The first week of Braves Caravan was super exciting and loads of fun, and it was just a warm up to what was to come in week 2! Here’s an exciting overview of the second week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Monday, January 26 – Hudson K-8 Anti-Bullying Rally – Birmingham, AL
Week 2 of Caravan took us to west to Birmingham, Alabama to visit students at the Hudson K-8 School. We partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to host a “No Place for Hate” anti-bullying rally with 100 middle school students. Braves players Andrelton Simmons, Ian Thomas, and Ross Wilson 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 signing a “No Place for Hate” banner in which they pledged to do their part to combat prejudice, hate or ignorance and make our community a safer place. To conclude the visit, each class in attendance got to take a photo with the Braves players to remember this extremely special visit to their school. We are planning to host another anti-bullying rally at Turner Field this season as part of our ongoing partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and in hopes of striking out bullying in schools all over Braves Country.
Tuesday, January 27 – Norcross Elementary School – Norcross, GA
Norcross Elementary School received a surprised visit from the Braves Country Caravan. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims paraded the halls of Norcross Elementary where students were decked out in Braves spirit wear, from hats and face paint to hand-painted Braves t-shirts. The Braves players ended their tour of the school in the gym where they interacted with 3rd – 5th graders who rotated through fitness activity stations. Students showed off their baserunning skills at the running station, took some hacks in the simulated batting cages, and tested their arms at the throwing station. Once the fitness unit concluded, the players answered questions from students who wanted to know how they stay active and physically fit during the offseason. While the “big kids” were in the gym, the Kindergarten thru 2nd grade classes enjoyed an interactive reading activity with Tomahawk Team and our mascot Homer. Students listened carefully to a story about Braves legend Hank Aaron’s life and answered questions about the book. Students who answered correctly were rewarded with a Braves bumper sticker and Tomahawk. In all, this was such a fun stop along the Caravan adventure. We were able to see a lot of students and teachers and get our fans excited about the Braves season to come!
Wednesday, January 28 Baptist Health South Hospital – Montgomery, AL
Back on the bus we went on as we ventured back to Alabama to visit patients at the Baptist Health South hospital in Montgomery. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Braeden Schlehuber along with Braves coach Bo Porter and alumni Ryan Klesko went room to room to bring smiles to the faces of children and adult patients. Each patient got an autographed hat from the players and coach along with a Braves t-shirt and Tomahawk. We were happy to see a number of ecstatic fans throughout the hospital, as our mascot Homer caused mass excitement per usual.
Thursday, January 29 – Ron Clark Academy – Atlanta, GA
Next we stopped by the always-spirited and extremely energetic Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta! When the players Christian Bethancourt, Cedric Hunter, Phil Gosselin, alumni Javy Lopez, Marquis Grissom, Charlie Liebrand, and Coaches Bo Porter and Terry Pendleton exited the bus, they were greeted by an enthusiastic welcoming committee. They walked into a very unorthodox library, complete with a bungee trampoline in the center, where students were dancing and singing to top 40 hits. From there, Ron Clark welcomed the group and introduced the players to some all-star students who would be guiding them on a school tour. It would be nearly impossible to describe the incredibly designed facility that Ron Clark and close to 100 students call home. The players enjoyed the school tour, catching glimpses of the breathtaking and stimulating learning environment. They visited the newest building inspired by Harry Potter, where they popped in on Ron’s math class and saw the mastermind at work. The students in the class were learning extremely difficult mathematics through song, and the Braves players were not shy to join in. By the end of the math lesson (themed around baseball), we played a little competition with big stakes. Liebrand’s team won, entitling him to push a special “red button.” See below for what happened when he pushed the button: (just a hint: Lopez and Pendleton danced on the tables to “Turn Down for What”)
Friday, January 30 – Bright Futures Academy – Atlanta, GA
We saved the best for last as we stopped by Bright Futures Academy in Atlanta, located on the City of Refuge campus, and focuses on changing the trajectory of many inner city youth’s scholastic goals. Braves players Shelby Miller, Chris Johnson, and Christian Bethancourt joined the student body of about 60 middle to high school students in their state of the art recreation facility for an extremely fun Friday full of activities. Players competed alongside the students in cornhole and four square games, threw batting practice to them in their full size batting cages, and taught them how to throw at a soft toss station. As the teens rotated from station to station, the competition seemed to get more fierce, especially with Chris Johnson ruling the four square court. Once the rotations were over, the players had one extra treat for the kids… a pizza party! Miller, Johnson, and Bethancourt all sported stylish hats and plastic gloves as they served pizza to the students. And then there was just one more surprise… an ice cream sundae bar! The players all made ice cream sundaes to order for the students after they finished eating their lunch. This was truly a fun way to end such an amazing two weeks!
