Braves trainer Jeff Porter agreed to an interview about his wife's death so he could, "say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been there for us.”
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Atlanta Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter broke down in tears several times as he talked about his wife’s death in an auto accident on New Year’s Eve and the outpouring of support he has felt since.
The veteran trainer spoke Friday with his 19-year-old son David at his side. They wore matching blue bracelets that read, “Celebrate Kathy Porter’s life. Forever in our hearts.”
“You find out a lot about other people’s hearts,” said Porter, still overwhelmed by the support offered from those in and out of baseball.
Kathy, Porter’s wife of nearly 28 years, was killed when a Georgia State Patrol cruiser slammed into the family’s sports utility vehicle at an Atlanta intersection not far from Turner Field as the family was going to see Auburn play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.
Getting to spring training, which meant a return to his annual routine, helped emotionally as Porter tried to deal with his grief. Best yet was a visit this week from his son, David, on spring break from college.
“It was very good medicine for me,” said Porter, who was driving when his wife was killed.
Porter, David and his girlfriend Courtney Ann Williams escaped serious injury. However, 54-year-old Kathy Porter was killed when the SUV hit a utility pole.
Trooper Donald Crozier, who had a history of wrecks, was fired by the Georgia State Patrol and legal action remains pending. Porter, 56, wouldn’t say if he was considering a civil action.
“I’m still processing that part of it,” Porter said when asked about his feelings toward Crozier, 40.
The intersection is near Turner Field, but Porter fortunately doesn’t have to pass through it to get to Turner Field from his home in Loganville. Any intersection offers challenges, though.
“I still get a bad feeling every time I go through,” he said. “But it’s getting better.”
Bobby Cox, Fredi Gonzalez, Brian McCann and many others from the Braves rushed to the hospital after the accident. Dr. Joe Chandler, a long-time Braves physician, continues to be a constant comfort, Porter said.
“It’s not easy talking about,” Porter said of the accident. “I agreed to do this (with the media) so we could say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been there for us.”
Porter lost his brother in a car accident while in college and was concerned about David, a freshman at Auburn , returning for his second semester so soon after the accident. But the veterinary medicine student made the decision to get back to his routine, just like his father needed to join the Braves for the start of spring training.
Porter joined the Braves in 1985 and was promoted from assistant to head athletic trainer in 2003.
“I went back to work because that’s what I do,” Porter said. “I didn’t do it for therapeutic reasons. . But it was good to get back.”
Porter addressed the players at the start of camp and said he didn’t want to be treated any different than usual. But talking about his wife still chokes him with emotion. They would have been married 28 years on March 3, the day of the first exhibition game.
“You look up the definition of mother and her name would be there,” said Porter, crying again. “She put her whole heart in it.”
The Braves’ home opener at Turner Field is April 13 against Milwaukee. That will be another reminder of his wife’s absence.
“I don’t remember them missing one,” said Porter, looking at his son. “That will be tough.”