On Father’s Day, we celebrated our annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Day to celebrate men who have courageously battled prostate cancer, and to raise funds to support prostate cancer research. This is a great event in which we honor the survivors with an on-field ceremony, as well as promote awareness about Prostate Cancer.
In an effort to increase prostate health awareness, we hosted pre-game seminar led by Dr. Martin Sanda, Professor and Chief of Urology at Emory School of Medicine and Emory Healthcare, and Dr. Scott Miller, Director of Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery at Georgia Urology and Northside Hospital. Nearly 80 survivors, family members and fans who wanted to learn more about prostate health attended this very informative session.
Dr. Miller and Dr. Sanda spoke on topics ranging from early detection to frontiers in patient-centered care. This was followed up by a joint Q&A segment. The information shared at this seminar was invaluable. Many of the attendees commented on how thankful they were that these doctors took time out of their busy schedules to share a wealth of information that they would not necessarily get any other time.
After the Seminar, we walked the survivors down to the field, where they were honored during a pre-game ceremony. Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Pitcher Jim Johnson even came out and meet the survivors and participate in the ceremony.
This was a great event that made a real impact on these prostate cancer survivors, and helped to promote awareness about the disease. It was a great way to spend a Father’s Day, and the Braves winning was certainly a nice touch. We are already looking forward to next year’s event!
Braves pitcher Jason Grilli works hard on the mound as the Braves closer to finish games, but his energy is equally focused on giving back to the same community that cheers for him each night. Hunger Awareness is a cause close to Jason’s heart and as a member of Feeding America’s entertainment council he uses his affectionate nickname, “Grilled Cheese,” to bring awareness to child hunger.
Jason teamed up with the Atlanta Braves, Feeding America, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank to surprise students from The Study Hall with a special lunch. Our closer became “Chef Grilli” and fired up the grill to cook and serve his favorite snack, grilled cheese sandwiches.
Braves partners Kroger and Nature’s Own were huge supporters in making this visit extra special by donating the bread, cheese, and butter used to make the sandwiches.
After taking a tour of The Study Hall and learning about their garden, Chef Grilli made his way to the kitchen, put on an apron, grabbed a spatula and began flipping cheese sandwiches.
When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, there are few aromas better than that of butter and cheese sizzling and crisping on a grill, and by now, the kids were anxious to eat.
Grilli served lunch to all the students then joined them in the lunch room to share stories about his days in school and encourage them to eat healthy and stay active.
On Wednesday, June 10 the Braves Wives hosted the annual She Can Play Fitness Festival at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at the Villages at Carver YMCA. She Can Play is a free, health and fitness initiative that focuses on teaching young girls about healthy living and encouraging them to become involved in sports by demonstrating the importance of leading an active lifestyle. This is one of three components to the brand new She Is Brave initiative which educates, empowers and inspires girls through a series of programs that promotes self-esteem, healthy and active lifestyles and leadership skills.
More than 300 girls ages 8-12 joined us from organizations including the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, City of Atlanta, Girls on the Run, The Salvation Army, and CHOICES.
Decked in their “She Can Play” t-shirts, the girls participated in seven different fitness stations, hosted by local health and fitness organizations. Participants learned everyting from Zumba and hip-hop dance to yoga and kickboxing. They also attended an interactive healthy living workshop hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta called Strong 4 Life.
This year’s festival had a different look and feel, with each station rotating throughout the Braves Baseball Academy. In patio area, Kandice from KFit Zumba was playing today’s Hip-Hop hits and girls got the chance to learn exhilarating new dance moves.
Torch Fitness had things kickin’ with Amy Miller, wife of Braves Pitcher Shelby Miller, on the John Smoltz field with kid-friendly kickboxing. Participants learned different types of kicks and punches while others learned agility drills. This station tested the girls’ strength and got them ready for the next station.
