Great Moments, Have To Be There

A 9-year-old winning a truck in the Shoot-Out was one of those moments never to be forgotten.

Daryl Kirby | June 28, 2019

One of the best moments in Atlanta sports history, I happened to experience in person on a sultry July night in 1992 at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. We were watching the Braves try to win their 13th game in row. This was the season after the Braves went from perennially last to first in their division—great time to love Atlanta Braves baseball.

The starter threw a shut-out for eight innings, and the Braves were up 1-0 against the Pirates. Top of the ninth with one out, the relief pitcher gave up a single. Next up was Pittsburgh’s Andy Van Slyke. When he swung at an 0-2 fastball, at the crack of the bat I thought, “Two-run homer…”

Then I saw Otis Nixon streaking toward the wall in right-center. Right fielder David Justice didn’t have a chance at this ball, but Otis Nixon could run like the wind. He barely broke stride as he got to the wall and leapt like a gazelle. His glove was 2 feet above a 10-foot wall as he stole a home run. The crowd stood and cheered for at least 10 minutes. Ten minutes of a spine-tingling ovation—at a baseball game! It was more special because it was at a moment late in a game, and it preserved a 13-game winning streak for the Atlanta Braves.

I’ll never forget that night in Atlanta. I love to watch the video on YouTube and hear Skip Cary’s call that started with his trademark, “There’s a drive…” But ended with, “He caught the ball! He caught the ball! I can’t believe it! What a catch by Otis Nixon!”

What a blessing to have seen it in person, to experience those emotions. Sport stirs me, it just does. I know some folks could care less about watching others compete, but for me, it’s the true reality show. As unforgettable and special as that Otis Nixon catch was, there’s another moment I witnessed more than two decades ago that I put in that same category.

Let me tell you about the most incredible competition I ever witnessed in person. Some might argue that a Truck-Buck Shoot-Out is not sport. I’d say those folks haven’t witnessed the drama, excitement and emotion when a regular Georgia deer hunter wins a brand-new pickup truck.

This one was in 1997, back when GON held the Shoot-Out at the Atlanta Buckarama in that old building off Jonesboro Road. This was before the Shoot-Out moved to Perry and filled every seat of the New South Arena at the Fairgrounds.

In 1997, one of the competitors was a 9-year-old boy, a blonde-haired kid from Leesburg. His Shoot-Out shirt may have been five sizes too big, but Zack Hammond won a week of the big-buck contest and earned his Shoot-Out spot. And now the little man had to shoot a heavy pellet rifle in a competition against 16 grown men. His first time on the stage to shoot, the striking vision was the heavy pellet rifle being only an inch or two shorter than the kid.

Zach Hammond was just 9 years old in 1997 when he won a new pickup truck in GON’s Truck-Buck Shoot-Out.

Zack couldn’t shoulder the pellet gun. He held it with the butt extending half a foot under his arm pit and cocked his head sideways to line up the iron sights. When he pulled the trigger, he shot a hole in the middle of the clay pigeon target. The crowd went crazy. I remember glancing around and seeing the big smiles on so many faces. What a moment. The little man made that shot.

By the time Zack stepped up for round 2, some of men had missed. Zack didn’t miss. In round 3, six more men missed, and Zack shot a hole in the target from 60 feet. The crowd roared, and some jumped up and down like their team had scored a touchdown. As the rounds progressed, the excitement that ran through the arena was amazing. Something special was happening.

When it came down to the final shot, when that 9-year-old boy made a seventh shot in a row and won a new pickup truck, the explosion of joy and emotion is impossible to describe.

GON founder Steve Burch was the emcee of that Shoot-Out. Steve’s voice crack as he picked Zack up and carried him in front of the crowd. People were crying—literally tears, at a Truck-Buck Shoot-Out.

Who knows what will happen at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 28 when GON has another Truck-Buck Shoot-Out during the Outdoor Blast in Duluth. It’s just Shoot-Out number 30, if anyone is counting. Again, we’re going to impact someone’s life in a huge way.

Come be a part of it.

Probably should mention the Shoot-Out field this year includes a 10-year-old boy…

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.