To kick off Armed Forces Month, we dedicated our Braves Care front office volunteer event to our friends in the military by serving lunch at the USO of Georgia and by collecting items for troops returning home from overseas.
On Friday, May 1, we started our day off at the USO of Georgia facility at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport preparing for the arrival of new soldiers returning home from basic training. The USO of Georgia is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale, welfare and recreation services to military personnel and their families. They are open every day for soldiers who are passing through the Atlanta airport to stop in and have a hot meal and a quiet place to regroup. Every Friday, the USO anticipates the arrival of a few hundred brand new soldiers from Fort Benning in Columbus, GA headed to their next destination. These young men and women spend 14 weeks at basic training with little to no interaction with the outside world.
We were so excited when the first bus arrived that Friday morning from basic training, as we waited for them with “Welcome Home” signs. It was evident that they had not had access to electronics or the simplest things like caffeine as they rushed off the buses and straight to the newsstands in the airport to grab a soda and snacks. As we caught up with them, we directed them upstairs to the USO facility where Braves front office staff and Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, were serving sandwiches for lunch. Johnny was happy to sign autographs for all of the service men and women and visit with them while they readjusted to civilian life.
As the facility filled up with young gentlemen in their dress blues, we unleashed another surprise on them… Braves player Jonny Gomes would also be joining them for lunch. Gomes accompanied by his wife Kristi, who happens to be a from military family, signed autographs and took photos. Many of the soldiers gathered in the USO conference room with Gomes and Estrada for a Q&A. The Gomes’ even delivered the cutest thank you cards for the soldiers that their kids made at home!
This was one of the most fun and rewarding Braves Care events, as we got to talk to and serve so many truly courageous young men.
In celebration of Armed Forces Month, that weekend we collected items outside of the ballpark for the USO to use at their facility. Fans brought everything from paper products and utensils to fruit snacks and granola bars. The USO uses all of these items to serve soldiers when they stop in on their journey either back home from deployment or to their next post from basic training.
We have the pleasure of partnering with the USO on different occasions throughout the year through our military outreach efforts, and we always enjoy working with them. For more information about how you can get involved in the USO’s outreach efforts, visit www.usogeorgia.org.
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!
Baseball is back and in full swing down here at Braves Spring Training in sunny Orlando, Florida at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports! As the full squad reported on Thursday, February 26, we were down here working behind the scenes to show you what really happens at the Braves Spring Training camp.
These autographed items are used in our silent auctions at home games and in our online auctions. The funds raised are redistributed into the community through our Braves Foundation grant program. Last year, our auction proceeds enabled us to distribute more than $300,000 to worthy causes supporting youth in Metro-Atlanta. We also donate many of these items to local nonprofit groups to assist with their fundraising efforts.
After the items are signed, an MLB Authenticator applies a silhouetted batter photo indicating the items are part of the MLB Authentication Program. A unique serial number for each items allows collectors to cross reference product against the database on MLB.
After our first couple of days of signing with the 2015 Braves team, a few legends even showed up to sign some items for us, including Hall of Famer Bobby Cox and Braves alumni Fred McGriff.
Check back for updates as we post more photos from the behind the scenes!
For more information about the Atlanta Braves Foundation visit: http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/atl/community/atl_foundation.jsp
Each month Braves front office employees participate in Braves Care, our employee volunteer initiative designed to give staff the chance to give back to the community in various ways. This initiative, allows us to create a closer connection to our community through volunteerism.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we visited with the seniors at the Northside Shepherd Senior Center to deliver homemade sweet treats and participate with them in their daily activities.
Located in Atlanta, The Northside Shepherd Senior Center is a recreational facility that provides the services for seniors enabling them to be healthy, happy and independent. This facility is part of a larger group of senior centers owned and operated by Meals on Wheels Atlanta which provides hot meals, small home improvement renovations, and transportation to and from the centers.
We visited with the independent seniors at the facility as well as the dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in a different wing, making sure everyone received a Braves hat and sticker along with a special heart-shaped beaded necklace. We were thrilled to see the bright eyes on all of the faces as they represented the Atlanta A proudly on their hats.
