1. SunTrust Park, Saturday June 17th 2017
Following an enjoyable visit to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina, we headed out on the next leg our our journey, toward Atlanta to see the Braves host the Miami Marlins at Truist Park (known as SunTrust Park when we visited). The game was scheduled for a 410 pm start (presumably at the behest of Fox Sports), before which we needed to complete a three and one-half hour drive.
Fortunately for us, traffic was relatively light on Interstate 85 South, and the trip flew by. We stopped at our hotel just long enough to drop off our bags and relax a bit before heading out to the park. Not knowing much about the new ballpark, we simply followed the Google directions for parking.
We were quite surprised to find out there was no on-site parking at the stadium. Instead, we were directed to a lot at a municipal building about three-quarters of a mile from the park. There wasn’t much guidance about transportation to the stadium, so we followed the crowd toward the ballpark. Crossing over Interstate 75 on a pedestrian bridge, we reached the entrance to the park in about 15 minutes.
Granted, this was the inaugural season for the ballpark, but seemingly the Braves hadn’t worked out the problem of getting fans to the complex. Luckily for us, the weather was dry and seasonably warm. Heat or thunderstorms could wreak havoc with people trying to attend the game, especially those with limited mobility. Hopefully, this oversight has been corrected since our visit.
Obviously, the Braves and local government had plans for the area. The gates were not yet open, so we walked around the complex. Adjacent to the stadium were bars, restaurants and shops, most of which were not yet open for business. By the time we had encircled the area, the gates had opened, and we entered the ballpark.
Clearly, the ballpark was anchored to the Comcast Building in right field. Unfortunately, the building seemed to be something of an eyesore (in my opinion), which detracted from the overall feel of the park. The stadium featured a functional but unobtrusive video board in center field, flanked in left field by a smaller video board dedicated primarily to game stats, which I found to be very useful.
The park appeared much bigger in person than on TV, due in large part to the third deck spanning foul territory from pole to pole. This detracted from any sense of intimacy within the stadium. In fairness, we didn’t get to explore the park much before the game, so perhaps another look tomorrow afternoon would change my initial evaluation. One thing was certain: this park was a welcome relief from Turner Field.
The Marlins’ lineup for this contest was actually fairly well stacked, featuring future NL MVP Christian Yelich. This lineup struck for five runs in the fifth inning to take the lead. However, the Braves clawed their way back into the game, tying it in the bottom of the ninth. Brandon Philips singled in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth, securing the come from behind victory.
Following the final out, we traveled with the herd back over the pedestrian bridge to our parking spot. Though the new stadium had some positive aspects, the parking issue seemed to overshadow them. We would be back tomorrow afternoon for the final game in the series.
2. SunTrust Park, Sunday June 18th 2017
Having seen much of what we wanted to see in the Atlanta area back in 2011, we stayed close to the hotel until checkout time. We decided to get an early start for the afternoon game, heading to the parking lots outside of SunTrust Park so that we would arrive at the park when the gates opened.
Clouds gathering during the late morning threatened rain, but for the moment we were dry. With the extra time, we got an extended opportunity to explore the park. One the gems we missed the night before was the Braves Hall of Fame, located at Monument Gardens.
Thirty one plaques, commemorating Braves greats from the Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta eras of the franchise, are interspersed with multi media presentations and memorabilia. 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. The Hall is informative and entertaining, having something for even casual baseball fans. Being a die hard, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Before looking for our seats, we headed for the concession stand to get lunch. There are many concession areas within SunTrust Park, including a Waffle House and Chick-Fil-A on the field level, as well as other outlets from restaurants in the Atlanta area. Despite the wide variety of food available here, our choices were more pedestrian in nature. If you are willing to explore, you can probably find something to suit varying tastes somewhere within the park.
Shortly after finding our seats, the clouds yielded a few sprinkles. However, the rain was short lived, and was completely finished before the start of the game. Eventually, skies began to clear, and we were washed in sunshine during the second half of the game. The start of the game was unusually late, with first pitch scheduled for 130 pm. Most Sunday matinees begin closer to 1 pm, but we’ve found that games in Atlanta start later than most parks, presumably because of traffic.
Starting for the visiting Miami Marlins was 25 year old right hander Jose Urena. Though he only allowed two runs in six plus innings, he had some control issues, particularly early. Urena hit three batters in the first three innings, and when hit, Matt Adams was NOT happy about it.
The Marlins held a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. The Braves struck for four runs, with the majority of the offensive outburst aimed at Marlins reliever David Phelps. The 4-2 Braves lead lasted one-half inning, as the Marlins tied it in the top of the eighth. Much like the game last night, the game came down to the Braves final at-bat.
And just like the previous night, Brandon Phillips was the hero, singling in Johan Camargo to seal the Braves’ 5-4 victory. The happy Braves fans filed out of the SunTrust Stadium, heading back to the distant parking lots. We saw two good baseball games in a brand new park. SunTrust Stadium is a significant improvement over the Braves’ former home, though the curious parking situation was a definite detraction from an otherwise nice ballpark.