Miracle League Mondays at Turner Field

The Atlanta Braves teamed up with the Miracle League to give a very special group of children the chance to rub elbows with “big leaguers” during batting practice every Monday during baseball season – also known as “Miracle League Monday.”

The Miracle League provides unique opportunities for children with disabilities to play baseball, regardless of their abilities by removing barriers that keep them off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime.

During every Monday home game, we hosted Miracle League families from all over Braves Country during batting practice and allowed them the opportunity to watch the Braves players warm up and get ready for that evening’s game.

Upon their arrival, each family was greeted with goody bags filled with Braves swag and escorted on a short tour of ballpark before heading down to the field for batting practice. Our special guests observed batting practice from a VIP area where they enjoyed an inside look at some of their favorite professional athletes prepare for the game. With this exclusive access, the families were able to take photos, get autographs from their favorite players and in some cases, take home game used equipment that was personally given to them by some of the Braves superstars. You can probably imagine the excitement felt not only by the child, but the entire family.

At the end of their batting practice experience, the families headed up to their seats where they were able to enjoy the game and magic of Turner Field.

Thank you to all of our Miracle League Families that participated this year! We look forward to meeting more of the inspiring Miracle League athletes during the 2015.

Over 250 Breast Cancer Survivors Paint Turner Field Pink

Every year, we celebrate the lives of breast cancer survivors during the annual Braves Breast Cancer Awareness Day presented by Wellstar Health System and Kroger. On Sunday, September 21, over 250 courageous and brave survivors helped us paint the park pink during a very special day at the ballpark.

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Our survivors started arriving early that Sunday morning to the ballpark to check-in and receive their tickets,  a pink Breast Cancer Awareness Day shirt, and their fabulous satin survivor sash. To further promote this initiative, American Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer distributed information to Braves fans about breast cancer screening and detection. Additionally, members of GSU’s Zeta Tau Alpha  Sorority gave out pink ribbons to the fans at the gates. Many new friendships were made that day as some survivors came with their support groups and some even attended by themselves.

Once checked-in, all survivors along with their family and friends entered the gates and made their way to the Breast Cancer Survivor Celebration reception. More than 500 guests enjoyed complimentary snacks and refreshments and the opportunity to fellowship with one another.

At the reception, survivors got the chance to hear some encouraging words from our guest speaker and host Lauren Hudson.  Lauren is an Emmy winning reporter, motivational speaker and a breast cancer survivor. Not only was Lauren entertaining, but she was very honest as she talked about her battle with breast cancer, she was uplifting and delivered an inspiring message filled with optimism.  Lauren even led everyone in a round of Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

Laura Taylor, Breast Nurse Navigator with WellStar Health Systems and Shari Henning with EVP with American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division also shared words of encouragement.

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The most anticipated part of the reception was the announcement of the Diamond of Hope award winners. This extremely coveted award honors survivors who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer or assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. With the help of the Braves Wives, we selected 5 incredible women from all over Braves Country who were nominated by friends and family. The winners were: Kathi Shephard of Lexington, South Carolina, Diana Galloway of Fayettville, GA, Stacy Franklin of Jonesboro, GA, Maggie Davis of Roswell, GA, and Juanita Williams of Decatur, GA. These five lovely ladies all received beautiful award momentos presented by Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who came to the reception to spend a moment with all of the survivors.

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Once the reception came to a close, it was time for the most exciting part of the day, the survivor “Walk in the Park” and on field balloon release! All decked out in pink, the survivors marched down to the field, received pink balloons and were then led onto the field by the Braves wives including, Tia Johnson, Anahi Peña, Leanna Floyd, Ashley Kimbrel, Nikki Russell, Gabriella Perez, Mariana Materan, Lisa Mendez. The survivors lined the outfield while the members of Zeta created a human breast cancer awareness ribbon around the pitcher’s mound, as a symbol of hope that a cure will be found and to remind the fans the importance of early detection. On the count of three, everyone released the pink balloons into the air. As you can imagine, there were a lot of hugs, cheers and even tears both on the field and in the stands.

