In its fifth year, the Atlanta Braves Youth Baseball Classic presented by Bank of America, brought together young baseball teams from all across the Southeast to compete in a round robin/bracket style tournament. Due to the success and popularity of the program since our humble beginnings of 32 teams, the Youth Baseball Classic moved locations to Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. The change in venue allowed the event to accommodate 24 additional teams of ball players ages 5 – 13.
Teams traveled from as far as South Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina to compete in the classic. Upon check-in they received goody bags, complete with hats, tomahawks, and t-shirts. Round play for the older teams began on Friday night and continued into Saturday morning. The first games on Saturday started bright and early, 7:00 am to be exact, and the field lights had to be turned on for those teams.
At noon on Saturday, the athletes had a group of special visitors including Alpharetta City Council Member Jim Gilvin, Mike Perry, Director of Recreation and Parks, Ben Easterling, Chair of the Alpharetta Recreation Commission, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Alex Wood, and of course, Homer the Brave! Participating teams then took team photos with Alex Wood before the skills competition for the 5/6 and 7/8 age divisions and one last game for the older teams. Athletes also had a chance to visit with former Braves star Brian Jordan and purchase autographed copies of his children’s books.
Saturday had even more in store for the athletes, friends, and families – including tickets to that night’s matchup against the Miami Marlins complete with a pregame parade. Sunday, the final day of the tournament, promised a slightly later start time and a higher level of competition – the championship games loomed at the end of the afternoon. The last game and trophy presentation wrapped up just before a lovely sunset appropriately capped off the 5th Youth Baseball Classic.
The 5th Annual Youth Baseball Classic was a huge success, and would not have been possible without the help of volunteer scorekeepers from the Braves 400 Fan Club, Georgia State University, and Bank of America Georgia.
13 Division: Upstate Showcase
11/12 Division: South Georgia Elite
9/10 Division: East Cobb Braves
7/8 Division: Bandits
5/6 Division: Warriors Orange
7/8 Base Running: Caden High – South Gwinnett Rattlers
7/8 Golden Arm: Mason Ray – Northport Rage
7/8 Home Run Derby – Walker Westmoreland – Macon Impact
5/6 Base Running: Steele Ingram – Warriors Orange
5/6 Base Golden Arm: Riley McCallum – North Macon All-Stars Blue
5/6 Home Run Derby: Cole Carr – North Macon All-Stars Blue
The Atlanta Braves teamed up with Chick-fil-A to reward students throughout the Southeast for academic excellence through the All Star Student Achiever program. In 2013 the program reached over 3,500 schools in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina – over 16,000 tickets were redeemed. Each student who participated received two free tickets to a Braves game, a voucher for a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, and the chance to return to Turner Field in late August for on-field recognition.
On Tuesday, August 27th, six students were recognized before that night’s matchup against the Indians. Up first was Samiriam Wyatt from Woodson Primary School, Randall Bailey from Central Elementary School, Azeez Bello from Mohammed Schools, Nirvanie Persaud from Crews Middle School, Steven Jesky from White County Middle School, and Akeelah Jones from D.H. Stanton Elementary School. They received their award from Robin Lomax with Chick-fil-A and Braves pitcher Paul Maholm.
The Miracle League and Atlanta Braves both believe that “every child deserves to play baseball,” so one can imagine how excited both organizations were when Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids reached out interested in facilitating a Fantasy Camp specifically for Miracle League players.
The invitation was sent out to Miracle League teams from parks all over Braves Country, and participants showed up from as far away as North Carolina, Augusta, and Macon. The camp was held on Saturday, August 17th at Hunter Memorial Park in Douglasville.
Players arrived at the park at 10 am for check-in and were surprised to receive their very own, personalized Atlanta Braves jersey. The jerseys weren’t the only surprise in store for the Miracle League athletes, as the Mayor of Douglasville made a special stop as well! Mayor Harvey Persons then introduced the Braves special guests – starting with our very own Homer the Brave! Up next were Braves pitchers Alex Wood and Anthony Varvaro, followed by utility man Paul Janish, then Strength and Conditioning coach Phil Falco.
