Braves pitcher Jason Grilli works hard on the mound as the Braves closer to finish games, but his energy is equally focused on giving back to the same community that cheers for him each night. Hunger Awareness is a cause close to Jason’s heart and as a member of Feeding America’s entertainment council he uses his affectionate nickname, “Grilled Cheese,” to bring awareness to child hunger.
Jason teamed up with the Atlanta Braves, Feeding America, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank to surprise students from The Study Hall with a special lunch. Our closer became “Chef Grilli” and fired up the grill to cook and serve his favorite snack, grilled cheese sandwiches.
Braves partners Kroger and Nature’s Own were huge supporters in making this visit extra special by donating the bread, cheese, and butter used to make the sandwiches.
After taking a tour of The Study Hall and learning about their garden, Chef Grilli made his way to the kitchen, put on an apron, grabbed a spatula and began flipping cheese sandwiches.
When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, there are few aromas better than that of butter and cheese sizzling and crisping on a grill, and by now, the kids were anxious to eat.
Grilli served lunch to all the students then joined them in the lunch room to share stories about his days in school and encourage them to eat healthy and stay active.
Every year around Mother’s Day, Major League Baseball celebrates baseball fans that have been affected by breast cancer and are determined to defeat the disease. Tracy Chitwood, the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, was recognized at the game on Friday, May 22.
Tracy was nominated by her son for her incredible faith during the trying times of living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Even after undergoing numerous surgeries her strength hasn’t wavered. Tracy is an active organizer in many Susan G. Komen and American Cancer Society events, and has inspired families to continue in the fight against Breast Cancer.
In honor of being named the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, Tracy arrived early for the game for an on-field up-close-and-personal batting practice experience where she met her favorite player, Freddie Freeman. She was given a pink and white personalized jersey from Braves wives Victoria Young and Theresa Tosca, and presented a pink MLB wooden bat by Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin. She got her pink bat autographed by some of her other favorite Braves players such as Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis. Tracy concluded her VIP pre-game experience by being the Braves Honorary Team Captain for that night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers
and where she went on the field for the pregame lineup card exchange with both team managers and umpires. Tracy enjoyed a truly special experience at Turner Field, and we were honored to help bring a smile to her face.
Last Friday, 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 2nd 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. Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, surprised the warriors while they were exploring the Braves museum and joined them for the remainder of their tour. At the conclusion of their tour, the Warriors were joined by our front office staff and Delta Air Lines volunteers, who were waiting to serve and eat lunch with our special guests.
We had a couple other exciting surprises in store for the Warriors. Following lunch, we informed our guests that they would be going down on the field to take batting practice from home plate! They couldn’t hit live batting practice on a Major League baseball field with just any equipment, so we announced that Mizuno Baseball donated brand new equipment for them to use during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Each Warrior walked away with their choice of a top of the line aluminum bat or baseball glove, a pair of batting gloves and batting helmet. With new equipment in hand, Braves staff and Delta employees escorted the Warriors down to the field for batting practice.
Once they took the field, Braves alumni Greg McMichael, Jim Nash, and Ron Reed joined Johnny Estrada as batting practice coaches for the Warriors.
Like the big leaguers do before each major league game, each Warrior had an opportunity to take about 10 hacks from the tortoise shell. When they weren’t hitting, they were able to run around in the outfield and shag fly balls with Braves staff while mingling with our alumni players.
Our 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 and final remarks.
It was an honor to have these exceptional men at Turner Field for a fun day with the Braves Staff!
The Atlanta Braves hosted two clinics for Junior Braves RBI coaches as part of the Braves Youth Baseball Initiative of continuing to provide resources to various baseball and softball program and grow the sport of baseball in Atlanta. We partnered with MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a non-profit organization that provides grants and Field Maintenance Education for the first session.
The Braves Grounds Crew, headed by award-winning field maintenance expert Ed Mangan, led the morning clinic with more than 30 local youth coaches. The Coaches learned how to prepare the mound for a game, prepare home plate, the proper way to cut the grass (with and without designs), and field measurements and dimensions (learning where to measure from and how to measure properly). They were given a behind the scenes tour of the grounds crew shop area and pump room, something that even WE have never seen. It was awesome! At the end of the clinic, Ed answered as many questions as he could. One thing he reiterated about field maintenance was, “It’s better to keep up, than catch up,” meaning it’s easier to keep the field maintained, then to let it go and try to revive it. Overall, Ed and his crew did a fantastic job teaching the skills and giving these coaches the knowledge necessary to properly maintain a field.