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This event brings inspiring women, and even men, from all over Braves Country to Turner Field every year for one purpose; to bring awareness to a life-altering disease that thousands of people struggle with every day. We were so honored to have the survivors with us on this special day to celebrate their survivorship.  We wish all of our participants happiness and the best of health in their journeys and we look forward to see each and every one of them again next year!

Learn more about our Diamond of Hope Winners as we highlight them in upcoming blog posts during Breast Cancer Awareness month!

Future Braves Stars Host Baseball Clinic for East Marietta Little Leaguers

It was a clear, crisp morning on Saturday, September 20 as 14 of the best Minor League players from the Braves organization took the field at East Marietta Little League at Sewell Park in Cobb County. About 60 youth baseball players were there and ready to learn hitting, fielding, and base running from these “Future Stars.” The 14 Braves Minor Leaguers were chosen as the best pitchers and hitters from each league leading up to the Major League Atlanta Braves (from Dominican Summer League, to Rookie ball, all the way through the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves). As part of the weekend festivities for the players, they volunteered their Saturday morning to teach young ballplayers many of the skills that led them to where they are today.

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The clinic was split into four stations: hitting, infield work, base running, and outfield work. There were 3-4 players at each station, which gave ample instruction to each group of 15 ballplayers. By the end of the clinic – not only were the young ballplayers worn out, but so were the Minor Leaguers!

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Once the clinic ended – everyone gathered back on the main field for a group photo. Then came a nice surprise, autographs! We set up an autograph station for all the participants to get signatures from the “Future Stars.” A gift bag with a Braves t-shirt, a Braves sticker, and a Braves hat was also given to each participant. Many of these “Future Stars” will be on the Major League roster in a few years, so this was a great opportunity to meet and learn from the guys now.

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Following the clinic, Tim Givens, East Marietta Little League President, responded with a really nice note about the event. “What a great day! Thank you so much for giving our park such an incredible experience! I know the kids will be talking about it for a really long time.” Tim was such a great host and helped us in organizing this awesome day for East Marietta Little League and our Minor League players. We all really enjoyed it!

This is the fourth year that we have been able to host a community event as part of our Minor League Future Stars awards celebration. Some of the other events included feeding the homeless and visiting a children’s hospital.

Thankful to be able to give back to the community, the players really enjoyed their experience interacting with the youngsters.  Ronnie Richardson, Director of Minor League Operations, had this to say about the clinic, “Thank you for organizing a great community event for our Minor League Players.  The overall experience for our players was great and they truly enjoyed interacting with the fans.  Our goal is not only to develop good baseball players, but also to develop players that have a desire to give back to the community when they have the opportunity.”

Below are the Minor League award winners for 2014 that participated in the clinic.

  • Jason Hursh – Mississippi Braves
  • Williams Perez – Mississippi Braves
  • Nate Hyatt – Lynchburg Hillcats
  • Yean Carlos Gil – Rome Braves
  • Alec Grosser – Danville Braves
  • Jorge Zavala – Gulf Coast League
  • Dilmer Mejia – Dominican Summer League
  • Jose Peraza – Mississippi Braves
  • Kyle Kubitza – Mississippi Braves
  • Kyle Wren – Lynchburg Hillcats
  • Jake Schrader – Rome Braves
  • Ozhaino Albies – Danville Braves
  • Alejandro Salazar – Dominican Summer League

Look for these outstanding young men to be with the Atlanta Braves in the near future!

Braves Players Help Santa Deliver Toys Early

Christmas arrived early this year, when the Atlanta Braves players, coaches, and the Braves Wives along with front office members, spread holiday cheer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite.  This is a favorite event for our organization in which we take time to visit with children and their families, and distribute toys collected during the Braves Wives Toy Drive.

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Each year, the Braves Wives host a Toy Drive prior to a Braves baseball game and invite fans to donate toys that are used for this particular event. The Toy Drive was a huge success this season and it gave all the children at CHOA a toy to call their own. Fans who donated were entered into a raffle to receive autographed items signed by current Braves players.

