When: September 1, 2018
What: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves
Where: Sun Trust Park, Atlanta Georgia.
The last time Mac and I traveled with my friend, Marty, and his son, Lucas, we met in New York where we visited Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
That was a fun trip, but this trip to Atlanta carried huge significance in our ballpark journeys. Atlanta was to be the culmination of Marty’s quest to see games in the home stadium of each MLB franchise. While Marty has seen games at 44 stadiums, this would be his first time to Atlanta and team number 30 (31 if you include the Montreal Expos). This promised to be a fun trip to complete Marty’s journey.
Our plan was to fly into Atlanta on Friday night, explore the city during the day on Saturday and see the game that night. Sunday was to be reserved for fried chicken and the Braves’ AAA team (Gwinett Stripers). This trip was looking good.
Originally, we wanted to land, go check in and then head out for some BBQ at the renown Fox Brothers Restaurant. Well, our plane was delayed so we were in a time crunch to get BBQ. We made it about half hour before the restaurant closed. Walking in the door, we were dutifully informed that they were out of a big portion of the their menu.
We would not be deterred. Our group determined that a half-menu at Fox would better than a full menu anywhere else. The drive and limited menu were worth it. Brisket sandwiches, Smoked Jalapeno Sausage for me, tater tots and wings. And macaroni and cheese. The first of many servings of mac and cheese this weekend. We were done. Seriously, outstanding BBQ.
Before The Game
Our house was located right in mid-town near Inman Park, so we decided to explore the city. Just like we did in New York City, the four of us rented bicycles. Unlike the sweet Trek mountain bikes of Manhattan, we ended up with some very well-loved cruisers from the Bike Barn. Starting out we headed on the really amazing Atlanta Beltline Bike Path which took us along some railroad tracks, new restaurants and fast-developing condo complexes. We followed the path to its end which was a sprawling park overlooking Downtown Atlanta.
Lucas found a free-form rock climbing gym a couple of miles from the park that he wanted to check out. We were all up for the adventure and it was great.
Lucas and Marty were really good, but Mac took right to it as well. I have to admit that I was nervous seeing him climb that high without any ropes, but Mac sure didn’t seem to care.
We hopped back on our bikes and headed out in search of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Site. Located here was a museum, his church, former home and his grave site. Touring the museum really brings back the reality that all of the desegregation battles were not that long ago. I can’t believe that people treated other people so awfully all the time. In the park we first visited, mulitple signs explained that the pool there was the first pool to allow integrated swimming – in the 1960’s! Crazy to think that was the world a few years ago.
All of that climbing and riding required food, which was provided by the Krog Street Market. It’s a warehouse comprised of a dozen local restaurants. “Local” for us meant more chicken and mac n’ cheese.
We made our way to SunTrust Field in suburban Atlanta. Located in The Battery, the park was built to be surrounded by a new area of restaurants, bars and shops. No joke, the area was hopping with fans a few hours before game time and was still going strong when we finished eating that night about 12:30 am.
While the park is not in Downtown anymore, it was only about a 15 minute car ride for us from mid-town Atlanta.
Our first order of business was meeting up with a new friend, Malcolm McMillan. Malcolm is a Canadian who created a blog called The Ballpark Guide (The Ballpark Guide). I have read his material for several years. In anticipation of this trip, I bought shirts from his site for our traveling party to commemorate Marty’s final ballpark. The shirts are awesome. They read: Fastballs Hot Dogs Home Runs and Road Trips. While communicating with Malcolm about the shirts, I discovered that he would be coming down from Ontario for that weekend’s games.
So, naturally, we had to meet up! Malcolm was fantastic. Malcolm’s site is heavy on Minor Leagues and the Majors. In fact, he was visiting Atlanta after spending a few days with the Charlotte Knights (White Sox AAA). After taking a few pictures, us adults sat and talked ballparks while the boys played a pickup football game on a small gridiron just outside the stadium entrance (It is SEC country, after all). Malcolm shared his experience of being a Toronto Blue Jays fan. He made it sound like so much fun to go to games at the Rogers Centre. Plus, the Jays have really great gear. More specifically, the Canada Day caps. After finishing our conversation, it was time to head inside to officially register MLB city number 30 for Marty.