On the Chipper Jones Field, former Miss Georgia contestant, Carly Gill, from Daily Does It Fitness along with Chelsea Freeman, wife of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Veronica Ramirez, wife of Braves coach and alumni Horacio Ramirez, taught girls the ins and outs of strength training. Participants did lunges, squats, jumping jacks, sit-ups and much more.
The wives stopped to talk to a couple of news stations and our very own Braves Vision team about the She Is Brave initiative.
Grace Snell and Caitlin Griffey stretched it out at the Yoga station on the Mike Hampton Field. At this station the girls focused on the art of being calm while working out their bodies and their minds. For 8-12 year old girls, staying still and relaxed is not as easy as it sounds!
Former Auburn softball player Maris Medina and volunteers had the girls on the Brian Jordan field swinging for the fences at the softball station! Girls learned how to throw and catch and hit off a tee. Each girl left this station with a brand new bright yellow softball to take home and practice with!
On the lower pavilion, professional dancer Cat Viger had a different kind of dance station going on. Cat and her assistant from Gotta Dance Atlanta taught the girls a dance routine to the song “Fun” by Pitbull. The girls loved learning this dance and hearing Cat’s stories from being a dancer for famous artists like Beyonce!
The last station the girls visited was Strong 4 Life, an interactive healthy living workshop hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They gave tips such as adding more veggies and fruits to their plates, being active for 60 minutes a day, limiting screen time to one hour, drinking more water and limiting sugary drinks.
To cap off the afternoon, all participants grabbed a sandwich, water, and Go-Go Squeeze applesauce along with some Braves swag on their way back to their chaperone.
As you can see we certainly had fun at “She Can Play” this year, and we hope our participants did as well!
Every season, Major League Baseball conducts an essay contest for students 4th-9th grade in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico that have experienced the struggle of overcoming barriers in their day-to-day lives by using the values that Jackie Robinson demonstrated. Students are encouraged to mention how they used citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence, and teamwork to embody Robinson’s values.
A committee reads the thousands of submissions and selects the most inspirational stories. Bizunesh Keith, a 5th grader out of Marietta, took home the 2nd place prize for her age group. Bizunesh, or Buzae as she answers to friends and family, wrote about her struggles of overcoming color barriers at school after being adopted from Ethiopia with her sister a few years ago.
Click here to read her award-winning essay: Bizunesh Keith
Bizunesh along with the other 1st and 2nd place winners all received brand new Microsoft laptops, Breaking Barriers shirts for them and their class, and a book written by Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson. Teachers of the winning students received a Microsoft tablet.
As the days of the school year dwindled down, Braves mascot Homer, school board member David Banks, and Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell surprised Bizunesh at her school. Homer interrupted her class during a poetry reading to surprise Bizunesh with a bouquet of balloons and tickets to the Braves game that Friday where she would be honored on-field. We were excited to announce her accomplishments during an on-field ceremony that Friday night as she was joined by Braves outfielder Eric Young, Jr.
We are truly proud of Bizunesh and her courage to overcome the obstacles by demonstrating the traits set forth by Jackie Robinson. She is such an inspiration, and we are lucky to have her as a part of Braves Country!
Every year around Mother’s Day, Major League Baseball celebrates baseball fans that have been affected by breast cancer and are determined to defeat the disease. Tracy Chitwood, the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, was recognized at the game on Friday, May 22.
Tracy was nominated by her son for her incredible faith during the trying times of living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Even after undergoing numerous surgeries her strength hasn’t wavered. Tracy is an active organizer in many Susan G. Komen and American Cancer Society events, and has inspired families to continue in the fight against Breast Cancer.
In honor of being named the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, Tracy arrived early for the game for an on-field up-close-and-personal batting practice experience where she met her favorite player, Freddie Freeman. She was given a pink and white personalized jersey from Braves wives Victoria Young and Theresa Tosca, and presented a pink MLB wooden bat by Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin. She got her pink bat autographed by some of her other favorite Braves players such as Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis. Tracy concluded her VIP pre-game experience by being the Braves Honorary Team Captain for that night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers
and where she went on the field for the pregame lineup card exchange with both team managers and umpires. Tracy enjoyed a truly special experience at Turner Field, and we were honored to help bring a smile to her face.