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Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, Coach Roger McDowell, Braves players Tyler Pastornicky, Shae Simmons, Chasen Shreve, David Hale, Justin Upton and his fiancé, Craig Kimbrel and his wife, Alex Wood and his girlfriend, Gus Schlosser and his girlfriend, Leanna Floyd, wife of Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd spent the morning visiting kids room to room.

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The players, coaches, and wives split into groups each with a little red wagon full of toys. For many of the children staying at CHOA having a sense of normalcy is difficult because of the treatment they receive depending on their conditions. The players and coaches greeted the families, the wives presented the toys, and the group posed for photos.

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After making their rounds in the hospital, the players made a final stop at the Fun Zone where they surprised a group of eager Braves fans who heard the rumors of some special guests in the hospital. The Fun Zone is a kid’s dream play space filled with video games, board games, arts & crafts, and an outdoor mini court. The Braves front office staff lead a special Braves arts & crafts project with the patients in the Zone before they were surprised by their favorite Braves players.

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The excitement in the room could not be contained, as the players and coaches mingled with the kids, signing autographs, and playing games. The parents and staff were grateful that indeed Christmas arrived early for their little ones.

Thank you to all of our Braves players, coaches, wives, and front office staff for making this visit a memorable one for all these kids!

Braves, Babies and Baseball!

The Braves Wives invited 25 special military moms-to-be to Turner Field recently for an unforgettable baby shower to help them celebrate their upcoming journey into motherhood. IMG_1496

Thanks to Lennie Rubin with United Military Care, Inc. we were able to invite ladies from military bases all over the state of Georgia including Ft. Stewart, Ft. Benning, Robbins Air Force, Ft. Gordon and Georgia National Guard. Most of these women are married to brave men from different branches of the military, and two of our moms were both in the Navy. We also had one expectant mother give birth early and attend the shower with her five-day-old baby boy.

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The eager young mothers and their guests arrived at Turner Field and were escorted to the 755 Club and directed into the private party where they were greeted by the Braves Wives and enjoyed a lavish buffet and beautiful three tier vanilla cake donated by Tommy Rhodes of Rhodes Family Bakery. The Braves Wives in attendance included Pam Gonzalez, Nikki Russell, Angie Fletcher, Theresa Tosca, Leanna Floyd, Ashley Kimbrel, Tia Johnson, Carman Walker and Gabriella Perez. Greer Howard, BravesVision host and a military wife/mom herself, served as emcee and Braves President John Schuerholz addressed the men and women in attendance, thanked them for their service to our country, and congratulated them on the pending arrival of their babies.

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As they anxiously awaited the start of the shower, we wasted no time in getting the games started by asking each attendee to guess the number of diaper pins in the baby bottle.  Each shower game had many great prizes at stake donated from wonderful companies, which brought out the competitive side in everyone.

First on the agenda was a baby word search and a celebrity baby name game. Winners were rewarded lovely gift bags filled with necessities to get them through the first few months of motherhood. Some of the prizes included Pediped baby footwear and giftcards, delightful luxury European Pacapod baby bags, and the cutest little baby wetsuit by Konfidence USA.

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Next, Pam Gonzalez led the expectant mothers in a game where they were asked to guestimate how much toilet paper it would take to go around the mommy-to-be’s pregnant bellies. This game got a few husbands in trouble. The winner of this game walked away with the coveted Babyhome Eat highchair.

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Next, the ladies joined the Braves Wives in a circle of chairs to play a baby shower favorite, “Pass the Dirty Diaper.” They passed around a diaper filled with chocolate pudding, to the rules of hot potato. When the music stopped, the woman holding the dirty diaper was removed from the game. As the circle got smaller, the competition got more heated and eventually dwindled down to two ladies. After the last round, a winner was named and she walked away with a Naturalmat Coco Mat crib mattress valued at $400.

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In-between all of the fun shower games and activities, there were many raffle prizes to be won. All of the moms and theirs guests got the chance to win awesome prizes such as assorted items from MAM USA such as pacifiers, baby bottles and teethers as well as autographed Braves memorabilia.

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Finally, the winner who guessed the correct number of diaper pins in the baby bottle at check-in was revealed and received a Duux Air Humidifier.

