Baseball season is upon us. Spring training is underway, and things are gearing up. I took my son to Fan Fest at the Ted recently, and as we strolled the mezzanines, which were considerably less crowded than game day, I reflected on the great memories I have of this stadium.
Win or lose, I always love coming to Turner Field. The excitement of the crowd. The smell of sausage & peppers, and pizza wafting through the air. The taste of a stadium hot dog washed down with an ice cold beer puts me in a state of nirvana. The smell of freshly cut grass, and gazing upon a perfectly manicured field. The sound of vendors peddling their “Ice cold beer”, “peanuts, get your peanuts”, and the occasional “cotton candy” to the fans parked in their seats. The beautiful ladies in their sun dresses, and the games…oh the games! A smile, if somewhat muted, made its way across my face.
Usually, this time of year brings me great excitement in anticipation of the upcoming Braves season, but I have to admit it has been a bit tempered so far this year. Not because we struggled last year. Not because we let go of a lot of good, high priced talent, in order to return to our winning strategies of the 1990’s…I actually applauded those moves. Not even because talking heads still predict we are a year or two away from regaining our rightful throne atop the National League East.
I am in the dumps because this is the last season my Atlanta Braves will play at the Ted i.e. Turner Field.
The stadium, originally built to house the 1996 Olympic games being held in Atlanta, was ready for opening day 1997 following renovations from the summer games. The “Home of the Braves” officially opened their gates for the first time on April 4, 1997. In the 18 years since, the Ted has hosted 11 National League Divisional Series, 4 National League Championship Series, 1 World Series, 1 (infamous) National League Wild Card game, and one All-Star Game.
I tried to remember some of the games I had been to, and it just seemed to be an endless Sportscenter highlight reel in my head. 2005, Brian McCann cranks a home run to right field in the NLDS off pitcher Roger Clemens…three rows directly in front of where I was sitting. The masses with foam tomahawks, in a synchronized “chop” filling the Ted with our battle chant before/during playoff games still brings chills (I wish I could find my old smartphone with the videos). The maestro of the chant being a huge Chick-fil-a cow sitting atop the stadium in left field. I was there in 2009, when they retired Greg “mad dog” Maddux’s number, in 2010 when they retired Tom Glavine’s, and once again, in 2012 to retire John Smoltz’s number. That confirmed the trifectas place in history as arguably the top 3 pitchers of a single rotation, EVER, to play the game. Later in 2012, I watched, disgusted, as our playoff hopes were dashed by a shitty call from the umpires, along with the fan reaction of tossing trash on the field. I’ll be damned if that was an infield fly rule! I cried after our loss to San Francisco in the 2010 NLDS, not because our season had come to an end, but because our great Manager, Bobby Cox, had managed his last game. His curtain call to 50,000+ applauding fans, including the opposing team & their fans was too much to contain emotionally. All the joy he had brought me and so many other Braves Fans for so many years was appropriately appreciated that evening. Numerous walk off wins, home runs and outstanding defensive/pitching duels. Not to mention all the great ball players who donned the A on their cap. Some of my most fond memories are not even centered around a big game, or pre-game event, but centered around the Braves nonetheless. For me, baseball has a way of bringing friends and family together. I have a few buddies that live hours from Atlanta. We consistently discuss the Braves, no matter what time of year. They make their pilgrimage to Atlanta once or twice a season to catch a series, and the Ted gives us a venue in which to get together and enjoy each others company in real time, like old times, when we lived much closer to each other. I remember taking my son (pictured asleep below), born prematurely only a few months prior, to his first game in 2010. I remember daydreaming of all the times we were yet to spend together at the Ted, which has since come to fruition.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming season. Trying to get myself psyched up. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I could script the final season at the Ted, it would be a roller coaster ride to the top. The culmination of every game, every emotion I’ve ever been subjected to, ending with my beloved Braves as World Series Champs! That would truly be the only fitting way I could let go of the Ted and begin to embrace the new digs across town. Statistics say the probability of that happening are slim, but I am going to do what I do best anyway…make my way to the Ted as many times as I can, as if on a journey to Mecca, and root like hell for my Braves! If you are in search of me on April 4th, 2016, you will most likely find me at the Ted for the last home opener. And since Georgia State will be turning it into their football stadium, you may find me there occasionally during the fall once the transition is made….just to say hi….
No doubt I will continue to tomahawk chop once they leave Turner Field, but the Ted will always be my “Home of the Braves”.
P.S. Enjoy the pics below…there are a few I cannot take credit for, but most are of the ones I could find. I have more locked away in a lost smartphone pre-Dropbox, and will update this post if I ever find it!