Having seen as much as Atlanta was we expected on Saturday, we hung out at the hotel after breakfast until it was time to go to the game. A 135 pm start meant that the gates opened after 1135 am, and we arrived at about that time. An early arrival allowed us to get a parking spot onsite. Considering what happened the night before at an offsite parking lot, we were happy to pay a bit more to park closer to the stadium.
Another hot day was in the offing in Atlanta, but a breeze helped keep the humidity at tolerable levels. Less humidity equaled a more pleasant experience as we walked around the ballpark, taking in what we missed the night before. One of our first stops was the place where Hank Aaron’s 715th home run landed in the previous Atlanta ballpark, Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
Old enough to remember the event, I saw the home run live on Monday Night Baseball (a staple of the NBC sports schedule in the 1970s). Seeing the location for myself brought the moment back as if it just occurred. It was heartening that the Braves and MLB had the foresight to maintain the historic site.
Just outside Turner Field were a number of statues commemorating various legendary Braves. Hammerin’ Hank, Phil Niekro, and Warren Spahn stood outside the ballpark, immortalized in bronze at entrance gates around the park.
After walking around the ballpark for about 30 minutes, we decided to go inside to get a better look at the park in the day time. As we found yesterday, the lower level concourse of Turner Field was continuous, which allowed to take pictures of the entire ballpark. A better look at the park reinforced my original impression; Turner Field was a typical MLB stadium. Built originally as an Olympic venue, by today’s standards the seating capacity is huge (nearly 50,000). Almost by definition, a stadium with that capacity cannot have the same intimacy of some of the smaller ballparks built within the past 20 years. The seating area is also more recessed that most newer parks, which made sitting in the lower levels seem further away.
Ducking back into the concourse to escape the heat, we stumbled upon the Braves Hall of Fame museum. Located on the field field side behind the foul pole, the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum and Hall of Fame displayed memorabilia celebrating Braves teams from Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. The Braves Hall of Fame is oriented linearly, which could result in a crowded visit with a large fan presence in the stadium. Fortunately for us, there were not many fans in the Hall while we visited.
Before heading to our seats, we sought out a ballpark lunch. The Braves Chop House, located in right center field, offered causal dining within the ballpark. Not what we were looking for, we instead stopped at one of the many concession stands for hot dogs, popcorn and cold drinks for the upcoming hot afternoon.
As is typical at most ballparks (both MLB and MiLB), the Sunday afternoon crowd was smaller than the previous Saturday night. This allowed us to obtain better seats than the night before, in the lower level just behind the Braves dugout. Better seats meant we were splashed in sunshine. Temperatures in the lower 90s were tempered to some degree by a refreshing breeze, as we settled in for an afternoon of baseball.
The matinee’s pitching matchup featured Matt Garza for the Cubs (in his first season with Chicago) going up against Brandon Beachy for the hometown Braves. Beachy, a hard throwing right hander, was making the catcher’s glove pop this afternoon. His stuff was electric for this contest, and I was impressed by how easily his delivery seemed while throwing the ball near 100 mph at times. In 5 1/3 innings of work, he surrendered two runs on six hits, striking out seven and did not walk a batter.
This outing was typical of his 2011 season, during which he stuck 169 batter in 142 innings. However, after developing arm trouble during the 2012 season, Beachy tore his UCL, requiring surgery to repair it. After returning to Braves, it was determined he would need a second elbow surgery, and has not appeared in MLB since 2015.
In contrast, Matt Garza struggled for the Cubs, allowing four runs in five innings. The Cubs touched up Beachy for two runs in the top of the sixth inning, chasing him from the game. Braves relievers surrendered two more runs in that frame, as the Cubs tied the game at 4. The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, after which time the game became a battle of the bullpens.
Most of the time, I barely take notice of fans near me at ballgames, as I am typically lost in the game itself. Today, however, was very different. A family of four, sitting across the aisle, caught my attention on more than one occasion. The young man had difficulty sitting still, which is in itself not unusual for kids at ballgames. His behavior suggested that he was used to getting his way, and his parents appeared to capitulate, taking the path of least resistance.
During one of the between innings events, Braves employees shot t shirts into the crowd, and one of the shirts landed in the lap of a woman in front of us. The young man, not having received a t shirt, melted down. The father, clearly frustrated by his son’s behavior, offered the woman cash for the shirt. She acquiesced, and the young man was mollified by the shirt. While this seems like a story hardly worth retelling, it struck me as a father simply reinforcing his son’s bad behavior.
Returning to the action, the Cubs scored two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-5 lead, which the Cubs’ bullpen made hold up for the victory. Filing out of the stadium, I took one last look at the ballpark. The stadium itself was adequate, with few of the frills of most MLB parks (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Turner Field was a comfortable place to see a game, but the neighborhood surrounding made the experience less enjoyable. It was clear why the Braves wanted to move from this place, and they would get their wish six years later, moving to nearby Cobb County.