthopoulos took a deep breath Wednesday at the annual MLB GM meetings, looked toward the skies, and recalled the tumultuous ride.

“I was sweating daily,’’ he said, “waiting for the phone to ring, telling me I gave it to somebody.’’

It was 11 days ago. Before Game 4 of the World Series, Anthopoulos, who is vaccinated, found out he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was totally like, 'No way,'’’ Anthopoulos said. “I was really in shock. You're kidding? You got to be kidding. And then we just did a few tests and they kept coming back positive.

"It was, 'What does this mean for the team? How is it going to impact us on the field? What if it ends up getting out?'"

Five days later, Atlanta clinched the World Series championship, and as his team celebrated on the field at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Anthopoulos, his wife, and two kids were screaming and yelling in their home.

The only stress was his wife, Christina, having to talk Anthopoulos out of going for a drive instead of watching the first pitch, and then watching him switching the channel back and forth to the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.

“As I’ve gotten older,’’ he says, “I have a harder time watching a game that’s close. If we're up big, or down big, it's fine. But Game 6, I was a wreck because you start thinking if we lose Game 6, they have the momentum in Game 7.

“We blew the lead, 3-1, last year against LA. There’s the whole Atlanta [Falcons] thing. The University of Georgia. You start thinking the same thing, and you don't want to be affiliated with that.

“I was so worried about blowing the series."

Yet, when Jorge Soler hit his three-run homer in the third inning that cleared the ballpark, Anthopoulos screamed so loud that his 11-year-old daughter, Julia, woke up. When they had a 6-0 lead in the eighth inning, he woke up their 9-year-old son, John.

"We counted down the outs," Anthopoulos recalled. "We just kind of yelled and cheered."

And as much as the kids wanted to spray Sprite on each other, dad and mom declined the suggestion. It wasn’t until 5:30 in the morning that Anthopoulos finally went to bed, watching the clubhouse celebration on FaceTime, answering 400 text messages, and watching every single last TV interview.

GM Alex Anthopoulos celebrates after Atlanta wins the National League pennant.
GM Alex Anthopoulos celebrates after Atlanta wins the National League pennant.

“I thought it was a shame that he didn’t get to be there when they clinched,’’ said San Francisco Giants president Farhan Zaidi, who worked alongside Anthopoulos with the Dodgers, “but thinking about him being able to watch the game in the basement with his family, it must have been pretty cool.

“I guess there’s a lot of different ways to enjoy clinching the World Series. It’s just another chapter of the world we live in right now.’’

Anthopoulos, 44, laughs, knowing that after what he endured during the season, it was merely the perfect ending to a zany season.

They were without starter (Mike Soroka) all season. Their best slugger (Marcell Ozuna) broke two fingers and was arrested on domestic assault charges in May. Their starting catcher (Travis d’Arnaud) missed three months with torn thumb ligaments. Their greatest player (All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuna) underwent season-ending knee surgery in July. They made six trades to survive before the July 30 trade deadline. Their World Series Game 1 starter (Charlie Morton) broke his leg.

So, it was only fitting the season ended with another malady, forcing Anthopoulos to stay away from the team until the parade, and returning to Truist Park for family pictures with the World Series trophy.

It sure beats a year ago when they lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS in Arlington, Texas, and driving home with the entire family crying.

“I haven’t been out much because I’ve been at home and quarantined,’’ says Anthopoulos, “but I’m enjoying this. It’s been pretty crazy, to say the least.’’

Anthopoulos says he can’t wait for their White House invitation.

Who knows, if his team all returns healthy next year, they could be even better than ever, giving themselves a legitimate shot to become the first National League team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds?

They still need to re-sign free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman, who rejected a five-year, $130 million proposal. They need to bring back at least one more outfielder between Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Soler. And another starter can’t hurt either.

“If everything comes together, I feel confident,’’ Anthopoulos says, “but I got to tell you, it’s just so hard to get there. Just the amount of commitment and sacrifice across the board.

“I’d just love to have the chance.’’

Only this time, to be there in person, and climbing on that World Series stage holding the trophy.

“Now that,’’ Anthopoulos said, “would be a beautiful thing.’’

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos recalls tumultuous World Series ride