After 11 days and thousands of miles covered 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 2015!
Each January, we visit fans all over Braves Country to get them excited about the upcoming Braves baseball season during the Braves Country Caravan presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors. On the 12 day journey across the southeast, the Braves Caravan themed tour bus gives fans and members of the community a unique experience to get close to Atlanta Braves players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters. In addition to stopping at Academy Sports + Outdoors locations to sign autographs, the journey consisted of several community outreach appearances at schools, hospitals, and a Habitat for Humanity build as we continued our mission to make a positive impact in the community.
Here’s an exciting overview of the first week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Tuesday, January 20 – B.E.S.T. Academy High School – Atlanta, GA
The 2015 Braves Country Caravan kicked off its’ first community stop at B.E.S.T. Academy High School in Southwest Atlanta. Atlanta Braves players Todd Cunningham, David Hale, Josh Outman, and Alex Wood spent their morning talking to the school’s baseball, football and basketball players about what it takes to become a successful professional athlete. The panel discussion was moderated by former Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions football player, Ryan Stewart. Students had the opportunity to ask the players several questions about how they got to the big leagues, why they chose baseball and obstacles they’ve had to overcome. We ended the visit with some Braves trivia and a group photo. We wish the best to our friends at B.E.S.T. as they start their spring baseball season!
Wednesday, January 21 – Mountain View Elementary School – Marietta, GA
The Braves Country Caravan stopped at Mountain View Elementary School in Marietta. Braves players Todd Cunningham, James Russell, Braeden Schlehuber, and Mountian View alum Stephen Janas started their visit by parading the halls where students were waiting to high-five them and cheer them on with homemade signs, Tomahawks, and Braves spirit wear.
Their journey around the school ended in the media center where the players joined two 2nd grade classes in completing a Jackie Robinson-themed scavenger hunt on iPads.
The Braves players then took over the Mountain View morning announcements to read a few hand-selected letters (one from each grade) that students had written in hopes of receiving a classroom visit. Braeden visited Juliet from Ms. Edwards’ 3rd Grade class, and she made him a special piece of artwork to take home. Stephen and James popped in Mr. Aumann’s 4th Grade class to visit with Matthew, a huge Braves fan! Sydney from Mrs. Somerville’s 5th Grade class got a special visit from Todd. The players visited the classrooms and answered questions about playing in the big leagues. Janas made sure to stop in and visit all of his former teachers including his mom, the school’s PE teach, while visiting his alma mater. This visit was certainly one that these students will never forget!
Thursday, January 22 – Habitat for Humanity Build – Atlanta, GA
The Braves bus rolled onto Clark Howard Lane to help build three homes for well-deserving families. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca joined players Jason Hursh, Mike Minor, A.J. Pierzynski, Joey Terdoslavich, and MLB Hall of Famer turned radio personality Don Sutton as they turned in their batting helmets for hard hats and bats for hammers. The group jumped right in to help cut 2x4s and nail on aluminum siding onto the homes. They also met with the matriarchs of the families who will be moving into their beautiful homes in early April, and presented them with Braves gift bags. These under construction homes are amongst six other Habitat-built homes on the street. Clark Howard Lane gets its name from syndicated radio talk show host Clark Howard, who has funded the building of over 50 Habitat homes in Atlanta. Howard was broadcasting live from the build site the day of our visit and even brought some of our guys on the air to talk Spring Training and season preparations. This visit was truly a unique opportunity for the Braves players and coaches to engage in hands-on community outreach. What a fun day!
