Youth baseball players ages 11 – 17 years old, were invited to Turner Field for the annual PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) Clinic.
Atlanta Braves Athletic Trainer Jeff Porter kicked off the event with a warm-up similar to that of the BIG League players.
Following the warm-up, the athletes were divided into three groups and rotated to different stations including batting practice with Assistant Athletic Trainer Jim Lovell in the Braves batting cages; strength, agility and sprints in right field; and a Homerun for Health Station led by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. Next the Taylor Hooten Foundation educated the athletes on the dangers of appearance and performance enhancing drugs.
After the on-field events, the athletes enjoyed lunch thanks to Papa Johns and a Q&A with Braves outfielder, Nick Markakis. “We want to be good role models for the kids,” Markakis said. “We understand that a lot of youth are put in tough situations. From my standpoint, if I can help out 1, 2, or 3 kids, that can go a long way. This is a great opportunity to work with these kids and teach them how to do things the right way. I was honored to do it.” Markakis continued to share how important it is to do well in school and take education serious. He ended by taking photos with the baseball players and signing autographs.
Each participant received a gift bag from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and two tickets to the Braves vs. Reds game that evening.
Special thanks to our partners the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), the Taylor Hooten Foundation, Major League Baseball Charities, and Henry Schein Cares Foundation; and to Jeff Porter, Jim Lovell, and Nick Markakis for their time.
For more coverage on the PLAY Clinic, check out Jon Cooper’s article at MLB.com: http://m.braves.mlb.com/news/article/183875014/nick-markakis-braves-host-play-youth-event
Community Heroes Week presented by the Atlanta Braves Foundation and Fox Sports South is a week-long community initiative that will highlight remarkable stories of inspirational individuals.
The initiative celebrates everyday people making a positive impact within their community regardless of their circumstances, in hopes of ultimately inspiring acts of kindness and giving back, both big and small, throughout Braves Country. The Community Heroes Week will highlight various acts of goodwill, often in the face of adversity or personal battles that will inspire others to become a catalyst for positive change in their communities.
Throughout Community Heroes Week, the Braves and Fox Sports South will shine a spotlight on a different individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support.
In an effort to reward the honorees for their courage, resilience, and service, each of the four honorees will be given a day of their dreams, complete with surprise elements involving Braves players, Fox Sports South personalities, dignitaries and other special guests. Each day will allow the honorees the opportunity to share their inspirational stories with the rest of Braves Country. To culminate the day, each honoree will be invited to Turner Field for a VIP experience and special ceremony during Braves games on August 16-19.
By involving our players, coaches and staff during the celebration of Community Heroes Week, the Braves and Fox Sports South are sending the message that everyone can give of themselves to make their community a better place. To that end, highlighting extraordinary individuals during Community Heroes Week provides an opportunity to generate awareness for specific causes and organizations.
The Nomination Process
We’re asking our fans to nominate and share the stories of friends, family members, neighbors or colleagues who are going above and beyond to positively impact and inspire those around them. These individuals may have overcome adversity or raised awareness of various issues affecting our community. To nominate these inspirational individuals visit www.braves.com/inspire. The nomination deadline is Friday, July 22, 2016.
On Memorial Day, the Atlanta Braves honored Scott Jergler, Director of the Atlanta Police Athletic League (PAL), as a Braves Country Community Hero presented by Chick-fil-A. Atlanta PAL is a youth crime prevention initiative that includes recreational, athletic, and educational activities with the goal of building positive relationships between police officers, young people, and the community.
As the Director of PAL, Scott is in charge of day to day activities, in addition to being a coach. Scott coaches a youth baseball team, but he is actually more than a coach to the boys. He takes his team to other events outside of practice and games such as various forms of live entertainment, including a New Orleans Jazz Concert where the boys hopped up on stage to dance.
Scott keeps in touch with past players and hopes to be a resource for them in years to come. He has several former players who are currently in college and Scott shared that these boys are doing better than he could’ve hoped.
Please join the Braves in thanking Scott for all that he is doing for the Atlanta community.