Before the skills fun could get started, Coach Falco made sure everyone was properly stretched out and ready. Participants were then broken into groups where they rotated from station to station. Alex Wood led the hitting station – participants hit from a tee on the pitcher’s mound into the fence behind homeplate. From there they moved to left field where Anthony Varvaro and volunteers from 5 Tool Sports Training Center in Douglasville helped athletes perfect the art of fielding a ground ball.
Shortly after fielding ground balls, the athletes moved over to the pop fly station. Infielder Paul Janish showed athletes how to properly hold their glove when catching pop flies. Last, but certainly not least, the athletes worked with Coach Falco and Douglas County High School Baseball Head Coach Alex Duhaime to teach the athletes the proper way to play catch.
To close out the clinic, participants all lined up to make a trip around the bases before enjoying lunch. In addition to their jerseys, all participants received an Atlanta Braves goody bag and tickets to that night’s matchup against the Washington Nationals.
On Wednesday, August 14th the Atlanta Braves, PNC Bank, City of Refuge, The Fernbank Museum, and the Woodruff Arts Center Young Audiences program teamed up to teach 50 kids from Sheltering Arms Child Care about where their food comes from and how to make healthy choices. PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great initiative helps prepare children from birth to age five for success in school and life.
Children from Sheltering Arms arrived at City of Refuge bright and early to get started; the kids sat down in the gym and heard from PNC’s Regional President, Eddie Meyers and Atlanta Braves General Manager Frank Wren. They were then divided into groups and sent off to their stations accompanied by Braves mascot Homer. The first station was led by City of Refuge’s Chad Angell. Chad taught the kids where the juice they enjoy comes from and how different fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots and celery can be used to make juice that’s delicious and nutritious. He then took the kids out to feed the fish in the greenhouse before they moved on to the raised bed areas.
Greg Sluder, the director of City of Refuge’s Eden Garden, showed the kids how to harvest peppers and plant spices that will be used in City of Refuge’s 180 Kitchen. The kids also dug for worms and picked cherry tomatoes while in the garden. After a quick water break, they went back inside to the Fernbank Museum’s exhibit about Decomposers. The Fernbank brought out hissing cockroaches and a tub of dirt made entirely by worms! A few brave kids even held the worms.
After they finished playing with worms and cockroaches, the kids went to meet Holly Stevenson, a Young Audiences storyteller and actress. Holly read the kids a story about gardening and had them join in an interactive story telling experience.
Everyone then washed their hands and headed into the dining hall for a delicious lunch provided by Goldberg’s Deli with a side of Go Go Squeeze Applesauce.
To round out the day, Braves pitcher, David Carpenter, spoke to the children about how important it is to eat well and play outside.
Atlanta Braves trainers Jeff Porter and Jim Lovell partnered with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation to put on the PLAY Clinic on Wednesday, July 31st. PLAY is based upon using the celebrity appeal of Major League Baseball and all of the teams and players to help fight steroid abuse and to educate the young people of America about the dangers of steroids as well as promote a healthy and active lifestyle.
Athletes from 9 – 17 years old arrived at the ballpark bright and early and were welcomed by Jeff Porter before heading into right field to start the clinic with stretches. The boys were then broken down into two groups, the first started with fly balls in right field while the other group sat in the dugout and heard from representatives with the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. Last, but certainly not least, the boys went down into the Braves batting cages to take a few cuts.
The players then made their way back up to the right field patio where they had lunch and heard from Jeff Porter, Jim Lovell, and special guest Evan Gattis. The kids were given the chance to ask Gattis questions ranging from what his favorite position to play was to every kid’s favorite question: “what are your superstitions?” Gattis also spoke about how important it is to work on improving with practice rather than substances that will only hurt in the long run.
On Tuesday, July 30th, the Braves Wives hosted the She Can Play fitness festival at Turner Field. She Can Play is an initiative aimed at encouraging girls between the ages of 8 and 12 years old to make healthy choices for their minds and bodies and enhance their lives through sports and physical activity. During the event, girls participated in fitness festival stations hosted by various health and sports related groups then participated in a discussion and healthy living activity.
