JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – He's credited with turning a crumbling AA baseball franchise into one of the country's best minor-league teams.
Peter Bragan Sr. died Saturday of heart failure at age 89. On Tuesday evening, the legendary Jacksonville Suns owner was remembered in a special memorial service at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
A public viewing on the concourse at the ballpark was held from 5-7 p.m. for anyone who wanted to pay their respects. Then at 7:05 p.m., a special service was to be held for Bragan at home plate, where Channel 4's Sam Kouvaris was just one of the speakers to talk about Bragan's accomplishments.
"I said many times he always treated me like a son," Kouvaris said. "But I realized after a while, he treated everybody like they were family."
Kouvaris said Bragan was like a father figure to everyone who had the opportunity to spend time with him.
In 1984, Bragan purchased the Suns franchise for $330,000. Today, it's known as one of the country's most successful baseball teams, all credited to one man's passion for baseball.
"The people that knew him always smile when they talk about Mr. Bragan, a very tough businessman, probably the best businessman of the Bragan brothers," Kouvaris said. "Drove the mayors of Jacksonville crazy. From Jake Godbold to Ed Austin to John Peyton to Tommy Hazouri to Alvin Brown, because he was a very demanding guy. Instrumental in getting the team to go from Wolfson Park to the baseball grounds."
Kouvaris said Bragan commanded respect, but at the same time loved the people around him. He's known as being the city's most fan-friendly sports owner, whose core values revolved around family.
"He was always in good spirits. Every time you'd see him, he'd ask you how you're doing, how your family is doing," Suns general manager Chris Peters said. "He absolutely loved the city of Jacksonville, the Suns, this baseball team. The last 28 years was a big part of his life."
The Jacksonville family he loved mourned his loss together at the ballpark, remembering the impact he had on baseball and their own personal lives.
"He taught me a certain level of toughness but also that you could still be gentle and loving at the same time," Kouvaris said. "Those are the qualities I think sometimes are lost in the veneer of seeing Mr. Bragan on television or hearing about negotiations with the city or whatever. Every time you spoke to him, he says how are you doing, how's your family. He asked that all the time."
The Suns and the Bragan family wanted fans to wear Suns apparel rather than the traditional coat and tie. Fans were able to ring the bell that Bragan loved so much. No photography was allowed.
Free parking was available from 5 p.m. until the service was over. Limited popcorn and water was available to the public, and fans could bring in their own food and beverage if they please.