For more information on the Atlanta Police Athletic League, please visit: http://www.atlantapal.com/
Watch the video below for the Braves’ tribute to Scott Jergler.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, the Atlanta Braves celebrated Play Ball Weekend with several events taking place at the ballpark and in the community. Play Ball is a nationwide initiative launched by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball to celebrate and encourage youth participation in baseball, softball, and other various forms of the game including whiffle ball, stick ball, and several others.
On Friday, 30 youth baseball players, ages 14 – 18, attended pregame batting practice at Turner Field and spent time with Braves Rookie, Mallex Smith in the dugout. Mallex talked about how he approaches the game, and life, by making sure he works harder than anyone else to be successful.
On Saturday, the Atlanta Braves surprised youth baseball players at an early-bird tournament at Clarkdale Park in Austell, GA. Former and current Braves players including Brad Clontz, Javy Lopez, Matt Wisler, and Mallex Smith played whiffle ball with four teams and served as “celebrity coaches.” The Heavy Hitters, Tomahawk Team, and Homer lead the surprise parade of players into the park. Later that afternoon, youth from Clarkdale Park were asked to be a part of the Chevy Youth parade prior to the game.
Sixteen lucky youth who are part of various youth baseball leagues around Metro Atlanta were selected to participate in a cap giveaway, where they had the opportunity to be a part of player introductions during pregame of the Braves vs. Marlins game. Each kid received an autographed hat from the Braves and Marlins starting players.
Playball Weekend culminated on Sunday with a Kids Only press conference with pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and infielder Chase d’Arnaud. The little leaguers asked a variety of questions from their about their pregame meals, favorite baseball position growing up, and even their favorite animal (Mike Foltynewicz loves giraffes)!
We want to thank all the families and kids who were a part of the Atlanta Braves Play Ball Weekend! Keep playing the game we all love!
The Braves and infielder Gordon Beckham had the pleasure of granting the wish of a very special young fan.
Connor is a 4th grader at Picketts Mill Elementary School in Acworth, GA. In 2014, Connor was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor a rare form of kidney cancer and underwent radiation, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
Last year because of treatments, Connor missed Field Day, so this year’s annual field day was extremely important for him and his family because it celebrated one year of Connor being cancer free.
Connor’s wish was simple. He wanted to attend a Braves game with his family and friends and “see where the players eat and hang out.” We were beyond thrilled to grant his wish, in style.
During Picketts Mill’s Field Day, we arrived on the Fox Sports Fan Express charter Bus with Homer and our Tomahawk Team in tow. We surprised Connor during his class’s lunch time in the school media center with a special videotaped message from Braves infielder Gordon Beckham.
As Beckham’s message came to a close, Connor shouted, “this is the best day ever!” Homer and the Tomahawk Team led Connor out to the field where the whole school lined the sidewalks chanting his name. As field day came to an end, Connor and his family and friends boarded the Fox Sports Fan Express bus and made the trip to Turner Field.
Meeting them at the door of the bus, the Braves gameday ambassador team took the group on a tour of the ballpark while Connor was greeted by Beckham. After touring the locker room, getting to see where the team eats and hangs out, Braves outfielder Mallex Smith swept Connor away to let him hit some baseballs in the Braves bullpen. After the tours were over, everyone met back on the field for family photos.
The fun didn’t end there, in the bottom of the 1st inning, Connor played the Napa Cap Shuffle on BravesVision and won a Kroger gift card! (His second wish was a lifetime supply of cheese). In the 3rd inning, Connor helped the Braves grounds crew change out first base. To round out the activities for the evening, our Heavy Hitters drum line let Connor bang the big drum in center field during the Tomahawk Chop. During this particular inning, with Connor cheering from the drum, Beckham got up to bat and slapped in a game-tying hit. Connor went nuts.
At the end of the night, after extra innings, Connor and his team were escorted out to the parking lot for yet another surprise… a limo to take them home!
