Tag Archives: atlanta braves

SunTrust Park

WE’RE MOVING!

This page will only be here through 6/29, but I am saving these (and adding new parks as I see them) here, at paulsballparks.substack.com. See you on the other side!

 

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SunTrust Park, Cobb County, Georgia

First game: August 17, 2018 (Rockies 11, Braves 5)

 

Click on any image to see a full-sized version.

After driving in from Greenville and picking up Rob at the airport, we still had a ways to go to get to SunTrust Park. That’s because the Braves no longer play in Atlanta. They fled the city for the suburbs, leaving perfectly-serviceable Turner Field behind, in 2017. It seems the half-life of a ballpark might now be only 20 years, which bugs me. I also thought about how

many Braves fans it must have bugged that the team moved 10 miles–10 miles of freeway in endlessly-terrible Atlanta traffic–outside of town. Seriously: if I lived in Forest Park or Fairburn or some other southern suburb, the move would have made it really undesirable to stay a regular customer.  If I worked downtown and lived in any county besides Cobb, it would add hours to my day to enjoy a team that is a deep part of the fabric of the city (and of many individuals who were removed from reasonably backing the team). I have heard this move associated with other kinds of White Flight from the city to the suburbs. While I won’t make any attempt to get inside the brains of those who are making these decisions, the pattern sure looks iffy.

I have no real issues with suburbs. I was raised in one. I live in one (no matter how much the good people of Vancouver, Washington might fight that they aren’t). And what I kept coming back to in my experience with SunTrust Park was all of the positives and negatives of suburban life were on display.

First, the area

where SunTrust sits is one of those manufactured sorts of areas. It’s a created space rather than one that sprung up organically, or even one that sprung up organically around a ballpark. I’m a fan of sports bars and nightlife popping up like they did around LoDo for Coors Field or SoDo for T-Mobile Park. But it feels like here they are attempting to manufacture what happens elsewhere organically. I am in no way an expert in agriculture or city planning, but I can sort of smell that difference. Sure, it was a pretty wonderful area. Rob, Matt and I played Quickword across the street from the ballpark while watching baseball. And I could see this creating a destination. 

Outside the ballpark, the Braves had tons of cool statues and exhibits like they had outside of Turner Field (indeed, many of them were simply moved north). There’s Bobby Cox!  There’s Phil Neikro throwing a knuckler!  The ballpark starts to develop a little bit of a destination feel, and I bet for big games and playoffs, it’s a heck of a spot.

Hawkers along the way, also, including the aptly-named Big Ass Fans, which offered free cooling of fans on this hot August evening.

But, for a destination, this felt the nowhereness of the suburbs. The view past the outfield is lovely: lots of skyscrapers and some neon. But where was I? Those suburban office edifices could have been anywhere at all in the US, or possibly other countries. I like my CN Tower in Toronto and my Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I like my prairies in Kansas City and my mountains in Colorado, my rivers in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and my bay in San Francisco. Here–what was that, exactly?

Inside, the Braves did one fantastic thing right.  The Braves’ Hall of Fame along the concourse was everything it should be. It was set up in a space everyone could go to, and had both cool stuff to look at and even places to stop and go a little deep into an exhibit. I have made fun of the silliness of Sparky Anderson’s shoes in the past, but I spent a good deal of time looking at the knee brace Sid Bream wore when he scored the winning run in the 1992 NLCS. That was presented lovingly and appropriately as a part of that iconic moment. In short, the photos and celebrations were right on target. That was a key point where I knew where I was. So was the Waffle House concession.

The place was gleaming and new, and that’s always fun. But it also suffered from some overkill.  SunTrust Park is, to my knowledge, the only ballpark in America with a zip line.  A: why?  B: if you’re going to have a zip line at a ballpark, why have it

tucked back behind the center field batters’ eye? Why not set it up really high, in a spot where one could watch the game while you gained velocity? I would do that.  In fact, I’d try to score the game while zip lining.  That might be a first, in fact.

Matt and Rob and I had a fine time at a good game: the Rockies and Braves were deep into a pennant race, and had hot young stars on the mound (Kyle Freeland and Sean Newcomb).  Fellow Coloradan Matt has held onto his Rockies’ allegiance where I have not, so he cheered hard. It seemed to work, as the Rockies hit the Braves so hard that they wound up using a position player to pitch the ninth–a first for me (but one that was duplicated a few months later by both teams in a Mariners/Angels blowout). 

This is a reason to stick around in a blowout by the way. Fans went kind of bonkers rooting for the position player, Charlie Culberson, to get three outs. He did, only giving up one run.  It’s a little like batting practice, except it counts.