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To round out the festivities, the Braves Wives presented each mom with large gift baskets filled with everything they will need to get them through the first couple of months after the babies are born. The gifts inside these beautiful baskets included: B.Box travel bibs and diaper wallets, Silikids silibibs, MAM feed and soothe bottle gift sets and pacifiers, Honest Company arrival sets, Target and Babies’R’Us gift cards purchases by the Braves Wives, Baby Blanket music CDs, Brian James Footwear giftcards, Konfidence baby swimwear and roll and go baby changers, and scrumptious chocolate chip cookies provided by Sensational Baskets and multiple boxes of Huggies diapers and wipes.  Many of these gifts were secured through Hilary Abbott, CEO of Hilary Abbott Communications, Inc. and high profile publicist. You can find many of her clients in publications like People Magazine!

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The shower ended just in time for some Braves baseball! The women and their guests all left their goodies with us while they enjoyed the magic of Turner Field. Overwhelmed with gratitude and all of their new precious goodies, the ladies were all very appreciative as they anticipate the new additions to their families.

This event was very successful in large part to the Braves Wives and our amazing partners who donated tons of great items for us to use as raffle prizes and gift basket goodies. A big thank you to our donors:

Braves hit a homerun with the annual Youth Baseball Classic!

The 6th Annual Atlanta Braves Youth Baseball Classic presented by Bank of America was recently held over Labor Day Weekend, August 29th-31st at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA.

The annual Youth Baseball Classic hosted teams from all across the southeast: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In total, there were 72 teams, with 9 age divisions (6U-16U) and 8 teams in each division. Each team was guaranteed to play three games over the weekend.

To enhance everyone’s Braves experience, all teams got the chance to take a team photo with Braves 3rd Baseman Chris Johnson. They also received an official Braves Youth Classic t-shirts, gift bags, tickets to Braves vs. Marlins game on the second day of the classic, as well as a chance to participate in the pre-game parade around the warning track.

The Braves Youth Baseball Classic was created to expand our reach and impact on youth baseball throughout the Southeast. The tournament is designed to give young baseball players a unique experience, a chance to meet a Braves player and attend a Braves game at Turner Field.

Play started on Friday night under the lights. The fields played host to the 7U, 8U, 9U, 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U and 16U divisions. From the crack of the first bat, you could feel the excitement of each team as they fought for their first win. Three games were slated for Friday night in each division and the last games didn’t end until 11 p.m.

Saturday morning started early. The sun was barely up when the kids took the field. By 10am, the sun started to heat up the park and you could definitely tell summer was still in full swing, especially with all the baseball going on!

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At noon on Saturday, all play stopped for the Welcome Ceremony. Atlanta Braves Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Derek Schiller welcomed the youth players, parents, and families.  Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle addressed the crowd and welcomed everyone to Wills Park and the City of Alpharetta and Bank of America Managing Director Mark Adams was also on hand to address the teams. Welcomed by a roar of applause, Chris Johnson announced the nine lucky participants of that night’s on-field presentation at Turner Field. After the ceremony was over, each team had their chance to meet Chris and take a photo with him.

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The rest of the afternoon consisted of teams finishing up their pool play games in hopes of being the highest seed possible for Sunday’s Championship Brackets. Once the last games were completed, the teams had a little time to go back to their hotels and get ready for the Braves game at Turner Field.

The on-field ceremony took place next with Bank of America Georgia President Geri Thomas and Chris Johnson. Both Chris and Geri congratulated each player by shaking their hands, presenting them with a medal. The following players were randomly selected to represent their age division.

6U – STEELE LICKLITER, PONTE VEDRA SHARKS, PONTE VEDRA, FL

7U – AVERY LEWIS, KNOXVILLE STIX, KNOXVILLE, TN

8U – COOPER DAVIS, KENNESAW GENERALS, KENNESAW, GA

9U – MICHAEL MARTINEZ, SOUTH GWINNETT RATTLERS, DECATUR, GA

10U – CANYON NEWMAN, BONECRUSHERS, BLOOMINGDALE, GA

11U – JAKE ROWELL, DIRT DOBBERS, HAZLEHURST, GA

12U – DAKOTA CHASE BROOKING, NORTH GEORGIA MUDCATS, ROME, GA

13U – CORTEZ ROBERSON, G-A-T-A- WOLFPACK, LITHONIA, GA

16U – PEYTON PAGE, THE UNDERTAKERS, VIDALIA, GA

Congrats to each lucky winner!

