Braves Country Caravan 2014

Each winter we set out to get fans across Braves Country excited about the 2014 Braves season. In  January the Braves Country Caravan presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors embarked on a 10 day journey traveling to various communities across the southeast as we logged thousands of miles on the road in a luxury tour bus.

The Caravan is a unique experience for fans and members of the community to get close to Atlanta Braves players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters. In addition to stopping at various Academy Sports + Outdoors locations to sign autographs, the journey consisted several community outreach appearances at schools, hospitals, animal shelters, and food banks to make a positive impact in the community.

Here’s an exciting overview of our two-week Caravan journey.

RIDGEVIEW CHARTER MIDDLE SCHOOL – SANDY SPRINGS, GA

The 2014 Braves Country Caravan kicked off its’ first community stop at Ridgeview Charter Middle School on Tuesday, January 21. Atlanta Braves players Evan Gattis, Alex Wood, Anthony Varvaro, and Assisting Hitting Coach, Scott Fletcher utilized their high profile platform to speak out against bullying.

We partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to host a “No Place for Hate” anti-bullying rally with 350 middle school students. Our players and coaches shared their thoughts on the importance of accepting one another and finding common interests with their classmates. They also answered questions from the students on teamwork, peer pressure, and goal setting.

The rally concluded with the Braves players and coaches signing a “Resolution of Respect” pledge in which they pledged to do their part to combat prejudice, hate or ignorance and make our community a safer place.  The Braves players are planning to film an anti-bullying PSA at Spring Training in Orlando to help spread the message among schools across the southeast.

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SHRINERS HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN – GREENVILLE, SC

The 2nd Day of Braves Country Caravan started in Greenville, South Carolina at Shriner’s Hospital for Children on Wednesday, January 22.  More than 75 lucky Braves fans received a visit from “El Oso Blanco” –Evan Gatis, Braves rookie David Hale, and Homer the Mascot as they went room to room to surprise and greet young Braves fans, take pictures, sign autographs and distribute Braves t-shirts and Tomhawks. The trio not only put smiles on the faces of a lot kids that day, but on the parents, nurses and doctors too!

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REDAN HIGH SCHOOL – STONE MOUNTAIN, GA

The Braves Country Caravan stayed local on Day 3 as we rolled into Redan High School located in Stone Mountain, Georgia on Thursday, January 23.  During the stop, B.J. Upton, Tyler Pastornicky, Brandon Beachy and Pitching Coach, Roger McDowell held an assembly for 150 males and female student-athletes who had an opportunity to ask questions about their high school experiences and what steps guided them to the big leagues.

Redan

After the Q& A session, the players lead a game of Braves Trivia for a chance to win autographed items.  The visit concluded with a special presentation to Redan’s players and coaches. Redan High School’s Baseball team was the first African-American baseball team to win the 2013 Class 4A State Championship title in state of Georgia. Braves centerfielder, B.J. Upton, presented a bat autographed by members of the 2013 Atlanta Braves team along with Braves gift bags and tickets to a 2014 Braves game for each player and coach. Congratulations Redan Raiders. We’ll be following you this season!

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BRUMBY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – MARIETTA, GA

Friday, January 24, the Braves Country Caravan stopped at Brumby Elementary School in Marietta. We surprised the students and took over the school’s morning newscast. Braves players Chris Johnson, Tyler Pastornicky, Todd Cunningham, and 1st base coach Terry Pendleton answered questions, reported the lunch menu, the weather forecast, and read a few letters that students had written to the team when they learned that we were moving to Cobb County. The Players and coaches visited the classrooms, played Braves trivia and answered questions about playing in the big leagues. They closed out the visit in the auditorium with the entire fifth grade class as they took the stage with Brumby math teachers to explain how math and baseball work together.  They talked about the importance of knowing ERA’s and batting averages and used addition, multiplication, division to solve baseball related math problems. We’re sure this Caravan stop will be etched in these students’ memories for many years to come!

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PAWS ATLANTA – DECATUR, GA

Week two of the caravan started off with a different type of visit as we showed a little love to our furry friends over at PAWS Atlanta, a no-kill rescue center. These local animals got extra special attention on Sunday morning, January 26. Braves players Aaron Northcraft, Christian Bethancourt, and Gus Schlosser walked dogs on the on-site walking trails as Braves staff members helped clean up the dog park area, which has been a work in progress for the shelter. We got the chance to learn about the adoption center and met tons of animals looking for a family. PAWS takes pride in their 45 year history which has led 40,000 animals into adopted loving homes. If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of homeless animals by adopting, donating money or volunteering your time, visit paws.atlanta.org to find out more!

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ATLANTA COMMUNITY FOOD BANK – ATLANTA, GA

Braves Alumni Brian Jordan and Marquis Grissom, General Manager Frank Wren, Broadcaster Don Sutton, and front office staff helped pack over 4,000 pounds of food at the Atlanta Community Food Bank on Monday January 27. Tasks included sorting cans, packing boxes of food, restocking the grocery area and loading boxes of food into cars for local nonprofits and families who benefit from the food bank.  The Atlanta Community Food Bank distributes about 45 million pounds of food each year to 600 different nonprofit organizations, which serve underprivileged families across the state of Georgia. The food items sorted and packed by the Braves staff will feed about 3,000 hungry people. This effort is just one of many volunteer opportunities that ACFB offers year-round. If you have time to volunteer, visit http://www.acfb.org. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the experience!

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CLARKDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – AUSTELL, GA

On Tuesday, January 28, 4th and 5th grade students at Clarkdale Elementary School in Austell, GA received a  special visit during their morning P.E. classes. Braves players Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Manager Fredi Gonzalez and Coach Carlos Tosca joined the kids at various physical activity stations including sit-ups, push-ups, crab kicks, burpees, and pull-ups in an effort to encourage students to be active.  Each group moved from station to station after 2 minutes of activity. After the fitness stations were completed, Braves broadcaster Don Sutton moderated a fitness themed Q&A session. The students asked the players and coaches questions about their favorite healthy snacks and their secrets is to staying in shape during the off season.  Much to everyone’s surprise, Don Sutton led the Clarkdale students in singing “Happy Birthday” to Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez and two Clarkdale students, who all shared the January 28 birthday.

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After 10 days traveling across Braves Country, it is easy to see why the Atlanta Braves have the best fans in all of baseball. The Braves Caravan was truly a unique experience for all that had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of it.

That wraps up Caravan 2014!

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