The Braves Wives participated in each station with the girls, doing everything from running agility drills to taking cuts in the batting cages, then yoga poses to hip hop dance routines. Stretches were led but Stuart Dougherty from Girls on the Run before the whole event started.
The yoga station was set up in right field and led by Atlanta Braves Trainee and former Georgia Tech Cheerleader, Grace Snell. The girls then moved onto a cardio station led by Atlanta Braves Trainee and former Vanderbilt Cross Country runner Haley Kolff as well as Stuart Dougherty with Girls on the Run. Their next station was a series of agility challenges put together by Universal Fitness.
To cool off after those two high paced stations, girls then made their way through the dugout into the Atlanta Braves batting cages to hit off the tees – just like the big leaguers do. The last station in the rotation was a lively hip hop session led by the ladies from Project S.L.I.D.E.
After two hours of fitness on the field, the girls made their way up to the right field patio where Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong 4 Life had an incredible game show set up. The girls heard from Janette Repsch and Maria Janish on how to make healthy choices even when you have a hectic schedule.
All of the girls who participated received a free t-shirt, lunch, Gogo Squeeze applesauce, and tickets to that night’s matchup against the Colorado Rockies, one of the many wins in the recent 14 game winning streak.
The 7th annual Braves Foundation Golf Classic teed off at East Lake Golf Club in July and raised $150,000 to support the foundation’s outreach efforts and numerous charitable causes that support youth in the areas of education, health and recreation programs. Each foursome consisted of at least one Braves alumni or executive and they competed for a series of Braves themed prizes.
The big story from the tournament was Michaela Owen. She is an incoming junior at Lambert High School in Suwanee, and she was a mere 4 feet away from taking home a brand new BMW.
The top three teams were:
Team Coors Light – 1st
Team Delta – 2nd
Team 680 the Fan – 3rd
Check out all of the team photos below:
Every July, the Atlanta Braves spread holiday cheer during our annual “Christmas in July” hospital visits at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Shepherd Center. This year Braves front office staff members were joined by Braves players, their wives, and coaches for the special visits. Many of the toys, which were distributed to the children during this visit, were donated during the Braves Wives annual Toy Drive.
Atlanta Braves players and their wives Craig and Ashley Kimbrel, Reed and Taryn Johnson, Tim and Kim Hudson, Jordan Walden and his girlfriend Deanna, along with Braves coaches Brian and his wife Ronnie Snitker and Roger McDowell visited children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. The players and coaches were able to visit all the children in the hospital and participated in arts and crafts activities. Braves Manager, Fredi Gonzalez and his wife Pam, and Braves players Alex Wood, David Carpenter, and Paul Maholm spent time with patients at the Shepard Center.
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.
Homerun Readers: The Atlanta Braves Reading Program Kicks Off With The Cat in the Hat and the National Education Association
The Atlanta Braves teamed up with the National Education Association (NEA) and the Georgia Public Library Systems for our new summer reading program, “Homerun Readers.” Kids are encouraged to read a book from a suggested list, complete a quick activity at braves.com/reading and then receive a code from their library for a free Braves ticket.
To launch the reading program, the Braves and the NEA hosted a read-in at Turner Field for 200 children prior to the Braves vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks game on Sunday, June 30.
The day started with all of the kids sitting attentively on a red carpet at Homeplate Patio where they were treated to a special reading of the Dr. Seuss classic The Cat in the Hat by Braves alumni, Sid Bream, Terry Harper, and CJ Nitkowski. Much to everyone’s surprise, The Cat in the Hat himself along with Dr. Seuss characters, Thing 1 and Thing 2, made a special appearance at this event as well! After the group reading, the kids split into smaller reading groups led by volunteers from the NEA.
Everyone enjoyed a nutritious boxed lunch and then watched the Braves complete a series sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. For more pictures, check out the NEA’s article here!
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