Last Friday, in honor of Armed Forces Month and as part of our monthly Braves Care front office staff volunteer initiative, we welcomed members of the Wounded Warrior Project, a veteran service organization for wounded veterans, to Turner Field for the 2nd Annual Wounded Warrior Classic.
The Warriors arrived at the ballpark around 10 am for a VIP all-access tour of the Braves Museum, ballpark, press box and the Braves Clubhouse. Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, surprised the warriors while they were exploring the Braves museum and joined them for the remainder of their tour. At the conclusion of their tour, the Warriors were joined by our front office staff and Delta Air Lines volunteers, who were waiting to serve and eat lunch with our special guests.
We had a couple other exciting surprises in store for the Warriors. Following lunch, we informed our guests that they would be going down on the field to take batting practice from home plate! They couldn’t hit live batting practice on a Major League baseball field with just any equipment, so we announced that Mizuno Baseball donated brand new equipment for them to use during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Each Warrior walked away with their choice of a top of the line aluminum bat or baseball glove, a pair of batting gloves and batting helmet. With new equipment in hand, Braves staff and Delta employees escorted the Warriors down to the field for batting practice.
Once they took the field, Braves alumni Greg McMichael, Jim Nash, and Ron Reed joined Johnny Estrada as batting practice coaches for the Warriors.
Like the big leaguers do before each major league game, each Warrior had an opportunity to take about 10 hacks from the tortoise shell. When they weren’t hitting, they were able to run around in the outfield and shag fly balls with Braves staff while mingling with our alumni players.
Our Braves Alumni gladly signed autographs and took photos with the Warriors, and at the end of their visit, our special guests gathered by the Braves dugout for a group photo and final remarks.
It was an honor to have these exceptional men at Turner Field for a fun day with the Braves Staff!
The Atlanta Braves hosted two clinics for Junior Braves RBI coaches as part of the Braves Youth Baseball Initiative of continuing to provide resources to various baseball and softball program and grow the sport of baseball in Atlanta. We partnered with MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a non-profit organization that provides grants and Field Maintenance Education for the first session.
The Braves Grounds Crew, headed by award-winning field maintenance expert Ed Mangan, led the morning clinic with more than 30 local youth coaches. The Coaches learned how to prepare the mound for a game, prepare home plate, the proper way to cut the grass (with and without designs), and field measurements and dimensions (learning where to measure from and how to measure properly). They were given a behind the scenes tour of the grounds crew shop area and pump room, something that even WE have never seen. It was awesome! At the end of the clinic, Ed answered as many questions as he could. One thing he reiterated about field maintenance was, “It’s better to keep up, than catch up,” meaning it’s easier to keep the field maintained, then to let it go and try to revive it. Overall, Ed and his crew did a fantastic job teaching the skills and giving these coaches the knowledge necessary to properly maintain a field.
After the morning session, an additional 30 coaches joined us for lunch and the “Positive Coaching Alliance Workshop: Coaching For Winning and Life Lessons.” This part of the clinic was led by Will Jackson, who was on hand to teach the PCA Principles of Double Goal Coaching techniques. Will has been in youth sports as a baseball and football coach for over 40 years. The interactive workshop started by defining the Double-Goal Coach™ as one who strives to win and works to prepare his/her team to play at its highest level, and, at the same time, teaches life lessons (teamwork, dedication, bouncing back from mistakes, etc.). Will used small breakout sessions to get the coaches to interact with each other on ways they are currently coaching their players and to come up with more ways to improve their techniques. These sessions really helped the youth coaches exchange best practices and get new ideas about how to coach, teach, and motivate their players.
