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Monday, April 25, 2016

And Then There's Atlanta

Turner Field is in its last year of use and it's a shame. I like this park, although I must admit that I'm glad I came to a game in April rather than July.

The field has its parking behind the outfield and an outer fence and gates which you enter to find an area with various statues of various ballplayers including Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb. It's also the area within which tickets are sold so once you wander about a bit looking at the statues you head through a second gate where they put you through a metal detector and take your ticket. Things were a little more relaxed and friendly here than they were when I went to Comerica Park last year. Heck, the guy at the metal detector even chatted with me about the fact that I was wearing a Carolina Mudcats hat.

Inside the park there is a big entertainment area around a stage where they were presenting a band heavy on the drums. At least in a couple places there were markers showing you exactly how far you were from home plate. I will say that prices at the souvenir store were amazingly low for a major league team. In fact, while the baseball I bought was about $4 more than I would have paid at most minor league stores, the pennant I bought was less than the one I bought at the single-A Rome Braves the night before.

Inside, the concourse around the stadium is enclosed and air conditioned. One part of it has pitching and batting games as well as a museum. The rest of it is just a well laid out concourse with about three types of concession stands repeating around the stadium (four if it hadn't been Sunday and Chick fil-A had been open). The only thing that really didn't make sense to me is the statue pictured to the right. And even it was interesting.

So, then I went to my seat which was 22 rows up on the first base side. It was a good seat and the walk up and down to it didn't involve the stairs of death like it does at many stadiums. All the championships at various levels are up on the stadium and there is a giant Coke bottle over top of the left field wall.

After a little bit, I started to realize that the seats in the sections close to the field weren't filling in as much as I would have expected. Oh, the 20 or so rows close to the field were mostly filling in, but it got sparse beyond that. Then I looked around and realized that all the seats in the shade under the upper levels were packed. At this point I should have realized that the locals knew something I didn't. The game started at 1:35 and I swear by the end of the fourth inning I was sweated out and starting to parboil quite nicely. I even paid for a $4 water from the vendor walking by and debated whether I would drink it or pout it over my head (I drank it). An inning later I went back to the concourse and bought the biggest drink I could find and got the girl to fill it with as much ice as would fit. I spent the rest of the game eating the ice to keep from keeling over with heat stroke. And this was just an 80+ degree day. I can't imagine what that place must get like when it gets truly hot for Georgia.

Blair's First Pitch in the MLB
The Game: This was the first MLB pitching outing for the Braves' big prospect, Blair. He had a bit of a rough first inning (giving up one run), but then he settled down and pitched a solid game until the sixth when his coach left him in for at least one batter too many resulting in two runs. He seems pretty solid although (without looking at the actual statistics) he seemed to be more of a cause the batter to hit for an out kind of guy rather than a strike out monster.

The biggest surprise of the game for me was the seventh inning stretch when the Braves brought an opera singer out in a full-on tux to sing God Bless America. It was unusual to hear it arranged that way and I was impressed that the guy shrugged off the heat in that suit like it was nothing. They followed him with most everybody in the park singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game and then the Devil Went Down to Georgia and then they started the tomahawk chop. It was fun and shortly after that somebody even started the wave.

Going into the ninth the Braves were down by 2 and the crowd started going nuts. The tomahawk chop music was played between pitches and everybody in the whole dang park was doing it. It really ramped up the energy in the park and apparently unnerved the Mets enough that the Braves got a run in and even got a couple more hits to put people on first and second before the Mets finally got it together to end the inning.

All-in-all, it was a great experience and it felt a lot like the really excellent AAA experiences which have been created at Charlotte, Nashville, Columbus, etc. I worry that this will be lost when they get their new stadium up and running. Which is a shame. If you can get there before it closes up for good I recommend the experience. Just be smart enough to get a seat where there is shade like the locals do. I was cooked through and through (sun-burn et al.) by the end of the game and just sitting in the heat pretty much wiped me out for the rest of the day. Still, I wouldn't have missed the experience - I'd just bring some sunblock with me the next time. :-)

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