Recap - Nationals 6, Braves 1
On my flight out of Newark into Atlanta this morning, I sat between two over-sized gents who snored the entire flight. But nothing can get me upset when I am at the start of one of my baseball roadtrips. I landed in Hartsfield–Jackson airport around 10 AM and hopped into a shared Shuttle van to my hotel in downtown. Most of the passengers on the shuttle were recovering alcoholics heading to some kind of AA convention. Some really interesting folks with amazing stories. On the trip to the hotel, the sky got black and it started to pour despite a sunny forecast. After check-in, I grabbed an Uber and went to CNN Center to spend sometime to wait out the rain. After an hour or so, the skies cleared and the sun came out, but the blazing temperatures and suffocating humidity didn’t drop a bit. Atlanta in July – very nice.
About a block away from CNN Center is Centennial Olympic Park which was built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as part of the infrastructure improvements for the 1996 Summer Olympics. It's a nice place to hang out and people watch and there are some nice features like the Fountain of Rings, but what will stand out most in my memory is Googie Burger where I had the most decadently delicious peach shake that I've ever had in my existence.
A few other options to escape the oppressive heat downtown (all a short walk from the park) are the College Football Hall of Fame, The Civil Rights Museum, The Georgia Aquarium and , the one I opted to visit, The World of Coke. This museum features exhibits about the secret formula of Coca-Cola, a 4D movie ,thousands of relics and artifacts and allows visitors to taste 60 different flavors from around the world. It also houses a fully functional bottling line that produced 8-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola for distribution to its guests.
Fueled with a sugar rush, I started to walk down Peachtree Street, when I came upon this 8 foot bronze statue of a man who I had no clue who the hell it was. The statue had outstretched arms as if was offering me a hug. So, I bent down to read the name plate – Andrew Young – whoever that is. When I went to stand back up , his outstretched bronze right hand collided with the top of my head knocking me down and causing me to see a constellation of stars. I stood up dazed as hell, and I can swear that the face of this statue now had an evil, mocking smirk that it didn’t have when I first looked at it. A passerby saw me and said "Brother, you alright? You're bleeding pretty bad". With blood pouring into my eyes, I staggered to the Ramada across the street. The receptionist offered to call an ambulance, which I refused. I went into the men’s room to deal with it and about 3 rolls of paper towels and a gallon or two of water later, the bleeding finally slowed. They gave me a bag of ice and called me a cab to take me back to my hotel where I kept pressure on it until game time. I didn't come to Atlanta to miss the frigging game.
The walk to Turner field was less than 10 minutes from the hotel, through the gates of the old Olympic Village and past the spot where the torch was kept for the ’96 games. Turner Field wasn’t originally built for the Atlanta Braves, it was built to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. In fact, the Braves organization had to completely downsize and reconstruct Turner Field to accommodate baseball. The park is nowhere near a MARTA stop or any other mode of mass transit and as a result, the volume of traffic on game nights is ridiculous.
The area surrounding the ballpark isn’t particularly nice but you wouldn’t notice unless you drove around the property for a while. If you park in one of the main surface lots and walked straight into the ballpark, you would have no idea that residential areas are nearby. There are no bars or restaurants in the vicinity of Turner Field although there is “The Braves Chop House” restaurant in center field which is casual dining restaurant located behind the right-center field seats. Each table in the restaurant is placed to provide a view of the field. On the roof of the Braves Chop House is the Budweiser Pavilion party deck.
Despite being less than 20 years old, next season will be the last year the Braves will play at Turner Field. They will be moving into a brand new stadium in Cobb County and the Georgia State football team will be moving into Turner. This makes Turner one of the shortest tenured permanent ballparks in MLB history. This stadium saw a lot of post season action as the Braves were a dominant force in the NL East for 15 years.
In the Monument Grove area near the stadium’s north entrance you’ll find statues of Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro and Ty Cobb (not a Brave, but a Georgia native). There are also large retired numbers of former Braves greats. Scattered throughout the stadium grounds are also giant human size baseballs with Atlanta Braves signage all over them used to celebrate the 2000 All Star Game. There is also a Statue of Liberty replica painted in Atlanta Braves decor in one of the concourses.
Under the left field seating area is Scout's Alley, an area featuring interactive baseball-themed games targeted at younger fans including pitching and batting cages.
The park has no real 'signature feature', unless you consider the giant Chick-Fil-A cow in upper left field to be one.
By first pitch, my head was still throbbing a bit, but overall I was fine (in retrospect, the 5 or 6 beers I drank tonight might not have been a great idea given my possible concussion). My seat was next to a crusty old southerner who looked and sounded a lot like Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard TV Series. He saw I had a Mets hat on and started mumbling stuff under his breath. Around the 3rd inning, he dropped a bag of peanuts under my chair. Given his considerable carriage, there was no way he could have physically managed to bend down to get them, so I obliged. He then softened his tone and even offered me some, but still refused to make eye contact.
The Braves are in a bit of a rebuilding phase and are missing their star slugger Freddie Freeman due to a hand injury, but the pitching matchup was a good one with the Braves young star Shelby Miller facing the Nats Jordan Zimmerman. The Nats got to Miller quick, scoring 4 in the 1st capped off by a Clint Robinson 2 run homer. Zimmerman was stellar, scattering 6 hits and no walks over 7 2/3 innings striking out 6 in the process.
Despite the Braves never really being in the game, the fans were relentless with doing the Tomahawk Chop. Cued by music over the PA and flashing scoreboard lights, it seemed happen every other batter. First I stubbornly refused, but it’s easy to get up in the wave. I found myself doing it in my hotel room later that night.
Except for the Chop House and Chick-Fil-A, it's all pretty standard ballpark fare, but they do have something that no other MLB stadium offers, one of my personal favorites and a staple of the deep south - Waffle House!
Fans - C – Maybe it was the stifling humidity, but I wasn’t sensing much ‘Southern Hospitality’ in Turner field tonight
Features - C – Scouts Alley and Monument Grove are nice, but overall the park looked kind of ‘tired’
Location - C – Pretty far from downtown and not in the best area. Car traffic at game time was insane.
Food - B – Chop House was packed and noisy. HB Burger was a nice option. But an automatic B for being the only ballpark in baseball to have a Waffle House!
Game - C – Nats took the early lead and ran away with it. Not a lot of drama. The only real Braves star, Freddie freeman, was hurt and didn’t play.
Overall Experience – C – Aside from nearly splitting my skull open, it wasn’t a bad day walking around Atlanta. The park and game were both lackluster. And it was humid as hell.