 

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The Braves vs. Marlins game that night provided a great experience for all the teams, coaches, and families in attendance. Many had never been to a Braves game before and thoroughly enjoyed it! During the game, many coaches and parents were anxious to find out their seed for the Sunday bracket portion of the tournament and at about 8:00pm, brackets were posted online at www.bravesyouthclassic.com.

Sunday started early again “under the lights.” The rest of the day, we inched closer towards the champion in each age division. The last game for the 16U Division did not end until 8:30pm but most of the other divisions finished somewhere around 7:00pm. Listed below is the list of champion teams and runner ups from each age division.

Congratulations to everyone that made it that far! It was a long road to get there!

6U          CHAMPION – North Macon National All-Stars

RUNNER-UP – Canton Noles

7U          CHAMPION – Canton Stingers

RUNNER-UP – Brookwood Knights

8U          CHAMPION – Kennesaw Generals Blue

RUNNER-UP – Collins Hill Black Eagles

9U          CHAMPION – South Gwinnett Rattlers

RUNNER-UP – Sandtown Red Sox

10U        CHAMPION – SBA Canes

RUNNER-UP – Tri-County Athletics

11U        CHAMPION – Powder Springs Indians

RUNNER-UP – Young Guns

12U        CHAMPION – Full Throttle Baseball

RUNNER-UP – Swamp Donkeys

13U        CHAMPION – Georgia Batmen

RUNNER-UP – D2E/RatedR

16U        CHAMPION – SW 3Up 3Down

RUNNER-UP – Upstate Showcase Baseball

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Congrats and a big THANK YOU to all of the teams that participated and made this tournament fun and competitive. The Braves, Wills Park, the City of Alpharetta and Turner Field enjoyed hosting you! We look forward to seeing you again next year!

To view footage shown on BravesVision from the Youth Baseball Classic, please click: http://www.bravesvision.com/ftp_root/send11/Youth%20Baseball%20Classic%208-31-14.mp4

Braves Players Make Dreams Come True for Miracle League Players

The Atlanta Braves partnered with the Miracle League and the Fantasy Camp for Kids to host its 2nd annual Miracle League Fantasy camp.  Both the Atlanta Braves and the Miracle League believe that “every child deserves to play baseball,” so one can imagine how excited both organizations were when the Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids were interested in partnering for a second Fantasy Camp for the Miracle League players.

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There were over 40 participants from Miracle League teams all over Braves Country from Atlanta to Valdosta to Macon. The Fantasy Camp was held at Hunter Memorial Park in Douglasville, GA

The participants arrived at the park in the morning and received their very own, personalized Atlanta Braves jerseys, goodie bags, and tickets to that evening’s Braves game. The players and their families were greeted by Mayor Harvey Persons who then introduced our special guests for the day, Braves pitchers David Hale and Shae Simmons, infielder Tommy La Stella and Homer the mascot.

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The Fantasy Camp started off with stretching session led by the Braves players. Shortly afterwards, the Miracle Leaguers were split up into 4 four groups and rotated to different stations to work on various baseball skills. Braves infielder, Tommy La Stella, led the hitting station where participants hit from a tee on the pitcher’s mound into the fence behind homeplate. Braves pitcher, David Hale, led the fielding and catching stations where the participants worked on fielding ground balls and pop flys. Braves pitcher, Shae Simmons, led the throwing stations where he showed the Miracle Leaguers the proper technique to throwing a baseball.

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To wrap up the camp, participants all lined up to run the bases before enjoying lunch.

The Fantasy Camp was a huge success and everyone involved from the Miracle Leaguers to the Braves players were able to enjoy an experience of a lifetime!!

