Santa let some of his favorite helpers deliver special goodies to our friends at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston for the annual Christmas in July hospital visit last week! Braves players and their wives love this event, as they are able to personally hand deliver toys donated during the annual Braves Wives Toy Drive.
Each year, the Braves Wives host a Toy Drive prior to a Braves home game and invite fans to donate new toys that they then turn around and deliver to the kids at the hospital. Each fan who donated received an autographed photo of a current Braves player. The Toy Drive was a huge success and allowed us to spread Christmas cheer six months early!
Braves players Cameron Maybin and wife Courtney, Matt Wisler, Jace Peterson and girlfriend Bri Pugh, Ryan Lavarnway and wife Jamie, and Kristi Gomes, wife of Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes spent the morning going from room to room after stopping by the Seacrest Studios for a quick interview which broadcasted live to all hospital rooms at all three CHOA locations.
The players and wives split into groups each with a wagon full of toys. The players greeted the families, signed autographs, gave t-shirts and hats away, the wives presented the toys, posed for photos with children and the families. This truly brought a smile to the face of each child who was able to meet their favorite Braves players and receive something fun to occupy their time while staying at CHOA.
During their room-to-room visits, volunteers from the Braves front office spent the morning doing fun hands-on activities with the children who were able to leave their rooms. They made picture frames with colorful stickers and paint, and took their photos on a Polaroid camera which were printed instantly. Some of our players couldn’t resist walking past this area without stopping to help the kids finger paint and get messy.
You could feel the holiday spirit all over the hospital as we finished our visits and our players headed out to get a win against the Dodgers that evening. The parents and staff were grateful that indeed Christmas arrived early for their little ones.
Thank you to all of our Braves players, wives and front office staff for making this visit a memorable one for all these kids!
The 7th Annual Atlanta Braves Youth Baseball Classic presented by Bank of America was recently held at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA on July 17-19. The tournament hosted 71 teams from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee with 9 age divisions, 6U-16U. We refer to this tournament as the “Battle for the Tomahawk” because each winning team and runner up is presented with a carved and engraved wooden tomahawk.
It wouldn’t be a Braves baseball tournament if each team didn’t get some Braves swag. All players and coaches received an official Braves Youth Classic “Battle for the Tomahawk” t-shirt, tickets to the Braves vs. Cubs game on the second day of the classic, and a chance to participate in the pre-game parade around the warning track along with their coaches and families.
Thanks to the help from various volunteers from Bank of America, the Braves 400 Club, and Braves gameday staff, play started on Friday night under the lights. The excitement was felt throughout the park as teams battled for their first win and ultimately for the chance of winning the extremely sought-after wooden tomahawk.
We were set up and ready to go when the sun came up on Saturday morning in Alpharetta. By mid-morning the teams probably wished they were swimming in the Wills Park public pool. The summer heat was in full force as the teams continued playing in hopes of getting into that top seed spot.
At noon on Saturday, all play stopped for a Welcome Ceremony on the 13U field. Ericka Newsome-Hill, Director of the Braves Community Affairs Department, welcomed the players, parents, and families and asked that all participants take a moment of silence for 10-year-old, Cliff White, who was scheduled to play with the 10U Wyer Gamers out of McDonough, GA. Cliff and his sister, Allie, were tragically lost in a car accident just days before the tournament started. Alpharetta Mayor, David Belle Isle, addressed the crowd and welcomed everyone to Wills Park and the City of Alpharetta. Braves alumni Brian Jordan also said a few words to the group about teamwork and the importance of youth baseball. Jordan was at the tournament signing his children’s books for fans. The excitement was raised to a whole new level when Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler was introduced to the crowd. Wisler invited a player from the 10U Gamers team to throw out the ceremonial “first pitch” of the tournament. Matt was happy to switch trade in his glove for a catcher’s mitt and catch this special first pitch. After the ceremony was over, each team had their chance to meet Matt and take a team photo with him.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of teams finishing up their pool play games in hopes of being the highest seed possible for Sunday’s championship brackets. Once the final games were completed, the teams had a little time to go back to their hotels and get ready for the big parade and Braves game at Turner Field.
The on-field ceremony took place next with Bank of America SVP Cheryl Lomax, and several lucky Classic participants. The following players were randomly selected to represent their age division.
6U – Hayden Knop – Warner Robins Reds from Warner Robins, GA
7U – Jax Miller – Chattahoochee Valley Thunder from LaFayette, AL
8U – Landon Frisco – Base Knox Royals from Knoxville, TN
9U – Sheldon Haney – Macon Villains from Macon, GA
10U – Mackenzie White on behalf of her late brother, Cliff White, who was expected to play in the 10U division with the Wyer Gamers of McDonough, GA.
11U – Tyler Partain – Giants Baseball Orange from Alpharetta, GA
12U – Jameison Hudson – Savannah Spartans from Savannah, GA
13U – Jackson Watts – Georgia Rage from Covington, GA
16U – Jamarkist Barnette – FCA Urban Baseball from Atlanta, GA
Congrats to each lucky winner!
The Braves vs. Cubs game that night provided a great experience for all the teams, coaches, and families in attendance. Many had never been to a Braves game before and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Sunday started early again “under the lights.” The rest of the day, we inched closer towards the championships in each age division. Listed below is the list of champion teams and runner ups from each age division. Congratulations to all of our finalists!
6U Age Division
Champion – Eastside Youth Wolfpack from Atlanta, GA
Runner Up – Diamond Simcox Academy Orange from Knoxville, TN
7U Age Division
Champion – Irish from Chattanooga, TN
Runner Up – East TN Mets from Athens, TN
8U Age Division
Champion – Chattanooga Dodgers from Chattanooga, TN
Runner Up – ESBA 8U All-Stars from Marietta, GA
9U Age Division
Champion – HEAT Baseball from Athens, TN
Runner Up – Jasper Jays from Jasper, GA
10U Age Division
Champion – Sandtown Red Sox from Atlanta, GA
Runner Up – South Gwinnett Rattlers from Decatur, GA
11U Age Division
Champion – Diamond Academy Legends from Rocky Face, GA
Runner Up – All-Star Baseball from Maryville, TN
12U Age Division
Champion – Whistlin Dixie Canes from Eastman, GA
Runner Up – Savannah Spartans from Savannah, GA
13U Age Division
Champion – Full Throttle Baseball from Dublin, GA
Runner Up – Georgia Rage from Covington, GA
16U Age Division
Champion – TnT Hustle from East Point, GA
Runner Up – FCA Urban Baseball from Atlanta, GA
Congrats and a big THANK YOU to all of the volunteers and teams that participated and made this tournament fun and competitive. Also, thank you for the feedback!
“I just wanted to say thank you for all you did putting on this tournament. Excellent run tournament and a great time had by all. Sign us up for next. Thanks again.”
– Josh Sylvester, 6U Warner Robins Red All-Stars, Warner Robins, GA
“It was an amazing experience and can’t wait until next year!”
– Kevin Hunley, 10U Base Knox Royals, Knoxville, TN
“Thanks so much for providing such an incredible opportunity to the Young Guns! This past weekend, like the previous years ended with many great memories for our players! This event is one that parents, players and our player’s siblings look forward to every year. You and your staff work really hard and it shows! The Young Guns thank you!”
– Hope Hines, 12U Young Guns, Milledgeville, GA
The Braves, Wills Park, the City of Alpharetta and Turner Field enjoyed hosting you! We look forward to seeing you again next year!
In loving memory of Cliff and Allie White.
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!