Some of the staff helped the kitchen staff prepare meals and get the truck ready for delivery, while the rest of us went to play Bingo and Braves trivia with our new friends. Must to our surprise, these ladies were well versed in Braves history and many of them shared stories about their experiences at the old Fulton County Stadium and their favorite players from years past.
To wrap up our visit, we all met back in the common area for their weekly Zumba class. We danced to Beyoncé, Tina Turner, and other fun songs while we all shimmied and shook our hips. What a fun class!
What would Valentine’s Day be without chocolate and other tasty sweets? We made sure everyone received a decorative bag of homemade red velvet, chocolate chip, or oatmeal cookies.
What a fun bunch this was to visit! We met so many colorful personalities and created new memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to our friends at the Northside Shepherd Senior Center and Meals on Wheels Atlanta for inviting us into your beautiful facility, and we hope to see our new friends at Turner Field for a Braves home game this season!
The first week of Braves Caravan was super exciting and loads of fun, and it was just a warm up to what was to come in week 2! Here’s an exciting overview of the second week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Monday, January 26 – Hudson K-8 Anti-Bullying Rally – Birmingham, AL
Week 2 of Caravan took us to west to Birmingham, Alabama to visit students at the Hudson K-8 School. We partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to host a “No Place for Hate” anti-bullying rally with 100 middle school students. Braves players Andrelton Simmons, Ian Thomas, and Ross Wilson 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 signing a “No Place for Hate” banner in which they pledged to do their part to combat prejudice, hate or ignorance and make our community a safer place. To conclude the visit, each class in attendance got to take a photo with the Braves players to remember this extremely special visit to their school. We are planning to host another anti-bullying rally at Turner Field this season as part of our ongoing partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and in hopes of striking out bullying in schools all over Braves Country.
Tuesday, January 27 – Norcross Elementary School – Norcross, GA
Norcross Elementary School received a surprised visit from the Braves Country Caravan. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims paraded the halls of Norcross Elementary where students were decked out in Braves spirit wear, from hats and face paint to hand-painted Braves t-shirts. The Braves players ended their tour of the school in the gym where they interacted with 3rd – 5th graders who rotated through fitness activity stations. Students showed off their baserunning skills at the running station, took some hacks in the simulated batting cages, and tested their arms at the throwing station. Once the fitness unit concluded, the players answered questions from students who wanted to know how they stay active and physically fit during the offseason. While the “big kids” were in the gym, the Kindergarten thru 2nd grade classes enjoyed an interactive reading activity with Tomahawk Team and our mascot Homer. Students listened carefully to a story about Braves legend Hank Aaron’s life and answered questions about the book. Students who answered correctly were rewarded with a Braves bumper sticker and Tomahawk. In all, this was such a fun stop along the Caravan adventure. We were able to see a lot of students and teachers and get our fans excited about the Braves season to come!
Wednesday, January 28 Baptist Health South Hospital – Montgomery, AL
Back on the bus we went on as we ventured back to Alabama to visit patients at the Baptist Health South hospital in Montgomery. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Braeden Schlehuber along with Braves coach Bo Porter and alumni Ryan Klesko went room to room to bring smiles to the faces of children and adult patients. Each patient got an autographed hat from the players and coach along with a Braves t-shirt and Tomahawk. We were happy to see a number of ecstatic fans throughout the hospital, as our mascot Homer caused mass excitement per usual.