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Braves Athletic Trainers and the Taylor Hooton Foundation Host Annual PLAY Clinic

In July, Atlanta Braves trainers Jeff Porter and Jim Lovell partnered with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation to host the PLAY Clinic. PLAY, or Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth, was created by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to raise awareness about children’s health issues and the obesity epidemic in the United States. The program is based upon using the celebrity appeal of Major League Baseball and all of the teams and players to reach tens of thousands of America’s young people with positive messages about living a more healthier and active lifestyle.

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Young athletes from the Field of Dreams Academy, L.E.A.D., Atlanta Police Athletic League, Gresham Park Softball Angels, and the YMCA arrived at the ballpark bright and early and were welcomed by Jeff Porter, followed by a short speech behind the Braves dugout by Brian Parker of the Taylor Hooten Foundation on steroid education. Parker shared using steroids is cheating but more importantly it can lead to serious health problems and potential death. There is immense pressure to perform at a certain level but it possible to perform at such high standards if athletes have a balance diet and training regimen. There was a lot of information shared during this talk and after the steroids talk, the teens moved on to right field to stretch and learn their clinic assignments.

 

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The stations included agility drills and batting, and an continued discussion on proper nutrition by representatives with the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. After a 2 hours of baseballs skills training and health education, the teen athletes were ready for lunch. The athletes were lead to the patio and were greeted by Braves pitcher Kris Medlen. Medlen shared his sports experience growing up and what decisions lead him to choose baseball as a long term focused. Medlen battled a season ending injury; however, he provided encouraging words to the teens on keeping yourself active and to keep pushing. Porter and Lovell applauded Medlen’s positive attitude during his recovery period and continued initiative in being a team member despite not being active on the field. Medlen shared a lot with the group and invited the teen athletes to ask questions. Medlen shared “Who was his inspiration growing up? to “Who is the toughest batter you’ve ever pitched against?” and so on.

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The entire day was a learning experience and gave the young athletes the opportunity to acquire helpful tips about a healthy lifestyle from athletes and trainers who focus on these qualities every day.

Reading with an All-Star: Freddie Freeman Visits Cobb County Library in Marietta

This summer, we partnered with the Georgia Public Library Service and SUBWAY Restaurants to encourage students to continue learning throughout the summer months.

The 2014 Atlanta Braves summer reading program, Home Run Readers presented by SUBWAY® Restaurants, is an educational outreach initiative that promotes literacy among youth. Home Run Readers rewards students in grades K-12 throughout the state of Georgia with a free Braves ticket and SUBWAY® Restaurants Fresh Fit for Kids Meal for reading books and completing an online activity.

We invited a special group of Home Run Readers to join us at the Cobb County Library in Marietta for a special appearance by Braves All-Star first baseman, Freddie Freeman and Jared Fogle of Subway. Freddie and Jared were warmly welcomed by 680 The Fan radio personality, Ben Ingram and about 150 kids proudly doing the “tomahawk chop” with their red foam tomahawks in-hand.

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Our two special guests made their way to the stage where they started by talking about the importance of staying healthy and being good students. They went on to take turns reading “Casey Back at Bat,” to the audience. After reading the book, the kids paid close attention as they followed along on their HOMER (bingo) cards. Freddie and Jared read out key words from the story, and each child was able to mark it off of their HOMER card until they had five in a row. Winners yelled out “HOMER!” at the top of their lungs and were rewarded with Subway gift cards and autographed Freeman posters and bobbleheads.

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Once the story time and HOMER game had come to a close, the participants had the opportunity to ask Freddie and Jared questions about their careers and what it means to stay healthy and do well in school. After the question and answer segment, the winners of the HOMER game were able to take photos with both Freddie and Jared and our mascot, Homer!

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On site for the event were several Cobb County officials including Commissioners Joanne Birrell, Lisa Cupid, Helen Goreham and Bob Ott. Representing Georgia Public Library Service was Georgia State Librarian Julie Walker and representing Cobb County Public Library System was Helen Poyer.

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Note from Helen Poyer after the event. “What a great day at Cobb County Public Library System’s Switzer Library for our Atlanta Braves Home Run Readers!! Many, many thanks for providing such a wonderful experience for the kids in our community. It was such a delight to see the smiles on their faces as they listened to Freddie and Jarod. They will remember this day for a very long time!”