After the morning session, an additional 30 coaches joined us for lunch and the “Positive Coaching Alliance Workshop: Coaching For Winning and Life Lessons.” This part of the clinic was led by Will Jackson, who was on hand to teach the PCA Principles of Double Goal Coaching techniques. Will has been in youth sports as a baseball and football coach for over 40 years. The interactive workshop started by defining the Double-Goal Coach™ as one who strives to win and works to prepare his/her team to play at its highest level, and, at the same time, teaches life lessons (teamwork, dedication, bouncing back from mistakes, etc.). Will used small breakout sessions to get the coaches to interact with each other on ways they are currently coaching their players and to come up with more ways to improve their techniques. These sessions really helped the youth coaches exchange best practices and get new ideas about how to coach, teach, and motivate their players.
At the end of the session, we had one more special treat for the coaches…. Bo Porter, Atlanta Braves third base & base running coach, came and spoke to the group. Coach Porter spoke about creating an environment for youth to thrive and the three “Cs” of coaching, which he described as: 1) Commitment, 2) Competition, and 3) Coaching. He also spoke about the current Braves team and their approach on the base paths. He said, “We want to make the defense uncomfortable.” For example, too often, when a ground ball is hit, the runner doesn’t give an extreme effort to beat it out. Runners know that Major League infielders will make the play majority of time. However, if an extreme effort is given and the runner is safe, this makes the infielder uncomfortable the next time around. He used an example of a game earlier this year in Miami where a 6-4-3 Ground Ball double play should’ve been turned by Miami against the Braves, but instead the play was beaten out at first. Two batters later, a three-run homerun was hit. The double play would’ve ended the inning. That’s a huge key to winning games, extending an inning. Later that same game, another 6-4-3 Ground Ball was hit, instead this time the turn man (second baseman) rushed the exchange and dropped the ball. He attests that drop to the player being uncomfortable. Or course, everyone was listening intently and on the edge of their seat. This was one of many stories Coach Porter touched on during his time with us and we are grateful that he came!
After Coach Porter left, we thanked everyone for coming and invited them to stay for the Braves vs. Reds game that night (which we won)! It was a great event and we look forward to hosting it again next year!
This season, the Atlanta Braves launched a new girls health initiative called She Is Brave which educates, empowers and inspires girls through a series of programs that promotes self-esteem, healthy and active lifestyles and leadership skills.
As part of the She Can Dream initiative, we kicked off prom season in Atlanta with the help of the Atlanta Braves Wives. We invited 25 junior and senior girls from Atlanta Public Schools to Turner Field for an once-in-a-lifetime experience. These girls got the VIP treatment as they picked out their perfect gown and jewelry for prom, experienced hair and make-up tutorials and left with fashionable tote bags full of beauty products.
Upon arrival, the girls and their mothers were greeted and directed up to the 755 Club for a special dinner with Braves Wives Chelsea Freeman, Kristi Gomes, Gloria McDowell, Tia Johnson, Victoria Young, Veronica Ramirez, Jessica Cahill, Gabriella Perez and Bri Pugh . After dinner, we started the evening with some awesome raffle prizes from Dolce and Gabbana and Gucci including perfume, eye makeup, nail polish and lipstick compliments of Lindsey Houston of Proctor and Gamble.
The girls rotated between hair tutorials, make-up demonstrations, and the most exciting station… the prom dress station. They learned about skin care and makeup from Selena Gilbert, Make up Artist at FaceChemistry, and got amazing hair-care tips from celebrity hair stylist, Patrice Hector. Each girl also got the opportunity to peruse through the rack of over 150 dresses and jewelry to find the perfect fit for their big night. Lindsey Haas of FairyTale Endings – Helping Teens go to Prom, in Woodstock, donated all of the gorgeous gowns and sparkly jewelry.
The Atlanta Braves Wives helped each girl shop for that perfect dress. It was truly an unforgettable site to see when the girls came emerged from behind the curtain in fancy gowns and the biggest smiles on their faces. When they realized how absolutely stunning they each looked in the gowns, it was hard for any observer not to get teary-eyed.
The evening rolled on with more surprises. Each girl was called up to receive a leather tote bags filled to the brim with amazing items such as perfume, make-up and skin care products compliments of Saks 5th Avenue. They also received hair care products donated by Design Essentials and Belk gift card to purchase shoes for their big night. Last but not least, they would each receive complimentary hairstyling the day of their prom by Patrice Hector and by the wonderful hair stylists at Too Groovy Salons in Atlanta.
We were so excited to have these special guests in Braves Country for the evening, and we were thrilled to be a part of their prom. We are certain each of them looked nothing short of incredible the day of their prom thanks to our amazing vendors. If it wasn’t for these wonderful partners, we would have never been able to make these dreams come true!