At the end of the session, we had one more special treat for the coaches…. Bo Porter, Atlanta Braves third base & base running coach, came and spoke to the group. Coach Porter spoke about creating an environment for youth to thrive and the three “Cs” of coaching, which he described as: 1) Commitment, 2) Competition, and 3) Coaching. He also spoke about the current Braves team and their approach on the base paths. He said, “We want to make the defense uncomfortable.” For example, too often, when a ground ball is hit, the runner doesn’t give an extreme effort to beat it out. Runners know that Major League infielders will make the play majority of time. However, if an extreme effort is given and the runner is safe, this makes the infielder uncomfortable the next time around. He used an example of a game earlier this year in Miami where a 6-4-3 Ground Ball double play should’ve been turned by Miami against the Braves, but instead the play was beaten out at first. Two batters later, a three-run homerun was hit. The double play would’ve ended the inning. That’s a huge key to winning games, extending an inning. Later that same game, another 6-4-3 Ground Ball was hit, instead this time the turn man (second baseman) rushed the exchange and dropped the ball. He attests that drop to the player being uncomfortable. Or course, everyone was listening intently and on the edge of their seat. This was one of many stories Coach Porter touched on during his time with us and we are grateful that he came!
After Coach Porter left, we thanked everyone for coming and invited them to stay for the Braves vs. Reds game that night (which we won)! It was a great event and we look forward to hosting it again next year!
This season, the Atlanta Braves launched a new girls health initiative called She Is Brave which educates, empowers and inspires girls through a series of programs that promotes self-esteem, healthy and active lifestyles and leadership skills.
As part of the She Can Dream initiative, we kicked off prom season in Atlanta with the help of the Atlanta Braves Wives. We invited 25 junior and senior girls from Atlanta Public Schools to Turner Field for an once-in-a-lifetime experience. These girls got the VIP treatment as they picked out their perfect gown and jewelry for prom, experienced hair and make-up tutorials and left with fashionable tote bags full of beauty products.
Upon arrival, the girls and their mothers were greeted and directed up to the 755 Club for a special dinner with Braves Wives Chelsea Freeman, Kristi Gomes, Gloria McDowell, Tia Johnson, Victoria Young, Veronica Ramirez, Jessica Cahill, Gabriella Perez and Bri Pugh . After dinner, we started the evening with some awesome raffle prizes from Dolce and Gabbana and Gucci including perfume, eye makeup, nail polish and lipstick compliments of Lindsey Houston of Proctor and Gamble.
The girls rotated between hair tutorials, make-up demonstrations, and the most exciting station… the prom dress station. They learned about skin care and makeup from Selena Gilbert, Make up Artist at FaceChemistry, and got amazing hair-care tips from celebrity hair stylist, Patrice Hector. Each girl also got the opportunity to peruse through the rack of over 150 dresses and jewelry to find the perfect fit for their big night. Lindsey Haas of FairyTale Endings – Helping Teens go to Prom, in Woodstock, donated all of the gorgeous gowns and sparkly jewelry.
The Atlanta Braves Wives helped each girl shop for that perfect dress. It was truly an unforgettable site to see when the girls came emerged from behind the curtain in fancy gowns and the biggest smiles on their faces. When they realized how absolutely stunning they each looked in the gowns, it was hard for any observer not to get teary-eyed.
The evening rolled on with more surprises. Each girl was called up to receive a leather tote bags filled to the brim with amazing items such as perfume, make-up and skin care products compliments of Saks 5th Avenue. They also received hair care products donated by Design Essentials and Belk gift card to purchase shoes for their big night. Last but not least, they would each receive complimentary hairstyling the day of their prom by Patrice Hector and by the wonderful hair stylists at Too Groovy Salons in Atlanta.
We were so excited to have these special guests in Braves Country for the evening, and we were thrilled to be a part of their prom. We are certain each of them looked nothing short of incredible the day of their prom thanks to our amazing vendors. If it wasn’t for these wonderful partners, we would have never been able to make these dreams come true!