See the link for a video of the event.

Thanks to the Cobb County Library for being lovely hosts, and we look forward to seeing the Home Run Readers at Turner Field….keep reading!!

All Star Teacher Visits the Twin Cities – A Note from Judy Stewart

Major League Baseball, Target and PEOPLE Magazine teamed up for the “Target Presents PEOPLE All-Star Teachers” campaign, which celebrated remarkable current and retired teachers who have made an impact on the lives of their students and communities. Fans were encouraged to nominate outstanding teachers from all 30 MLB cities for the chance to represent their favorite team and be honored during the pre-game ceremony of the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis on July 15th.

Braves Country selected a well-deserving educator to represent the Braves at the MLB All Star Game. Judy Stewart of Acworth, GA was the outstanding teacher that got the trip of a lifetime. She was asked to “guest blog” for us and tell us a little bit about what the experience meant to her. Take it away, Judy!

I wanted to let the Braves organization know what an honor it has been to represent the Braves at the All Star game. Everyone has been so kind. The three days we were in Minneapolis were busy but loaded with fun and exciting activities.

On Sunday, after our arrival, we were honored at a reception at Target Commons. We had a chance to meet the other winners from all over the country and Canada. We met with some of the executives from the Target Corporation, People Magazine and MLB. We made pictures of each other and Bullseye, the Target Mascot. The highlight of the night was meeting Cal Ripkin Jr., where he was the keynote speaker. All of the teachers received a Tiffany engraved star, a new I Pad mini and a Target gift card. What an amazing first day.

Monday began with a brunch with fellow teachers and our guests. We were then taken to the All Star Press conference where the coaches and pitchers were introduced. We then had pictures and interview from the press. After a short break of free time, helped conduct a Target service event at the Target Arena. We were able to help put together 10, 000 back to school kits for children in the Minneapolis area. The kits will be distributed through the Kids in Need program. The Home Run Derby was our next destination. We were able to view the Derby from our seats in a very nice suite. We had so much fun getting to know each other and share stories from our home towns. We ended the night at the All Star Gala in the old Mill district.

On Tuesday, we were up and at it very early. We were taken to Target Stadium for breakfast in the Twins dining room. The rehearsal for the pregame show was next. We had been told that they had been practicing for days with stand-ins for us. As we began to practice, we soon realized that Idina Menzel was already there to practice. As she stood directly behind me, I tried to sneak a picture. During a short break, she was gracious enough to allow us to take some pictures. Following the practice we had the biggest surprise of the day, a visit from Dr. Jill Biden. She was so kind and knew every one of our stories. We each had a picture made with her. She even joined us on the trolleys that we rode during the All Star parade. It was a blast to wave and talk to people along the parade route.

Tuesday evening was the big event! As we waited to go on the field, it began to sink in that this was really happening! We watched the crowd file in and the players were announced. Then our big moment arrived. As we walked onto the field, Idina Menzel started to sing. What a feeling!!! Ms. Menzel sang the National Anthem as we watched the huge flag open across the field. There was also a fly over by the Thunderbird Air Corp. As we left the field we walked through rows of children holding American flags and cheering for us.

In the suite, we were honored to find Dr. Jill Biden, sitting next to my husband. We also were visited by Idina Menzel for pictures. Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s daughter, also came by to congratulate us and share some thoughts. It was an incredible night and no one wanted to leave. I have made new friends that I will always remember. This has been a truly amazing adventure for me. Even upon returning home, I have been truly honored by the congratulations and out pouring of love and support. I only wish that every teacher could feel this way every single day.

I look forward to the beginning of the new school year in just a few short days. I am going to incorporate this experience into my classroom and use the All Star theme for my class décor. I am going to encourage my students to be “All Star Students” this year. Thanks again for all you have done during this experience.

The Atlanta Braves would like to congratulate Judy and all of the educators who were honored in Minneapolis. Thank you for making difference in the lives of our youth!

To learn more about all 30 winners, visit mlb.com/allstar-teachers.

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