What an amazing day! Connor’s wish was granted, and we were extremely excited to partner with Make-A-Wish Georgia to make it happen. We will forever be #ConnorStrong.
Last week, to kick off summer, we partnered with Academy Sports and Outdoors to surprise 50 first and second graders at Argyle Elementary School in Smyrna with brand new bikes.
Students were selected by school administration based on academic achievement and were told they were going to an “end of the school year party.” They were escorted to the school gymnasium where they were welcomed by a spirit tunnel of Braves staff, Academy Sports and Outdoors staff, and local firefighters. Each student enjoyed a Chick-fil-A kid’s meal while Braves mascot, Homer, entertained the group with musical chairs and tumbling tricks.
As everyone finished eating, Braves players Daniel Castro and Reid Brignac joined the group to announce that they were about to receive a very special surprise outside. Castro and Brignac led the students onto the basketball court where there were 50 brand new bikes and helmets, compliments of Academy Sports and Outdoors, and all of the students’ parents waiting for them. As the announcement was made that this was a gift for them for doing well in school, the students fled to the bikes with their name on it.
After each child found their bike, our friends from Safe Kids Georgia and Safe Kids Cobb, led by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and WellStar, presented some bike safety tips and the importance of wearing a helmet. Local firefighters and Safe Kids volunteers spread out throughout the group to make sure the helmets were properly fit on each students’ head.
Argyle Elementary School is a Title I school, where the majority of the students are forced to walk to school and to other activities. Many of the teacher and parents expressed their gratitude for providing the bikes for the children.
We are so thankful for the generosity of our corporate partner, Academy Sports and Outdoors, and their willingness to participate in our community outreach efforts. We hope all of the kids have a safe and active summer!
Trip to Turner Field
On Thursday, May 12, the fifth graders at D.H. Stanton Elementary School celebrated their graduation with a special trip to Turner Field. The day began with several photo ops in Monument Grove. Next, the group explored Turner Field with a VIP ballpark tour. Several students shared that their favorite part of the tour was getting to go down onto the field, but they were careful not to touch the grass! After the tour, the students and staff members enjoyed lunch and created picture frames to remember this exciting celebration. Next, the students headed over to Scouts Alley. Everyone got the chance to step up to the plate in the batting cage and test their pitching speed at the Throwing Heat game. The students had an excellent day learning more about the Braves and the history at Turner Field!
Center for Civil and Human Rights
On Thursday, May 19, members of the Atlanta Braves Front Office accompanied the fifth graders from D.H. Stanton Elementary School to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. When students arrived at the Center, the students were divided into small groups and explored the different exhibits with their Braves chaperones. The Braves volunteers helped the students to understand what they were reading and shared personal experiences relevant to the museum. Most of the group participated in the moving Lunch Counter Simulator where they gained a more realistic understanding of the Civil Rights era.
At the end of the trip, students shared that they learned about Ruby Bridges, Emmett Till, and the Freedom Riders. The field trip to the Center for Civil and Human Rights was a rewarding and educational experience for all attendees – students and Braves staff members!
Art Contest Participants Win Pizza Party with Homer
During the week of April 25, more than 80 kindergarten, first, and second graders at D.H. Stanton Elementary participated in an art contest with the Atlanta Braves. The goal of the contest was to encourage creativity and reinforce their self-portrait curriculum with a Braves twist. The students were asked to include themselves, their friends or family members, and Braves or baseball-related imagery in their submission. Each student was given time to work on this project during their art class at school. Submissions were judged by a panel at the Braves Front Office and a winner in each grade was selected to receive tickets to a Braves game of their choice. Congratulations to Brad Blalock (K), Ashiya Gaines (1st), and Samir Bowman (2nd) for being selected as the winners in their grade!
In addition to individual winners, each class competed to win a pizza party with Homer! On Monday, May 23, Ms. Ellis’ 2nd-grade class was rewarded as the top overall class. Homer delivered the pizzas and tomahawks and posed for pictures. Following the pizza party, Homer passed out tomahawks to all participating classrooms.