Check out these wonderful news stories about the event!
On May 1, we had a very special VIP named Dalton visit Turner Field for a day that he will never forget.
Dalton is 12 years old and suffers from autoimmune disease, which causes him to get sick a lot more often than most kids and leaves him more susceptible to certain blood disorders and cancers. Dalton has spent an unfortunate amount of time in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Dalton put in a very specific wish with the Make-A-Wish Georgia Foundation last year, hoping that he would get a tree-house built and decorated in nothing but Braves baseball décor. His wish was granted at the end of last year, and we stopped by to visit his special little hiding spot. It is dressed to the nines in colorful and unique Braves gear.
We decided, a tree house is cool and everything… but there may be something else that Dalton would love. So we invited Dalton out to Turner Field for a little wish enhancement. He had no idea what he had coming his way when he arrived at Turner Field that afternoon, and when we surprised him with a trip on the field for Braves batting practice his face lit up! Seeing his heroes up close and personal was such a thrill! This was just the beginning.
We then escorted him into the Braves dugout to sit with Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez. As the players came running into the dugout from batting practice, he had the opportunity to meet players such as Nick Markakis, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young Jr., and AJ Pierzynski. Just as he thought his time with the Braves had come to a close, in walked his favorite player Freddie Freeman. Dalton not only got to meet his hero, he also walked away with Freeman’s game-worn batting gloves given to him by none other than the Braves first baseman himself.
Dalton and his family then headed up to their seats in the 755 Club and were treated to dinner on the Braves. We were so thrilled to have Dalton at the ballpark. We wish nothing but the best to Dalton and his family as he continues to get healthy.
On April 1st Chevrolet decided to turn “April Fool’s Day” into the #BestDayEver for people all across the country. Celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Kid Rock, Olivia Wilde, Spike Lee, Danica Patrick, Howie Long and our very own Braves Alumni Brian Jordan pitched in to participate in the surprise!
Jordan paid a special visit to the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program at Wade Walker Park, in Dekalb County, and surprised the players, coached and families with tickets to the Braves vs. Mets game during the Braves Opening Weekend. Homer, the Braves mascot, was also in on the surprise and couldn’t wait to see the excitement on the players faces.
So the stage was set. Two 12 year old teams were playing a scrimmage game. After the last out of the first inning, every player stopped suddenly as a Chevy Traverse drove onto the field. Not knowing what was going on, the remaining players cleared the dugouts to find out exactly why there was a car in the middle of the field. The league director then gets on the loudspeaker and asks the kids to gather around the car. Much to their surprise, Brian Jordan and Homer hop out of the car and the kids went crazy!
Jordan addressed the two teams stating that “the Best Day Ever starts with a surprise, and I’m here to surprise you, your parents, and coaches with tickets to an Atlanta Braves game!” Brian goes on to tell the young ballplayers about his dream of playing professional baseball when he was young and for them to dream big. Chevrolet reps were on site to pass out #BestDayEver shirts to all of the kids and everyone gathered on the mound to pose for a group photo.
But the surprise didn’t stop there. We had a few more special treats— AUTOGRAPHS! Jordan signed t-shirts, helmets, gloves, baseballs, bats, Braves stickers and more. After the autograph session, the kids received Braves gift bags.
Thanks to Brian Jordan, Homer & Chevrolet, this was the #BestDayEver!
On Monday, April 13, we hosted our annual Leadoff Luncheon in the 755 Club. This exclusive event raises money for the Atlanta Braves Foundation and allows fans and sponsors a chance to have lunch with a player or executive from the Atlanta Braves roster. The luncheon also includes a silent auction where guests have an opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind Atlanta Braves autographed memorabilia.
This year’s program featured a warm welcome from Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, as well as discussions with this year’s new and exciting team.
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis and Braves infielder Andrelton Simmons were also presented with their 2014 Golden Glove awards.
Braves broadcasters Chip Caray, Joe Simpson, Jim Powell, and Don Sutton all facilitated round table conversations between the new blood on the team, Braves veterans, and Braves President of Baseball Operations, John Hart. Hart also spoke to the guests about the exciting future of the team and all of the possibilities ahead.
The luncheon program was informational and exciting, and every guest got a unique opportunity to spend quality time with a member of their favorite team. Overall, this was a very successful fundraiser for the Braves Foundation and a great way to kick off the 2015 Braves season!
As part of the Braves Care initiative which gets our Braves front office staff involved in monthly volunteer projects around the Metro Atlanta area. We visited the students at Agape Atlanta After School Program to tutor the students and discuss the various careers in sports.