Here’s a video from this special community service project:
Friday, January 23 – Drew Charter School – Atlanta, GA
5th grade students at Drew Charter School in Atlanta had a surprise visit from the Braves Caravan for a morning fitness unit in their brand new recreation center and gym. Braves players Craig Kimbrel, David Hale, Shae Simmons, Jason Hursh, and pitching coach Roger McDowell joined the kids at various physical activity stations including hula hooping, jump roping, jumping jacks, burpees, and dizzy bat racing in an effort to encourage students to be active. Each group moved from station to station after 2 minutes of activity while listening to fun music. After the fitness stations were completed, Braves broadcaster Don Sutton moderated a fitness themed Q&A session between the players and Drew Charter baseball team. Students asked the players and coach questions about their favorite healthy snacks and their secrets to staying in shape during the offseason. Our visit ended with a group photo of the Drew baseball team with their heroes, the Braves players.
Saturday, January 24 – Fullers Park Ribbon Cutting – Marietta, GA
On Saturday, we headed out to Cobb County for the ribbon cutting and dedication of the newly renovated baseball field at Fullers Park, home of the Eastside Baseball Association. This ribbon cutting marked the second of several field refurbishments gifted to Chipper Jones upon his retirement by the Atlanta Braves. Ed Mangan, the Braves Head Groundskeeper, had his work cut out for him, as he and his team worked diligently to re-grade the infield, laser-grade the field for proper drainage, rebuild the pitcher’s mound and install on-deck circles and new backstop netting.
Hundreds of Cobb County residents came out for the ceremony which included remarks from the Braves and Cobb Officials, a proclamation to the Braves from Cobb County Officials and a ribbon cutting. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, pitching coach Roger McDowell, players David Hale and Mallex Smith, and broadcaster Don Sutton were all in attendance. Braves Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, Derek Schiller spoke on behalf of the Braves organization and Chairman Tim Lee presented the Braves with a special proclamation. We look forward to visiting Fullers Park in the spring to see the Eastside Baseball teams in action!
This is just a recap of one of the two exciting weeks that we spent on the road as part of the Braves Country Caravan. Stay tuned to our blog to see the rest of our journey!
The Atlanta Braves launched the 2013 Braves Country Caravan by traveling to various locations in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. Throughout this two week trip, the Braves players, coaches, alumni, broadcasters and staff made several community outreach stops along the way.
Two stops were special visits to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and to the University of Alabama’s Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Braves players had an opportunity to play games and spend time with many of the children. The smiles on the faces of those kids spoke volumes to the impact that the Braves organization has on the southeast region of our country, better known as BRAVES COUNTRY!
Our stop at Clay National Guard, located at Dobbins Air Force Base, served as a special Braves send off for units preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. The team toured the joint operations center and saw how the National Guard helps respond to disasters in the Southeast, and then they made their way to the drill hall to greet a larger audience of soldiers and their families. The team was greeted by the 116th Army Guard Band playing the Braves chop and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, followed by a Q&A session, autographs and pictures.
To further demonstrate our gratitude to service men and women, we visited the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. After signing autographs, Freddie Freeman, Tyler Pastornicky, and JR Graham took on the challenge of the mountain climbing wall. This really gave everyone a greater appreciation for the rehabilitation efforts of the veterans at this hospital.
Next, the Braves family visited students at the DeKalb PATH Academy here in Atlanta and at Liberty High School in Liberty, SC. At the DeKalb PATH Academy, Hall of Famer Don Sutton and Bill Nigut, CEO of the Anti Defamtion League led the discussion on bullying. Don Sutton, Fredi Gonzalez, Brian Snitker, Freddie Freeman, and Tyler Pastornicky added their signatures to a “No Place for Hate” Resolution by placing their handprints and signatures on the gymnasium wall. At Liberty High School, we had the pleasure of speaking with local middle and high school baseball and softball players. The students were excited to hear from Terry Pendleton, Chip Carey, Brandon Beachy, and Sean Gilmartin and wanted to know more about life in the big leagues, influential people in their lives and what they would have done if they were not baseball players.
One of the most interactive and rewarding stops on the Caravan was our visit to Atlanta’s City of Refuge, an organization that provides resources and assistance to those who are less fortunate. Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Brian McCann, Paul Yanish, Reed Johnson, and Cory Gearrin spent time with the pre-schoolers then put their skills to work in the kitchen as they helped prepare and serve lunch to the residents. The Tomahawk Team even joined in by serving beverages and dessert!
The 2013 Braves Country Caravan was huge a success! The southeast always has been and always will be … BRAVES COUNTRY!!!!