The sun wasn’t even up yet when teams arrived early, warmed up their arms and took some practice cuts in the batting cages for the 3rd annual Jackie Robinson Invitational Tournament presented by Delta Air Lines on Saturday, April 12th, at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at The Villages at Carver Family YMCA.
We invited 16 local recreational teams to compete in this baseball and softball tournament for kids ages 5-12. New this year, we welcomed girls softball to the tournament, a first for the annual event, and participants were able to channel their creative side by submitting a short essay, piece of artwork or poetry depicting how Jackie Robinson’s legacy had inspired them in the “Tribute to 42” contest.
The single elimination style tournament consisted of four teams in each age bracket, with a consolation game and a championship game.
Volunteers from Delta, Georgia State University, and the Braves 400 Club Fan Club all pitched in to help in keeping score of each game and answering questions from spectators and parents.
After all four teams in each age division had played one game, everyone headed to the John Smoltz Field for the Welcoming Ceremony and Team Pictures. Former Braves outfielder, Terry Harper spoke about how important it is for the kids to pursue their dreams and work hard to become the best they can possibly be and reiterated the importance of preserving the legacy of one of the most inspirational baseball players of all time. Delta Air Lines representative Perry Sloan spoke on behalf of Delta and their strong commitment to youth and the community. Finally the time had come to announce the “Tribute to 42” contest winners for their exceptional artwork, poetry, and essays. We are proud to congratulate our winners once again, Eric Hairston and Kenneth Hubbard of the Sandtown Red Sox, and Noah Tyler, Kadin Odum, and Joshua Sibley of the Sharpsburg Astros. Thank you for your hard work and congratulations again!
Each team went straight back into the competition, playing their consolation or championship games. At the end of the tournament, youth ages 5-8 participated in the Pitch, Hit, and Run skills competition where they were able to test their pitching abilities, base running, and homerun swings. Our Homerun Derby champions were Traquan Johnson and Victor Buchanan, Fleet Feet Base Running Champions were Jeremiah Francis and Bryce Hicks, and our Golden Arm Pitching Champions were Khmari Muhammad and Keymond Maze.
As the tournament came to a close, all teams and their families headed to Turner Field to participate in a pre-game parade. The winners of the skills contest and the “Tribute to 42” contest were honored on field before 30,000 Braves fans. Each winner stood proud as they waved to the crowd after hearing their names at Turner Field and showed off their awards.
This will be a memory the participants, volunteers and our staff will never forget. These young baseball and softball players had the opportunity to participate in an exciting day of tournament fun while celebrating the life and legacy of #42, Jackie Robinson.
Today is one of the most exciting days of the year, the Braves Home Opener!
Braves Country comes alive each April as we welcome the hometown boys back to Atlanta to play at Turner Field for the first time this season. This home opener marks another special day in Braves history, the 40th anniversary of the 715th homerun hit by Hank Aaron that broke Babe Ruth’s record for most career homeruns. Join us in celebrating this wonderful accomplishment by a true baseball legend today at Turner Field!
There are several other new and exciting things happening around the ballpark this season. This is the first year fans will have to just show the ticket QR code (similar to a mobile airplane ticket) on their smartphone for entrance into the ballpark. Since adding new smartphone technology to Turner Field, fans will need to juice up to take advantage of all the bells and whistles. We will offer five universal charging stations that will be placed around the ballpark for fans running low on their smartphone battery charge.
Also new around the concourse, Turner Field will feature six Braves branded photo booths located throughout the ballpark for fans to capture a special Braves Country memory. The booths are located in section 126, across from STH Clubhouse Room, Skyfield, Aisle 427, Hank Aaron Ramp, FL (across/near from Right Field Patio), Aisle 231, and Family Zone (off of Fan Plaza) between claw machines.
Don’t forget to also check out the Atlanta Braves Foundation auction gazebos located inside the main gate next to the Sweetwater Brewing station and in the Suntrust Club. Come bid on unique autographed memorabilia from your favorite players.
If you are interested in donating a small fee to the Atlanta Braves Foundation for the chance to win big at Turner Field, make sure to buy a 50/50 Raffle ticket! One lucky fan at each Braves home game will walk away as the winner of a significant cash prize. Fans may purchase 50/50 raffle tickets from uniformed raffle ticket sellers starting two and a half hours before the game until the end of the sixth inning. Last year, one lucky fan went home with $23,000!
These highlights are just a few among many new exciting features at Turner Field happening this season! Happy Opening Day everyone, and we can’t wait to see all of Braves Country out at the ballpark this season.
Each month Braves employees participate in Braves Care, our employee volunteer initiative designed to give staff the chance to give back to the community in various ways. Through this initiative, we are able to create a closer connection to our community through volunteer projects with local non-profit organizations.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the Braves front office staff made a special visit to the students at the La Amistad After School Program to create arts and crafts masterpieces and spend quality time with the children before their tutoring session.
La Amistad is a nonprofit organization that works toward helping Latino students and families throughout Georgia thrive in their educational, personal, and career pursuits while working together to transform communities. La Amistad offers after school tutoring and mentoring to students that speak English as a second language, helping them achieve physical and personal growth.