Thank you to all D.H. Stanton students who participated in the art contest and congratulations to the winners!
Last Thursday, 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 3rd 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. At the conclusion of their tour, the Warriors were joined by our front office staff for a “ballpark meal” in our patio space behind home plate.
Following lunch, we led them down to the field to take batting practice from home plate! They couldn’t hit live batting practice on a Major League Baseball field without bats and gloves, so at that point we let the warriors know that everyone was going home with some new baseball equipment compliments of Mizuno Baseball.
Once they took the field, Braves alumni Greg McMichael, Jim Nash, Johnny Estrada, and Alejandro Pena joined the group as batting practice coaches for the Warriors.
Just like the pros, each Warrior had the chance to take about 10 swings from the tortoise shell. When they weren’t hitting, they were fielding balls with Braves staff in the outfield and mingling with alumni players.
The 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.
We are so thankful for their service and were equally excited to host another wonderful event for them this year! Each warrior and their family will be in attendance to watch the Braves take on the Miami Marlins this Saturday, May 27th in honor of Memorial Day weekend.
On Mother’s Day we celebrated a very special Mom, Carol Thomas, the Atlanta Braves’ 2016 Honorary Bat Girl.
The Honorary Bat Girl contest is held annually by MLB to raise awareness about breast cancer. Fans across the country are encouraged to nominate people who are “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer”. The public is then able to vote on their favorite stories. This year, Freddie Freeman was on the judging panel assembled by MLB to choose the winner for each team.
Carol is a breast cancer survivor and was first diagnosed in 2013 and has beaten the disease twice. She is battling breast cancer for the third time and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Carol arrived for her VIP day at Turner Field along with six family members and close friends. Each member of the group received a VIP pass as a member of “Carol’s Fan Club”. The group was taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark before gates opened. Everyone posed for pictures in the Coca-Cola chairs in Sky Field, took selfies with Julio Teheran in the outfield, walked through the Club Level and explored the SunTrust Club. The tour ended with a group photo on the field.
Following the tour, Carol, her daughter Nikki, and her nephew Blake, were surprised in the Braves dugout by Nick Markakis, Fredi Gonzalez, Freddie and Chelsea Freeman, Jeff and Catie Francoeur, and Nancy Flowers. The groups presented her with a pink bat and ball, flowers and a special pink and white Braves jersey with MLB’s Honorary Bat Girl logo on the back.
After many autographs, hugs, and pictures, Carol and Nikki sat down with the Braves pre-game show host for an interview where Carol thanked MLB and the Braves for the opportunity to talk about breast cancer. She stressed the importance of self-exams and annual mammograms. Nikki spoke about how her mother was the rock of the family and said that Carol is the strongest and most positive person she knows.
The next stop for Carol and her fan club was the Plaza Stage where she was a special guest in the Heavy Hitters’ “Get Like Us” game. She faced off against a member of the Heavy Hitters in a drum battle to prove her rhythm. The rest of Carol’s day included getting autographs from Braves Alumni, a few appearances on the jumbo-tron, and of course the Braves vs. Diamondbacks game.
Read Mark Bowman’s article on Carol’s visit to Turner Field: http://m.mlb.com/news/article/176915272/braves-honorary-bat-girl-carol-thomas-thankful
For more information on the contest, visit www.honorarybatgirl.com.
In honor of Armed Forces Month, Braves alumni and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro joined our front office staff at the USO of Georgia on Friday, May 6th.
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 airport to stop in and have a hot meal and a quiet place to regroup. Every Friday, the USO anticipates the arrival of a couple 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 spent our day preparing toiletry care packages for troops overseas, serving lunch to the soldiers that stopped by the USO facility for a little R&R, and welcoming new soldiers returning from basic training. Niekro enjoyed a Chick-fil-A sandwich with the troops while signing plenty of autographs and making tons of new friends. The USO even gifted Niekro with a special USO 75th Anniversary t-shirt!
What an amazing way to kick off our Armed Forces Month! Stay tuned for more exciting military appreciation activities this month.