JD’s 2015 Ballpark Tour; Atlanta, Georgia

Part IV: Turner Field

(AKA: Baseball in Hot-lanta)

With the hockey season over and work drawing to a close for the summer, I was ready to resume my travels to the MLB ballparks across the nation. Mid-June was my earliest possible time to leave home without any work getting in the way. Luckily, my cousin, Danny, lived fairly close to Turner Field and wanted me to visit him. I jumped at the chance to visit family AND be able to knock out another ballpark. I hadn’t posted too much at the time, but was still catching up from the previous season. That would all change after this trip. On the plane ride to Atlanta and the night before the game, I had finished two posts, and had them in the back-burner ready to upload… but I had no internet until Monday when I had my free day in Columbus, Georgia. It was certainly catch-up time for me, and it was time to go on the road for nearly a month.

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Ballpark 18: Turner Field, elevation 1050 feet

The game: Mets @ Braves on June 21, 2015

I got into town Saturday early morning, and was staying with my cousin and his future family at their place. We ended up catching up and sleeping pretty late. Since the game was on a Sunday night with a 5pm start, this gave me and the family a chance to sleep in a bit and celebrate Father’s Day with him. It was a good morning, and a good way to start off the day. Soon, we made the trek to the park so we could all sit together. At least parking right across the street from the park is only $15. It might seem expensive to some people, but believe me, that is nothing compared to quite a few other ballparks.

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Ticket prices: The problem with sitting together is that cheap tickets are just not possible with a big group in general… unless you go to Dodger Stadium. As it was, we ended up sitting in the general admission area in right field for $14 each ticket. This was mistake number one. We should have sprung for the $24 tickets in left field because the right field seats are splashed in sunshine. Hot and humid sunshine. Atlanta is more than warm. There is a good reason why the city is nicknamed “Hot-Lanta.” It felt that bad out there.

At least there were PLENTY of seats out there in the sun for everybody to sit together. Don’t get me wrong, the view isn’t too bad at all, but the stadium is on the higher-capacity side since it was the Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics. This stadium had a much higher capacity during the Olympics, and some of the views definitely reflect that because of the distance to home plate. Combined with the abundant sunshine enveloping the entire right field area, these seats are probably the absolute worst not just in the park, but in most of Major League Baseball currently. Hopefully, the new baseball stadium in Atlanta will rectify some of that.

Luckily, I was able to get a small water cup for free to alleviate the heat. It felt like 105 degrees out there, and that was not fun. I have done off-ice officiating in hockey for five years now… I’m very used to the cold. This weather was probably the worst weather I’ve ever watched a game in. Can you tell the weather was just that bad out there? My advice for this stadium is unless you love sunbathing, avoid those seats at all costs.

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The fans: Keeping this short, this was actually a fairly well-attended game because it was a Sunday, and because it was Father’s Day. In talking to fan services, they said there was a bigger crowd than normal because it was also the final home game for the Braves in a long while. It looked… decent at best. I’m happy the fans that were there became enthusiastic when they needed to. Atlanta fans that do show up are your standard baseball fans that know when to cheer. Overall, the support is there okay, but it’s so typical. Nothing overly enthusiastic about them.

The food: There is nothing too special about the food in the park, and the prices reflect the food they serve there. Their classic dog was only five bucks, and was pretty good. At least the corn dogs there are only $3.25 and was quite tasty. The good deal there was their frozen lemonades. Many parks will charge over six to seven bucks for a frozen lemonade. At Turner Field, they were only five and a quarter. Not a bad price at all! I couldn’t help but buy one because of the heat! It really hit the spot.

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The game: Unfortunately, I missed the first pitch and was slightly saddled behind since I had to wait around, something I don’t normally do. Because of this, I never even got my passport stamp in the ol’ notebook for this ballpark. As it was, the game started off very quickly without any real chances of scoring. The Braves had a runner on third base in the 2nd inning, but Julio Teheran (Atlanta’s starting pitcher) couldn’t bring the runner home.

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After that, it was a bunch of 1-2-3 innings that took place, and we were moving along at a very quick pace… a little too quick. For innings three to six, only one runner reached second base. While I was glad for this quick pace to get me out of the blazing sun, there was less time to look around at Turner Field. One feature that you can’t ignore is the plethora of consecutive banners in left field denoting the multiple division championships the Atlanta Braves won through the 1990s and early 2000s. Of course, all those banners and only one World Series title.

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One hokey thing that made me laugh was the Home Depot “power tools” race where the big hammer won. This seems like a purely Southern thing to me, and it was entertaining, to say the least. From my seat, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the Olympic flame from the 1996 Games. At least there are still some nods to that memorable summer.

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Also, there is a huge piece of history in the parking lot. In the main lot is part of the wall from the old Fulton County Stadium where Hank Aaron hit his famous record-breaking home run. The wall is still there with a huge #715 on it and the date of the home run being hit (April 8, 1974). However, these were things outside the actual stadium, itself. The one other distinctive feature inside the park is a giant cow from a particular restaurant that moves its arm up and down whenever that famous song (The Tomahawk Chop) is played.

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As for the rest of the game, the lone run came in the bottom of the 7th inning when Ryan Lavarnway hit a double to the gap, and pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco drove in the run on an RBI single. That was the only run scored in the entire game. Atlanta’s bullpen shut the door in the final two innings, and that was the ballgame. Good win for the home team on this one with a good crowd on hand.

Somehow, maybe I didn’t miss out on much because not a whole lot really stood out at Turner Field. The sight lines are decent if you can get good seats. Because of the original configuration, some seats are simply too far from the action. Worst off, there are too many empty seats to give this ballpark a passing grade, especially for a Sunday afternoon. At least I got some great pictures of myself with the ballpark after the game, but everything after that was a bit of a nuisance. Another bit of information I should pass along has to do with their “Kids Run the Bases” promotion. When I tried to find my family downstairs along the ramps after the game, I wasn’t allowed to go down certain ramps because some of the ushers thought I would be cutting to run the bases. When trying to explain that I needed to find my family, I was told to go around and wait by the “family waiting area.” I didn’t take too kindly to their attitude, and this is something that needs to be remedied in the near future.

However, because I was told to go around the waiting area, this gave me a chance to look around the main concourse and see what they had to offer in terms of hats and merchandise. I was a bit happy to see some decent merchandise in a small kiosk, but there was nothing fitted. There was some great hats that were adjustable. I was then told that there would be a much better selection of hats in the main team store. I became highly disappointed when I didn’t find anything in my size, and was told that they were just out of stuff my size. I felt very despondent at this point and was ready to give up, but I found a cheap merch stand outside the stadium and just got one of those hats… and it doesn’t even fit correctly. If nothing else, I got a hat to add to the collection, but I don’t know how often (if ever) I’ll wear the Braves cap from Turner Field.

As far as ballparks go, this trip was off to a slightly disappointing start. While it’s a good thing this current “white elephant” ballpark is going away, the new SunTrust Stadium doesn’t look all that promising because there is nothing distinctive about it. I understand why the new place is being built, and why it’s being built in the north part of town, but I think some changes need to be made in the current mock-ups otherwise the Braves could still see an attendance problem. Overall, at least I got to spend the holiday weekend with my cousin and his soon-to-be family! They really are a great bunch.

Please don’t forget to check out the twitter with the hashtag #JDsBallparkTour and follow me at: @StimpyJD. Thank you everyone for continuing to read about my travels, I so greatly appreciate it. Feel free to e-mail me about my travels, baseball, or life in general. Finally, please follow along as I continue my journey to all thirty current MLB parks. Once again, thank you so much and see you at the ballpark!

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-JD

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