During our visit, we painted four leaf clovers with puffy paint and assembled and decorated homemade shamrock kites. After the fun arts and crafts projects, we tested their baseball knowledge with a little Braves trivia. To close out the afternoon we presented each child with a personal copy of the children’s book “The Road to the Braves,” stickers and tomahawks.
The students were delighted to have us as their special guests during their after school program. We definitely made some new friends at La Amistad! This was truly a fun and unique experience for all of the staff members and children involved, and we look forward to seeing them again soon when they visit us at Turner Field this season.
If you are interested in learning more about LaAmistad, please visit http://www.laamistadfriendship.org/
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
Braves fans, do you know a courageous person who has battled or is battling breast cancer?
Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Braves are looking for our 2014 Honorary Bat Girl. This Mother’s Day we are celebrating the stories of Braves fans who are “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” in their daily lives. As part of our continued support in bringing awareness to this disease we want to honor our fans and celebrate their journey.
Now through March 24, submit a story about how you or someone you know is “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” and why they deserve to be an Honorary Atlanta Braves Bat Girl.
One (1) Honorary Bat Girl will be selected and will be recognized during an on-field presentations on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11 at Turner Field before the Braves vs. Chicago Cubs game. The winner will also receive four (4) game tickets, a Louisville Slugger Pink engraved bat and a commemorative jersey.
Visit http://www.honorarybatgirl.com to submit your stories and learn more about this exciting opportunity!
From Friday July 26th through Sunday July 28th, the Atlanta Braves Foundation hosted its annual Foundation Weekend at Turner Field. During this weekend, the Foundation built a store in the Hank Aaron Room. Yes…the Foundation built AN ENTIRE STORE!
This year, over $60,000 were raised over the course of three games. The store consisted of game used and autographed memorabilia from Braves players both current and alumni. From the time gates opened until the end of the game, fans filled the Hank Aaron Room to purchase items from autographed bats to game worn jerseys to mystery brown bag baseballs. Also during this time, fans could take part in a silent auction for autographed and framed memorabilia. Foundation Weekend is a time when all of the rare and unique items are put on display for fans to indulge in and support the efforts of the Braves Foundation.
All proceeds from the weekend go directly to the Foundation to continue their support of youth in the community. So, while someone may have walked away with an autographed Hank Aaron baseball or a framed jersey autographed by the 2013 team, the overall support of the Foundation is what made this weekend a tremendous success.
On Friday, June 14th, twenty lucky fans took the field before fireworks to receive autographed jerseys straight off of the backs of Atlanta Braves players. These fans won the game worn, autographed jerseys in an online auction benefitting the Atlanta Braves Foundation. Winners were escorted onto the field following that night’s matchup against the San Francisco Giants and greeted by Braves rookie catcher Evan Gattis. Over $20,000 was raised for the Atlanta Braves Foundation and will be used for grants to youth-serving organizations that focus on health, education, and recreation. Check out the slideshow of all of our winners below!
On Sunday, June 2nd, the Atlanta Braves Wives donned fanny packs and set out at Turner Field to sell mystery baseballs in brown paper bags to raise funds for those affected by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. The wives sold the baseball from two stationary locations – behind section 202 and in Monument Grove, and the others walked around the stadium selling to fans in the stands, the 755 Club and in the SunTrust Club.
The wives asked their significant others to autograph one dozen baseballs for the fundraiser. After they collected the balls from all of the current players, they randomly packaged them in brown paper bags and sealed them with Braves bumper stickers. Fans purchased the brown bags for $40 each with all of the proceeds going to the Oklahoma Tornado Relief Funds. All of the mystery brown bags were sold out before the end of the first inning, and the event raised over $13,000 for the tornado victims in Oklahoma.
On Monday, June 17 the Braves Wives presented a check for $13,000 to Dr. Anthony Jordan, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief team assisted thousands of families by clearing fallen trees and debris from home sites and providing over 250,000 meals for those affected by the storms in central Oklahoma.
For more information on this fundraiser, check out this interview below with Kim Hudson, wife of starting pitcher Tim Hudson, and Jessica Maholm, wife of starting pitcher Paul Maholm:
On Saturday, May 18th the Atlanta Braves honored the United States Military and Armed Forces as they took on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The day included a pregame, VIP tour for a group of wounded military veterans and pregame ceremonies. For those not participating in the on-field and pregame activities, a ticket special was also offered to all of those who had a valid military ID.
As far as pregame ceremonies go, this one definitely gave those in attendance goosebumps. The Braves had over 100 military members holding an American flag across the outfield and lining the base paths with players from both the Braves and Dodgers for the National Anthem. Atlanta Braves game day staff that had served in the military held special stars representing each branch.
Along with providing these experiences, the Braves have partnered with Emory University to create BraveHeart. BraveHeart offers veterans and veteran families free mental health services including anonymous online screenings, educational outreach, and clinical care coordination for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These services have been made available for those in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. These representatives were on site for Saturday’s game.
For more information on BraveHeart, check out the interview with Executive Director Dr. Barbara Rothbaum below or visit their website here!