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!
On Wednesday February 27th, members of the Braves family joined C.J. Stewart, former outfielder in the Chicago Cubs organization, as he welcomed 16 students at Parks Middle School to be a part of the 2013 L.E.A.D. program. L.E.A.D. stands for Launch, Expose, Advise, and Direct.
This is a program that C.J. and his board of directors, including his wife Kelli, started in 2007 to help students from inner city neighborhoods become better baseball players and better citizens in their community.
L.E.A.D. works with students from middle school to high school and since 2007, 100% of the students in the program have graduated from high school with 90% of them receiving baseball scholarships. This year, L.E.A.D. welcomed their first female member of the team at Parks Middle School with hopes of producing the first college softball scholarship from their program.
Last Wednesday was “Signing Day” at Parks Middle School. Students that were selected for the team received a hat and jersey and signed a contract to be a part of this program. This contract entailed their requirements of stellar academic and civic performance along with hard work in between the foul poles.
The Braves are proud to support the efforts of L.E.A.D. as they look to make this their best year ever!
The Atlanta Braves Foundation has been supporting community organizations and programs in Metro Atlanta and surrounding areas since 1992. The efforts of the Braves Foundation range from in-kind donations to the 50/50 raffle to the Grant Program. The numerous activities of the Foundation have generated over $5 million in financial and in-kind assistance to our community.
One of the activities of the Braves Foundation is our Online Auction. Each month, we feature Braves items including autographed paraphernalia and VIP Experiences. Our first auction for the year is now up and running through Friday March 1st at 8:00pm. Visit http://braves.auction.mlb.com/ to bid on a Batting Practice VIP Field Visit, Autographed Jason Heyward jersey, Autographed Chipper Jones Bat and Ball set, and many more items! Thanks for your support of the Atlanta Braves Foundation.
Remember, bidding at http://braves.auction.mlb.com/ on this set of items ends Friday March 1st at 8:00pm!
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!!!!