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Bragan family era comes to an end in pro baseball

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Labor Day marked the end of an era in professional baseball. When the Jacksonville Suns’ final game was rained out, the season and the career of Suns’ owner Peter Bragan, Jr. came to an end.

Bragan is relinquishing control of the team, a Miami Marlins’ affiliate, after 31 years to Ken Babby, who purchased the Suns earlier this year. It also marks the first time since 1936 that the Bragan family is not directly involved in professional baseball.

Bragan, known as “Pedro” throughout baseball and around Jacksonville, came to Northeast Florida in 1984 when his father, Peter Bragan, Sr., purchased the Jacksonville club in the Class AA Southern League.

“I never dreamed I was coming to Jacksonville for the rest of my life,” Bragan told the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Cleaning out his office will bring back memories and take a long time to complete. Caps, bats, balls, programs, pictures and bobble heads take up nearly all of the square footage other than that occupied by his desk.

Scattered throughout the 31 years it took Pedro and his father to collect the memorabilia were six Southern League championships, including the 2014 title. Pedro took operational control in 2006, six years before Peter, Sr. died in 2012.

What will he do now?

“Exercise and socialize,” he told First Coast News without hesitation. “Thirty-one years of ballpark food for six months” has left him wanting to look a bit more svelte. The socialize part will come easily.

He also mentioned to me his desire to attend the Kentucky Derby for the first time. With the baseball season fully underway each May, a side trip to Louisville was always impossible.

The native of Birmingham, Ala., speaks slowly and distinctly. For the past 25 years, he has put that voice to good use.

His commitment to stressing the importance of reading led him to develop the “Casey Challenge.” Over the past quarter century, he has read stories to Jacksonville-area public school children, then given away bats, gloves and jerseys to those who could memorize “Casey at the Bat.”

In addition to the memories, Bragan also leaves with a lot of money from the sale. Along with Pedro, his family left their own mark.

His father’s brothers were all involved in the game. Uncles Lionel and Frank played minor league ball.

His Uncle Jimmy Bragan played in the minors and was a coach for the Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos. From 1980-94, Jimmy was president of the Class AA Southern League and was elected to the Southern League Hall of Fame along with Peter, Sr. He died in 2001.

Pedro’s Uncle Bobby Bragan played three years of minor league ball in Pensacola and Panama City from 1937-39, then seven years for the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. When the Braves left Milwaukee after the 1965 season, Bragan became the first manager of the Atlanta Braves.

Bobby went on to become president of the Class AA Texas League from 1969-75. He lived in St. Petersburg from 1975-78 during his tenure as president of the governing body of Minor League Baseball. He returned to Texas and remained an active man until his death in 2010 at age 92.

The game will go on without the Bragans, but they certainly added a lot to the game for the last 79 years. As for Pedro, we shall see how the “exercise and socialize” thing works out.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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