By Richard Cuicchi | August 21, 2016 at 08:45 PM EDT | 2 comments
This past weekend I had a chance to attend an Atlanta Braves games at their home Turner Field. One might ask what’s so special about that, since the Braves have one of the worst teams in baseball this year.
Well, in about 45 days, Turner Field will no longer be the site of any more Braves games, because the organization is building a new stadium for the 2017 season in Cobb County, in the suburbs northwest of Atlanta. Although in use for only its 20th season, the Braves are moving from the stadium’s current location which they believed constrained fan attendance because of the insufficient parking space, the park being ¾ mile from the rapid transit system, and the severe traffic congestion around that area.
Turner Field was originally built for the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Braves first occupied the stadium for the 1997 season. It is actually a relatively new facility, being younger than fourteen of Major League Baseball's other 29 stadiums.
In the twenty years since Turner Field opened for baseball, the Braves have won ten division titles and made two additional playoff appearances. Even though the Braves never won a World Series during that timeframe, Braves Nation got to see some very competitive teams. Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, as well as future Hall of Fame infielder Chipper Jones, were the team’s stars during most of those championship years.
However, this year’s version of the Braves is a far cry from the teams of the previous 19 years. They’ve won only 45 games this year, worst in the major leagues. In my blog post of May 22nd, I discussed how Braves management started dismantling the team in 2014, unloading their best players for a slew of new prospects from which they would ideally rebuild a competitive team in time for opening the new stadium in 2017. Whether that team actually comes to fruition is highly debatable. 2018 might be more reasonable expectation.
Dansby Swanson, the overall Number 1 draft pick of 2015 whom the Braves acquired in one of their trades over last off-season, appears to be targeted as the new face of the Braves. He made his major league debut last week, in only his second pro season. Braves fans are hoping Swanson will become the new Chipper Jones.
It turns out the Braves lost to the Washington Nationals in Saturday night’s game, 11-9. The game appeared to be a runaway win for the Nationals, since they held an 11-4 lead at the end of the 7th inning. But the Braves’ bats came alive in the last three innings to finally make the game interesting.
Besides getting to see one more baseball game at historic Turner Field, the other thing that was special about going to the game was my wife and I were able to attend with two of my daughters, Molly and Joni, and their families, including two grandsons, Gavin and Jackson. The boys got the thrill of their short lives when they were able to walk on the stadium field as part of the Braves’ “Mother-Son Parade” promotion that night. But my little granddaughter, Olivia, one-upped the boys when Washington Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark picked her out of a bunch of screaming kids in the stands to give her a baseball during batting practice before the game. That was a pretty awesome to see them enjoy the experience.
Maybe a new stadium next year will indeed change the Braves’ fortunes. Turner Field is slated for conversion into a football stadium for Georgia State University, so all the historic memories of those Braves teams will eventually fade away. But they did have a good run in that stadium.