So some mixed feelings about this one. Turner Field wasn’t perfect, but at least it was somewhere. This felt like a lovely spot, but it also felt like nowhere.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Kyle Freeland pitches beautifully for the Rockies, giving up only one run and striking out 9 in 6 innings.

Ian Desmond does most of the damage for Colorado, with 5 RBIs that include a bases-loadedd triple to give them a 3-1 lead in the third. 

Charlie Culberson gets two outs, but then gives up a double to Charlie Blackmon and a single to D.J. LaMahieu to give up a run and go down 11-2. The Braves plate three meaningless runs in the ninth with four singles and a walk.

Written June 2019.

Turner Field

WE’RE MOVING!

This page will only be here through 6/29, but I am saving these (and adding new parks as I see them) here, at paulsballparks.substack.com. See you on the other side!

 

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA

Number of games: 2
First game:  April 12, 2005 (Nationals 4, Braves 3)
Most recent game:  April 13, 2005 (Nationals 11, Braves 4)

The Braves left Turner Field for the 2017 season. The park was reconfigured and now hosts Georgia State football.

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

FUN THING TO DO:  Go up to a concession stand at Turner Field, preferably with someone else. 

Order lots of salty food–popcorn, nachos, french fries, hot dogs, etc.  When the concessionaire asks you what you’d like to drink, say:  “How about a Pepsi?”  See what reaction you get.  My guy, fortunately, laughed.

Turner Field came to us at the tail end of the new-retro stadium craze of the 1990s, so we can count on its quality.  It has a lot of the positive attributes of ballparks of its era, including charm in its architecture and a sense of history integrated into it.  The folks at Turner Field also make a good night’s entertainment out of the game.  Combine that with quality baseball the Braves traditionally give, and you have a fine Georgia night.

I made it all the way up from a game at Sarasota, Florida the night before, listening to sports talk radio and Les Miserables for most of the trip.  The plan was to take it easy and only attend the Wednesday afternoon game that my kid sister was flying down for, but the drive wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  I was up in time for a Tuesday night game, and decided to get a cheap single ticket.  The ticket woman offered me a front row seat in center field, “right behind Andruw.”  I took it.  And I enjoyed a load of pre-game hype.  The Braves have one of the best drum/dance troupes out there.  As they did their big drumming and dancing routine on the center field pavilion before the game–awesome rhythmic dancing by the drummers, gyrations by the cute young women in pink–I thought they were the entertainment recruited

for just the one game.  I was wrong.  They’ve hired some excellent drummers to bang away both before and during every game, while the scantily-clad pink ladies dance around, periodically appearing on the giant scoreboard for promotions.

And oh, that scoreboard!  It is the largest LED screen in the United States.  I don’t care how much of a traditionalist you are…you’ve got to admit that’s kind of cool.  There’s enough room that the bottom 20% or so of the board can be devoted to full lineups AND statistics AND the linescore of the game, still leaving a breathtakingly large expanse for pictures and replays.  I certainly hope that the Braves have a charity auction where they team up with Xbox or Playstation or someone to sell the right to sit in center field and play video games on the big screen.  I’m not a big video game guy myself, but I would pay big bucks to do that.

The stadium itself is designed well, albeit not quite as well as others of its generation.  I’d like to be able to see the field from the concourse (like in Coors Field or Safeco Field, to name two).  I’d also like to have a view of the outside world from the upper-level concourses, like at Jacobs Field. It’s a hell of a long trip to the top of the left-field stands by the foul pole, which is the only place where spectators can get a look at the downtown skyline.  Plus, the overwhelming Coke advertising is oppressive.

Still, there were many positives.  Most notable was the wonderful concourse.  There is a nice party atmosphere to be had there, and you don’t need a ticket to be there.  Of course, you do need a ticket to get in with the drummers!  Anyone can walk in and see statues of Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro (with a perfect knuckleballers grip), Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron (twice).  There are 6-foot-in-dia

meter baseballs representing each of the Major League clubs and several other notable baseball events.  Quite beautiful.  Also, I appreciated how the Braves did such a thorough job documenting their history.  I didn’t have a chance to visit the Braves Museum, but that’s very much the kind of thing I like in my stadiums.  I also like the Braves’ history in the concourse.  They had every single team photo since the Braves moved to Atlanta on display.  The 1995 World Champions are honored with a large mural, but even the lamentable teams in history like the 1 985 Braves have their team photos present. There is something slightly amiss in my eyes about Braves fans.  Hard to pinpoint it exactly, to be honest, but there’s just a hair of smugness about them.  Make no mistake–I enjoyed the company of a very nice man from Knoxville and his sweet daughter on the first night, and a guy who didn’t mind my sister rooting for the Nationals on the second night.  Still, it seems strange.  When I attended this ballgame in 2005, the Braves were on a string of 12 consecutive division titles, and were favored to win a 13th…but each game featured only about 20,000 fans.  What’s the deal?