First Pitch – game on. Marty’s 30th city is official.
Once inside, Mac and I had to take care of our traditions for visiting a new stadium. Hats, pennant, ice cream helmets and a tour of the place. Atlanta has a unique spot in baseball lore as the only franchise with championships in three different cities. They also have the record for most Hall of Fame players. Though, that record is a bit dubious because they include on the list any HOF player who ever put on a Braves uniform for any amount of time. Needless to say, a lot of the players are not exactly known for their iconic Braves legacy. Here is a picture of Babe Ruth from his week with the Boston Braves.
The most critical purchase at any ballpark is the Home team cap. Authentic on-field caps from New Era. No exceptions. Mac and I visited several shops around the stadium to find the correct size in the our preferred style of cap.
Braves have several styles that are pretty sharp, but we both went for the new Batting Practice hats. We weren’t comfortable getting hats with the tomahawk due to possible offensiveness to Native Americans. As you can see, we went with the lower case “a” and it is awesome. Very pleased. We almost got the old authentic blue caps with the lower case “a” but couldn’t find them in our sizes.
Touring Around the Park
The Braves have long history – Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta – only franchise to win World Series in three different cities. This illustrious past is on display throughout the park.
First of all, there is a line-up of artifacts from their history. As you can see, many great moments are represented. One stood out – the game winning single from the 1992 NLCS by Francisco Cabrera. However, the item they chose was unusual. Highly unusual. It was Sid Bream’s knee brace. Not the ball, a bat or even the Gatorade bucket. A knee brace.
Of course, the other prominent aspect of the stadium is the “true” Home Run King, Henry Aaron. There is an stunning statute and water fall along the 3rd Base Line.
When going to see the Braves, the experience is not complete without participating in The Chop. Sitting in the stands, moving arms in unison and doing the chant – that is the heart of attending the Braves in person.
While the Chop is an engrained tradition for the Braves, I was glad to see they finally dispensed of their prior mascot. Chief Noc-A-Homa. For a long time, I thought Chief Wahoo of the Indians was the most racist baseball logo. Upon review, I was really wrong. First of all, the Braves had an actual Native American dress in “authentic” wear.
That was bad enough, until they morphed the logo into this . . .
Other scenes from a night at the game
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
The next morning brought us new adventures to seek. While the boys slept, I went out for a run. A run through any city in the Deep South means only one thing – humidity. Ugh.
We decided to head out to the Atlanta suburb of Gwinett to see the Braves AAA team, the Gwinett Stripers, play the Charlotte Knights (White Sox Affiliate). Marty and Lucas decided to go out there early to see if they could grab some autographs. Mac and I had big plans first. He had found a fried chicken spot that he really wanted to check out. Hattie B’s. On Sundays they served Chicken and Waffles, but their specialty was Hot Chicken. So after a lengthy wait, Mac and I indulged in both of these items. Amazing. So glad we took the time to find it.
After lunch, we headed out to Gwinett for the game. It was a Sunday afternoon minor league game, so we figured it would last at least 3 and half hours. Well, we were wrong. Mac and I showed up about an hour into the game to find out that it was already the end of the 6th inning. Crazy. The game ended up easily finishing in under 2 hours. Despite the limited time, we were able obtain some fine authentic Striper gear.
Final notes . . . A Civil War Battlefield and a Truancy Stockade
The first night in Atlanta, the four of us were exploring the neighborhood as Marty was seeking the location of a geocache. It was located in a odd structure that looked like a dilapidated telephone booth. Turns out the booth was used by the police to store truants until their parents came to find them. Plus, the booth was in a park that was actually the site of a Civil War battle. Come to find out, pretty much every neighborhood had some sort of Civil War notice. Regardless, it was cool.
Finally, we ended up staying in a rental house. We got lucky with a gorgeous Southern home with a beautiful old Oak that held a swing stretching 25 feet in the air. Stained Glass windows and classic molding.