Agape provides after school programming for elementary and middle school students including tutoring, mentoring, homework assistance, educational/recreational activities, field trips, a healthy meals.
We found out just how rusty we were at 3rd grade math homework when we tutored elementary students during the first half of our visit at Agape. We were tasked to help with multiplication, division, fractions and social studies homework. Of course the Braves accounting department employees really enjoyed helping the students with their math homework especially since they deal with numbers all day long!
During our one-on-one time with the kiddos, we also got to play fun, mind-stimulating games once they finished their school work. Some of us played dominoes, checkers, and Apples to Apples!
During the second half of our visit at Agape, we met with the middle school students and discussed the importance of education and career choices. Representatives from Security, Community Affairs, Marketing, Accounting shared their favorite subjects in school and how that helps with their day-to-day responsibilities. They also talked about getting involved in sports, maintaining good grades, and pursuing higher education.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with the students at the Agape After School Program, and look forward to visiting again with them in the near future. For more information about Agape, please visit AgapeAtlanta.org.
In honor of Jackie Robinson, all of Major League Baseball wears the number “42” jersey on April 15th to commemorate the day, in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The most significant thing about everyone wearing the number 42 is that for one day, it’s about something more than yourself, or your team, it’s about a legacy, about history, about influence, about civil rights. Jackie Robinson stood for these things and so much more. His hard work, dedication, and character – both on and off the field – is why we remember and honor him.
In his honor, the Atlanta Braves hosted the 4th Annual Jackie Robinson Invitational presented by Delta Air Lines on Saturday, April 11th at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy. The tournament consisted of 16 baseball and softball teams from the Metro Atlanta area ranging from ages 5-12 years old. We used the opportunity to educate youth baseball and softball players about the impact of Jackie Robinson’s achievements and allowed teams the opportunity to showcase their talent and compete against other teams.
As teams began to arrive and check in to receive their gift bags, field staff was hard at work trying to get the fields ready for the first game. The night before a huge thunderstorm came through the area and pushed back our start time. Finally, at 10:00 am, thanks to the help of some sun and a little man power, the fields were ready and the tournament began. Teams played their first games with much excitement and after the first round of games, all teams made their way to the John Smoltz field for the Welcome Ceremony. During the ceremony, players got to hear from Braves Alumni Marquis Grissom on the impact of Jackie Robinson on his career. Marquis spoke about the nine characteristics that Robinson embodied: Courage, Determination, Teamwork, Persistence, Integrity, Citizenship, Justice, Commitment, and Excellence. Delta Air Lines Representative, Lasandra Boykin, was also present to address the teams and throw out the ceremonial pitch. After the first pitch, the winners of “A Tribute to 42” Contest were announced. Those winners just so happened to be all girls! Congratulations to Raeghan Byrom, Virginia Gwen Holbrook, Julia Cliff and Shylan Joiner of the Tyrone Tornadoes for submitting amazing artwork and poetry!
Additionally, we teamed up with Positive Athlete Georgia to award the Male and Female Positive Athlete of the tournament. These athletes were nominated by their coaches for being positive role models both on and off the field. Congratulations to Sarah Banks of the Shiloh Avengers and Chase Boines of the Sandtown Red Sox! Following the recognition and awards, each team got the chance to shake hands and take a picture with Marquiss Grissom.
To kick off the afternoon, we hosted a Pitch, Hit & Run Skills Competition for younger players. Congratulations to the following winners of each competition:
Golden Arm Pitching Champions:
Quinton Mitchell – Welcome All Nationals
Ryan Hill – Old National Braves
Fleet Feet Base Running Champions:
Justin Murphy – Old National Braves
Jayven Mack – College Park Hurricanes
Home Run Derby Champions:
Jason Cox – Welcome All Nationals
Matthew Rentz – Gresham Park Reds
During the Pitch, Hit and Run Skills Competition for the younger players, the older groups began playing the second round of games. The consolation games were up first and the teams fought hard to win their last game of the day. After those ended, the championship games began and the teams were really excited to be playing for trophies. Finally, after all day at the baseball park, we were able to crown a champion in each division. Congrats to the following teams:
5/6U Champion: Gresham Park Reds
7/8U Champion: Welcome All Nationals
11/12U Softball Champion: Georgia Crusaders
11/12U Baseball Champion: Wade Walker Park Reds
Once the tournament was complete, all teams headed over to Turner Field for the pre-game festivities. The parents, players, and coaches had the opportunity to participate in the pre-game parade and the award winners were recognized on-field during a special presentation.
Hats off to all of our participants and thanks for helping to make the 4th Annual Jackie Robinson Invitational a huge success!