The Atlanta Braves have officially dedicated part of their new stadium in remembrance of a major figure in the team's history.
In a ceremony Thursday, Braves leadership and alumni honored Bill Lucas by naming their baseball operations conference room and a road in the new SunTrust Park, as well as a new apprenticeship, after him. Lucas worked for the team for more than 20 years, on the field as a minor league player and in the front office in various roles.
The dedication occurred 40 years after a historic season for Lucas. In 1976, then-Braves owner Ted Turner named him vice president of player personnel for the team, making Lucas the highest-ranking African-American in baseball at the time, according to a Braves press release.
"One of his talents was this ability to look at young men and see talent before it happens," said Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk at the dedication. "He discovered Dale Murphy along with scores of young players."
Along with Murphy, who also attended the dedication, Lucas was key in the drafting of other key players like Bob Horner and Bobby Cox.
Lucas passed away in May 1979 at the age of 43. In 2006, he was inducted in the Braves Hall of Fame.
"I had the privilege of working with Bill for three years before his passing," McGuirk said. "He was an inspiring guy – just so human. He was funny, he was sarcastic, he was a leader. He was a renaissance man – really special."
At the dedication, Wonya Lucas recalled her father's relationship with the Atlanta team.
"The Braves – they were our family," she said.
Her mother, Rubye Lucas, also reflected on her husband's close ties with the Braves.
"He was their father," she said, "and he knew everything about their families. He knew everything about everybody."
Andrea Lucas, Bill Lucas's other daughter, mentioned how much the team was a part of life as a Lucas.
"I spent a lot of time here because I was considered the assistant general manager when he became general manager," she said. "And so he would come home and pick me up for the games, and he would pay me a salary, which I found out later was really just my lunch money."
The Braves may have changed stadiums and counties, but Bill Lucas' legacy continues on in the team. Players and executives will see his name on Bill Lucas Way as they drive in to SunTrust Park, and on the conference room where they work on the team's operations. He will also be recognized elsewhere in the park, with his Braves Hall of Fame plaque and a pillar on the lower concourse of the new stadium.
Bill Lucas is also part of yet another Braves milestone, as the team becomes the first in Major League Baseball to have a dedicated baseball operations apprenticeship for a diverse candidate. The Bill Lucas Apprenticeship will be a year-long program guiding the candidate through all the operational aspects of a baseball year.
Editor's Note: Wonya Lucas is the CEO of Atlanta Education Telecommunications, Inc., which includes WABE 90.1fm and PBA30