There were more than 73,00 people who filed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Atlanta United win the first major sports championship in Atlanta since 1995. As far as we can tell, Smyrna’s Nick DiLuzio is the only attendee whose wife went into labor during the game.
“She texted me when she got to the hospital and when she got into triage,” DiLuzio told Dirty South Soccer. “By that point we were well into the second half of the game and it was getting more and more apparent that we were going to win this thing. And I...really really didn’t want to leave.”
While the outcome of the match may not have been a surprise, a new addition to the DiLuzio family was. Nick and his wife, Lexie, weren’t expecting their daughter to arrive until Dec. 20, although Lexie did at least have a feeling the night might be special, regardless of the game.
“On Saturday she was feeling like something was maybe a little bit off. She just told me to keep my phone on,” Nick said. “Me and my dad headed down to the game. We parked at about 7:00 and started walking to the stadium in the pouring rain, and as we’re walking in, my wife calls and says I think my water may have just broken.”
Lexie called a doctor who told her to monitor things for the next hour and to head to the hospital if things got worse.
“I asked her — I certainly didn’t want to get in trouble — ‘Do you need me to come back?’ really hoping that she would say ‘no.’ She said, ‘No just let me wait and see what happens.’ ”
Nick stayed in the stadium while paying close attention to his phone. Around 15 minutes into what was then a scoreless game, Lexie called to say she was going to the hospital ... just to make sure.
“I don’t think even she was convinced that her water had fully broken. So I asked her again, ‘Do we need to come home or stay?’ She said ‘No, stay.’ ”
About 25 minutes later, Josef Martinez had scored his 35th goal of the season to put Atlanta up 1-0 and Lexie and her mother were on their way to Kennestone Hospital, about 30 minutes away from Mercedez-Benz Stadium. As Lexie moved into triage, Nick says he and his dad began to feel a new layer of anxiousness pile onto several others that had already built that night. With the status of Nick’s daughter’s incoming welcome-to-the-world up in the air and Franco Escobar delivering a 54th minute dagger that surely meant incoming celebrations, Nick decided to stay.
“My dad is freaking out. ‘Are you sure we don’t need to go? ‘I said ‘no we’re alright let’s stay to the end,’” said DiLuzio.
Urgency eventually kicked in at just the right time.
“We stayed to the end of the game. I wanted to watch all the post-game ceremonies and the trophy presentation but my dad said ‘no.’ As soon as the game ended and everyone went crazy, we kind of stood there for a couple of minutes to take it all in. Finally, we were like ‘Alright, we’ve got to get out of here.’
“So we left, hoofing it through the rain to our car. As soon as we got to the car, my wife calls again. ‘So, my water is officially broken. They’re getting ready for a C-section.’ That’s when I realized, oh, this is actually happening.”
Nick and his dad — now drenched in rain and beer from a crowd happy enough at the final whistle to waste perfectly good alcohol by throwing it into the air — took off toward Kennestone.
They were halfway there when they received a call telling them that the surgery would happen the next day. There was plenty of time to go back to the house and change clothes.
They were halfway back when they received a call telling them that plans had changed and there was certainly not time to go get clothes and now the surgery would be happening as soon as possible so please hurry.
“My dad was driving and he hopped back on the interstate,” said DiLuzio. “I’m sitting there texting with my mother-in-law the entire time, trying to tell them to not take my wife back yet before I got there. I made it to the hospital at 11:00. I sprinted in and got to her room right as they were wheeling her back to the OR. All the nurses were like ‘Ohhh we’ve been waiting for you. Weren’t sure if you were going to show up or not.’ They all thought it was hilarious I came in soaking wet, reeking of beer for the birth of my daughter.”
During an incredibly hectic night, Nick found away to kill some time and calm his nerves before Lexie’s surgery — talking to the surgeon about the game Nick had just sped away from. It had been a quiet night at the hospital. Dr. Kevin Windom had just spent the last two hours on call watching the match.
“Apparently it was a pretty slow night at the hospital, so he watched the entire game,” DIluzio said. “We were standing outside the operating room waiting for everyone to get prepped and all that and we stood out there for probably 20 minutes talking about the game. That kind of helped ease my nerves a little bit.”
As a mutual love of Atlanta United became apparent, so did a new objective. If Dr. Windom could move efficiently, Nick and Lexie’s daughter would share a birthday with Atlanta United’s first MLS Cup.
“At this point, it’s 11:30 at night on Dec. 8. Our surgeon was trying to hurry the process along. He wanted the baby out before midnight so that she could be born on the 8th — On the night that we won the cup. It got down to like 11:50 and he started yelling at everybody, ‘We’ve got to hurry up, we’ve got to get this baby out before midnight.’”
Nick and Lexie — who is absolutely the real hero of this story — welcomed Millie DiLuzio to the world at 11:58 p.m. No stoppage time needed to meet the midnight deadline.
Naturally, there were questions about the best way to commemorate the moment.
“We had previously picked Millie for the name after my wife’s grandmother. Given that she was born on Saturday night, I floated the idea of doing ‘Miggy’ [after United star Miguel Almiron, obviously] instead. And that...did not go over well.”
Nick says that despite no last-minute name change, they’ll at least deck Millie’s nursery with anything Five Stripes they can. And even though he didn’t get the name change, he did still have an extra reason to celebrate beyond the birth of his daughter and beyond the first Atlanta championship in 23 years — two minutes after Millie was born the date changed to Dec. 9. That meant Nick got to celebrate his birthday, too.
Hard to imagine a better weekend.