Thursday, January 29 – Ron Clark Academy – Atlanta, GA
Next we stopped by the always-spirited and extremely energetic Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta! When the players Christian Bethancourt, Cedric Hunter, Phil Gosselin, alumni Javy Lopez, Marquis Grissom, Charlie Liebrand, and Coaches Bo Porter and Terry Pendleton exited the bus, they were greeted by an enthusiastic welcoming committee. They walked into a very unorthodox library, complete with a bungee trampoline in the center, where students were dancing and singing to top 40 hits. From there, Ron Clark welcomed the group and introduced the players to some all-star students who would be guiding them on a school tour. It would be nearly impossible to describe the incredibly designed facility that Ron Clark and close to 100 students call home. The players enjoyed the school tour, catching glimpses of the breathtaking and stimulating learning environment. They visited the newest building inspired by Harry Potter, where they popped in on Ron’s math class and saw the mastermind at work. The students in the class were learning extremely difficult mathematics through song, and the Braves players were not shy to join in. By the end of the math lesson (themed around baseball), we played a little competition with big stakes. Liebrand’s team won, entitling him to push a special “red button.” See below for what happened when he pushed the button: (just a hint: Lopez and Pendleton danced on the tables to “Turn Down for What”)
Friday, January 30 – Bright Futures Academy – Atlanta, GA
We saved the best for last as we stopped by Bright Futures Academy in Atlanta, located on the City of Refuge campus, and focuses on changing the trajectory of many inner city youth’s scholastic goals. Braves players Shelby Miller, Chris Johnson, and Christian Bethancourt joined the student body of about 60 middle to high school students in their state of the art recreation facility for an extremely fun Friday full of activities. Players competed alongside the students in cornhole and four square games, threw batting practice to them in their full size batting cages, and taught them how to throw at a soft toss station. As the teens rotated from station to station, the competition seemed to get more fierce, especially with Chris Johnson ruling the four square court. Once the rotations were over, the players had one extra treat for the kids… a pizza party! Miller, Johnson, and Bethancourt all sported stylish hats and plastic gloves as they served pizza to the students. And then there was just one more surprise… an ice cream sundae bar! The players all made ice cream sundaes to order for the students after they finished eating their lunch. This was truly a fun way to end such an amazing two weeks!
After 11 days and thousands of miles covered 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 2015!
Each January, we visit fans all over Braves Country to get them excited about the upcoming Braves baseball season during the Braves Country Caravan presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors. On the 12 day journey across the southeast, the Braves Caravan themed tour bus gives fans and members of the community a unique experience to get close to Atlanta Braves players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters. In addition to stopping at Academy Sports + Outdoors locations to sign autographs, the journey consisted of several community outreach appearances at schools, hospitals, and a Habitat for Humanity build as we continued our mission to make a positive impact in the community.
Here’s an exciting overview of the first week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Tuesday, January 20 – B.E.S.T. Academy High School – Atlanta, GA
The 2015 Braves Country Caravan kicked off its’ first community stop at B.E.S.T. Academy High School in Southwest Atlanta. Atlanta Braves players Todd Cunningham, David Hale, Josh Outman, and Alex Wood spent their morning talking to the school’s baseball, football and basketball players about what it takes to become a successful professional athlete. The panel discussion was moderated by former Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions football player, Ryan Stewart. Students had the opportunity to ask the players several questions about how they got to the big leagues, why they chose baseball and obstacles they’ve had to overcome. We ended the visit with some Braves trivia and a group photo. We wish the best to our friends at B.E.S.T. as they start their spring baseball season!
Wednesday, January 21 – Mountain View Elementary School – Marietta, GA
The Braves Country Caravan stopped at Mountain View Elementary School in Marietta. Braves players Todd Cunningham, James Russell, Braeden Schlehuber, and Mountian View alum Stephen Janas started their visit by parading the halls where students were waiting to high-five them and cheer them on with homemade signs, Tomahawks, and Braves spirit wear.
Their journey around the school ended in the media center where the players joined two 2nd grade classes in completing a Jackie Robinson-themed scavenger hunt on iPads.
The Braves players then took over the Mountain View morning announcements to read a few hand-selected letters (one from each grade) that students had written in hopes of receiving a classroom visit. Braeden visited Juliet from Ms. Edwards’ 3rd Grade class, and she made him a special piece of artwork to take home. Stephen and James popped in Mr. Aumann’s 4th Grade class to visit with Matthew, a huge Braves fan! Sydney from Mrs. Somerville’s 5th Grade class got a special visit from Todd. The players visited the classrooms and answered questions about playing in the big leagues. Janas made sure to stop in and visit all of his former teachers including his mom, the school’s PE teach, while visiting his alma mater. This visit was certainly one that these students will never forget!
