Ballpark Roadtrip: Turner Field
The exterior of Turner Field is just a tomahawk chop away from downtown Atlanta. Turner Field was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium and was completed in 1996 to serve as the centerpiece of that year's Summer Olympics. After the Games, the stadium was converted into a baseball park to serve as the new home of the Braves. The team moved there in 1997. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Atlanta is a beautiful city, clean with friendly people. Same goes for Turner Field for the first game I attended.
The ballpark is just south of downtown Atlanta, just off the highway. I found a parking lot that was small on the side of the street for $12.00. Wearing a plain colored t-shirt, I was greeted by friendly security guards that checked my backpack at the main gate. They asked about my camera I was carrying and if I had a pocket knife?
The kid's area called the "Scouts Alley" just inside the main gate is well done and offers many food choices and the team store. I wandered around the park taking photos during batting practice with no problems. Many ushers welcomed me to Braves Country. The ushers and many of the concessions staff were polite and friendly.
The stadium is nice, reminded of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Progressive Field in style. But it lacked some of the character those two parks have. I really was not impressed by the park, perhaps because I have found the three of the best and a few of the worst already. So many parks are just in between now. Many now borrow ideas and styles from other parks.
Players are easy to access for autograph seekers as the seats are close to the field to see the action. I was surprised by how the maintenance was not kept up in some areas on the field level. Many seats were rusty and walking areas had paint peeling up and were chipping. It reminded me of Sunlife Stadium in Miami.
The view of the field was great where I sat eight rows up from the field level. I could see all the action on the field. Many Braves fans were friendly even after they realized I was not a Braves fan. Despite a late Braves rally, many fans had cleared out to beat traffic. Many Met fans stayed to the end by the visitors' dugout in the Mets 4-3 win.
Getting out of the stadium was a bit of a headache, no wonder people left early. Traffic was tight until you got on the highway.
The second day I went on a tour of the park. When I arrived at the entrance where the tour started wearing a Mets hat and shirt, I was greeted by a rude staff member who I later observed the same staff member being more hospitable towards fans wearing Braves gear.
The Braves Museum Hall of Fame and Museum is excellent, much better than what other organizations have. Great artifacts and photos, while in the museum the tour guide leader was asked about the Braves days in Boston and what stadium they played. He did not know the answer.
Walking around the park before the game with the Mets hat gear, I was harassed by a supervisor about walking and taking photos. I said hello to an usher who was friendly the night before, who remarked with some haste in her voice, "You're a Mets fan!"
The game was delayed by rain twice and ended after midnight. The Braves staff cleared fans from the field level before the start of the game. An amazing display of thunder and lightning and was soon followed by heavy rain and a hail storm as you heard oh's and ah's from fans in the covered areas.
The storm brought more heavy winds, rain and lightning forced play to be stopped in the top of the fifth inning. By that time the game started again, many fans had left and the die-hards moved down right behind the dugouts.
During the 7th inning stretch, the Tomahawk Team danced on the dugouts to John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" while throwing shirts to fans.
As the game ended the heavy rains started once again and as I headed for the car. Many Met fans and myself heard the abuse of Atlanta Braves fans as expected following the Mets 4-0 win.
I feel like attending two different ballparks. One I was treated with southern hospitality by staff and fans. The following day I was treated the way General Sherman the same way treated Atlanta.
Ballpark: C - Seats are rusting, paint peeling from chipping concrete on field level. The tour was not one of the better ones I've been on, the tour guide made baseball even more boring. Plenty of stuff for kids to do, great views of the field.
Fans & Atmosphere: B - Fans are more interested in country music concerts this weekend than the current game. People walked in late and took off at the first sign of rain. Many fans act like they have won 12 World Series instead of just one title in Atlanta. Wake up! Bush league atmosphere by attacking opposing teams' history with an obnoxious video introduction. Just play baseball!
Food: B - Had a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich and bottled water for $8.75 dollars! Sandwich was great and during the rain delay had real ice cream for $5.00.
Mascot: D - Homer the Brave. Baseball headed like Mr. Met who meets the Phillie Phanatic brother he does not talk about, but not as funny.
Staff: B - Friendly security staff when I wore plain clothes with no allegiance to any team. Next day I wore a Mets hat, shirt and was treated not as well. In between innings entertainment, "The Tomahawk Team" are the most attractive in baseball.
Team Tradition: A - Oldest running franchise in existence from the teams start as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871. Team honors past very well The Tomahawk Chop is more annoying in person. Proud of success since 1991 to present.
Location: A - Just a tomahawk chop from downtown Atlanta. Across the parking lot was Fulton County Stadium. I was warned by security and other fans that the area was not safe.
Photos taken June 14-15, 2011 using a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Digital SLR with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.