Check out these wonderful news stories about the event!
On May 1, we had a very special VIP named Dalton visit Turner Field for a day that he will never forget.
Dalton is 12 years old and suffers from autoimmune disease, which causes him to get sick a lot more often than most kids and leaves him more susceptible to certain blood disorders and cancers. Dalton has spent an unfortunate amount of time in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Dalton put in a very specific wish with the Make-A-Wish Georgia Foundation last year, hoping that he would get a tree-house built and decorated in nothing but Braves baseball décor. His wish was granted at the end of last year, and we stopped by to visit his special little hiding spot. It is dressed to the nines in colorful and unique Braves gear.
We decided, a tree house is cool and everything… but there may be something else that Dalton would love. So we invited Dalton out to Turner Field for a little wish enhancement. He had no idea what he had coming his way when he arrived at Turner Field that afternoon, and when we surprised him with a trip on the field for Braves batting practice his face lit up! Seeing his heroes up close and personal was such a thrill! This was just the beginning.
We then escorted him into the Braves dugout to sit with Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez. As the players came running into the dugout from batting practice, he had the opportunity to meet players such as Nick Markakis, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young Jr., and AJ Pierzynski. Just as he thought his time with the Braves had come to a close, in walked his favorite player Freddie Freeman. Dalton not only got to meet his hero, he also walked away with Freeman’s game-worn batting gloves given to him by none other than the Braves first baseman himself.
Dalton and his family then headed up to their seats in the 755 Club and were treated to dinner on the Braves. We were so thrilled to have Dalton at the ballpark. We wish nothing but the best to Dalton and his family as he continues to get healthy.
To kick off Armed Forces Month, we dedicated our Braves Care front office volunteer event to our friends in the military by serving lunch at the USO of Georgia and by collecting items for troops returning home from overseas.
On Friday, May 1, we started our day off at the USO of Georgia facility at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport preparing for the arrival of new soldiers returning home from basic training. The USO of Georgia is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale, welfare and recreation services to military personnel and their families. They are open every day for soldiers who are passing through the Atlanta airport to stop in and have a hot meal and a quiet place to regroup. Every Friday, the USO anticipates the arrival of a few hundred brand new soldiers from Fort Benning in Columbus, GA headed to their next destination. These young men and women spend 14 weeks at basic training with little to no interaction with the outside world.
We were so excited when the first bus arrived that Friday morning from basic training, as we waited for them with “Welcome Home” signs. It was evident that they had not had access to electronics or the simplest things like caffeine as they rushed off the buses and straight to the newsstands in the airport to grab a soda and snacks. As we caught up with them, we directed them upstairs to the USO facility where Braves front office staff and Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, were serving sandwiches for lunch. Johnny was happy to sign autographs for all of the service men and women and visit with them while they readjusted to civilian life.
As the facility filled up with young gentlemen in their dress blues, we unleashed another surprise on them… Braves player Jonny Gomes would also be joining them for lunch. Gomes accompanied by his wife Kristi, who happens to be a from military family, signed autographs and took photos. Many of the soldiers gathered in the USO conference room with Gomes and Estrada for a Q&A. The Gomes’ even delivered the cutest thank you cards for the soldiers that their kids made at home!
This was one of the most fun and rewarding Braves Care events, as we got to talk to and serve so many truly courageous young men.
In celebration of Armed Forces Month, that weekend we collected items outside of the ballpark for the USO to use at their facility. Fans brought everything from paper products and utensils to fruit snacks and granola bars. The USO uses all of these items to serve soldiers when they stop in on their journey either back home from deployment or to their next post from basic training.
We have the pleasure of partnering with the USO on different occasions throughout the year through our military outreach efforts, and we always enjoy working with them. For more information about how you can get involved in the USO’s outreach efforts, visit www.usogeorgia.org.