Of course, the Braves suffer from a certain self-obsession that probably comes from their field’s namesake.  My kid sister Kathleen flew in from DC to join me for a Nationals/Braves game; this, the day before the

Nationals’ first home game after moving from Montreal.  She brought me a baseball cap that said “Washington DC” on it, just to force me to display allegiance to her new team.  She was very excited to pick up a Nationals hat, since Nationals Fever was so pronounced in DC at that time that she couldn’t find one there.  We wandered around the ballpark looking in the shops.  Braves hats.  Braves hats.  More Braves hats.  Come ON!  I can’t remember ever being in a ballpark that didn’t sell caps for any other MLB teams.  What’s more, I would think selling others’ caps would be good business…there are surely a few people per night who want to buy that night’s opponent’s hat, or some other rival’s hat.  So we asked a cashier:  “Where can we find hats for teams other than the Braves?”  Her answer, I swear to God, was this:  “At the other teams’ stadiums.”  Yes, she really was that snide.  Whatever…that’s $25 Ted Turner won’t be getting.

If memory serves, this is the fourth ballpark I’ve been to with Kathleen.

I casually–half-jokingly, actually–mentioned to her that I was going to go to a game in Atlanta, and that if she wanted to, she could swing by.  Much to my surprise, she obliged.  She’s a very busy first-year lawyer who is, of course, slammed with first-year lawyer work which had included flying back from observing the Djiboutian elections just a few days before taking a day off to fly to Atlanta.  (For those of you scoring at home, Ismael Omar Guelleh ran unopposed and won.)  She told some fine stories about the Djibouti City Sheraton, which, apparently, is not at all like a Sheraton.

Anyway, between her cool jet-setter stories and a big Nats win, we had loads of fun.  In fact, we had every bit as wacky a time as I do with my brother or with my buddy Rob.  Case in point:  When the Nationals got on a couple of runners, Kath and I started shouting:  “C’mon Nats! 

Bring him home!  Bring him home!”  Now, when you were raised in the house Kathleen and I were raised in, what follows will seem like normal behavior, but I recognize that it might feel downright bizarre to others.  But whenever any bit of dialogue happens to distantly remind any Hamann of any song, it instantly becomes a moral imperative to sing that song, ideally with great gusto, and with harmony if at all possible.  So I’m not sure who started it–I’m probably the guilty one–but it didn’t take long before we were singing the chorus to “Bring Him Home,” the show-stopping heart-rending climax of Les Miserables.  “Bring hiiiim hoooooooooooooome…bring him hooooooome…” High notes, schmigh notes.  Colm Wilkinson had nothing on us.  Of course, when we got to the bridge (“He’s like the son I might have known/If God had granted me a son”), it was important for me to make up wacky baseball-appropriate lyrics.  Alas, the exact lyrics are lost to time, but they probably went something like this:  “It surely would be very fun/If Jose Vidro scored a run…”  Laughing.  High notes.  We had about a three- or four-row buffer zone between us and the next fan (remember, only 20,000 were in attendance).  It wasn’t enough.  The Atlantan a few rows ahead of us turned 180 degrees around to check out the freaks.  I had on my Washington DC hat.  He probably figured I was a government weirdo.

There were a surprising number of Nationals fans at the game who, like my sister, were getting a jump, seeing their home team before they had a home game.  After enduring a ninth-inning rain delay, during

  which most of the crowd went home, the few fans who remained came up behind the dugouts to cheer.  That’s how I found myself behind the Nats’ dugout, surrounded by Nats fans, watching Nats’ pitching coach Randy St. Claire converse with umpire-in-chief Randy Marsh, watching Carlos Baerga warming up, and watching legendary Frank Robinson, who, immediately after this photo, gave a friendly wave to the guy next to me who shouted “DC loves you guys!”

So, quite a fun pair of nights.  The ballpark had positives (fun atmosphere, good sense of history) that outweighed its provincialist

negatives, and I got to do it all with my kid sister who very kindly took a day off to fly down.  Thumbs up for both the park and the experience.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Two Nationals wins, the first one quite dramatic.  The Braves led 3-1 going into the ninth inning.  Danny Kolb came on to close it out, but failed.  A walk, a hit, and a walk, and the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Kolb got a fielders’ choice and a sacrifice.  Two out, 3-2, tying run on second.  Brian Schneider up…and he spanks a double to right-center.  The Nationals lead.  The skies open up…it’s a big downpour.  Rain delay for 31 minutes.  The suddenly cold, wet night sees Chad Cordero nail down a save.

Jose Guillen homers twice in one game.  Jose Vidro and Chipper Jones also homer.

(Written April 2005.)