Thursday, January 22 – Habitat for Humanity Build – Atlanta, GA
The Braves bus rolled onto Clark Howard Lane to help build three homes for well-deserving families. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca joined players Jason Hursh, Mike Minor, A.J. Pierzynski, Joey Terdoslavich, and MLB Hall of Famer turned radio personality Don Sutton as they turned in their batting helmets for hard hats and bats for hammers. The group jumped right in to help cut 2x4s and nail on aluminum siding onto the homes. They also met with the matriarchs of the families who will be moving into their beautiful homes in early April, and presented them with Braves gift bags. These under construction homes are amongst six other Habitat-built homes on the street. Clark Howard Lane gets its name from syndicated radio talk show host Clark Howard, who has funded the building of over 50 Habitat homes in Atlanta. Howard was broadcasting live from the build site the day of our visit and even brought some of our guys on the air to talk Spring Training and season preparations. This visit was truly a unique opportunity for the Braves players and coaches to engage in hands-on community outreach. What a fun day!
Here’s a video from this special community service project:
Friday, January 23 – Drew Charter School – Atlanta, GA
5th grade students at Drew Charter School in Atlanta had a surprise visit from the Braves Caravan for a morning fitness unit in their brand new recreation center and gym. Braves players Craig Kimbrel, David Hale, Shae Simmons, Jason Hursh, and pitching coach Roger McDowell joined the kids at various physical activity stations including hula hooping, jump roping, jumping jacks, burpees, and dizzy bat racing in an effort to encourage students to be active. Each group moved from station to station after 2 minutes of activity while listening to fun music. After the fitness stations were completed, Braves broadcaster Don Sutton moderated a fitness themed Q&A session between the players and Drew Charter baseball team. Students asked the players and coach questions about their favorite healthy snacks and their secrets to staying in shape during the offseason. Our visit ended with a group photo of the Drew baseball team with their heroes, the Braves players.
Saturday, January 24 – Fullers Park Ribbon Cutting – Marietta, GA
On Saturday, we headed out to Cobb County for the ribbon cutting and dedication of the newly renovated baseball field at Fullers Park, home of the Eastside Baseball Association. This ribbon cutting marked the second of several field refurbishments gifted to Chipper Jones upon his retirement by the Atlanta Braves. Ed Mangan, the Braves Head Groundskeeper, had his work cut out for him, as he and his team worked diligently to re-grade the infield, laser-grade the field for proper drainage, rebuild the pitcher’s mound and install on-deck circles and new backstop netting.
Hundreds of Cobb County residents came out for the ceremony which included remarks from the Braves and Cobb Officials, a proclamation to the Braves from Cobb County Officials and a ribbon cutting. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, pitching coach Roger McDowell, players David Hale and Mallex Smith, and broadcaster Don Sutton were all in attendance. Braves Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, Derek Schiller spoke on behalf of the Braves organization and Chairman Tim Lee presented the Braves with a special proclamation. We look forward to visiting Fullers Park in the spring to see the Eastside Baseball teams in action!
This is just a recap of one of the two exciting weeks that we spent on the road as part of the Braves Country Caravan. Stay tuned to our blog to see the rest of our journey!
The “Spirit of Giving” continued as the Atlanta Braves and Academy Sports + Outdoors hosted a surprise Holiday Party for D.H. Stanton Elementary School 5th graders.
To kick off the festivities, the students were led by the Tomahawk Team and Homer from their classrooms to the surprise party where Braves and Academy employees greeted them to the tune of Frosty the Snowman. Braves Alumni players Alejandro Pena, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, and former Braves player and current first base coach Terry Pendleton joined the fun.
During the first half of the party, the students participated in arts and crafts projects, decorated ornaments, snowmen and wreathes. Meanwhile, Homer and his elves were getting ready for the big surprise. As the volunteers waited quietly behind closed doors, we gathered the students for a round of Christmas carols with the Tomahawk girls.
The students were then given specific instructions to yell on the count of three, “Open That Door!” Upon command, the double doors in the back of the room swung open and in came Homer, followed by 30 colorful, sleek Huffy bicycles.
The students screamed with excitement as the bicycles were rolled down the aisle one by one.
The Braves alumni players and staff presented each child with their very own bike and safety helmet courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors. The students immediately jumped on their bikes and peddled throughout the gymnasium, but not before hugging our Braves alumni and volunteers thanking them for the wonderful surprise.
The parents in attendance were grateful to see the joy in their children’s faces that left many of them speechless.