Braves Strike Out Bullying with Help from Brian Jordan and Anti-Defamation League

In an effort to “strike-out bullying” in schools across Braves Country, we teamed up with the Anti-Defamation League and Braves alumni player Brian Jordan for our annual “No Place for Hate” Anti-Bullying Rally at Turner Field. This special pre-game event took place in our fan plaza for more than 500 students from across the state.

“No Place for Hate” is the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bulling initiative designed to rally schools around the goal of creating a welcoming community and stopping all forms of bias and bullying. We incorporated what “No Place for Hate” teaches in schools into our rally that evening and encouraged students to accept one another despite differences.

Brian Jordan kicked off the rally and spoke to the crowd about his childhood experiences dealing with bullies in school which led him to write his book, “Time Out for Bullies.” Brian gave out free copies of his book to the first 250 students.

Mark Moskowitz, ADL Regional Director, gave a brief overview of what they are doing in schools to prevent bullying and shared a little history about the ADL. Erin Beacham, ADL Education Director, led the group in an interactive game called “hands up” that showed the crowd exactly what they might have in common with people unlike themselves. She also led the participants in a “Stop Bullying” chant with the help of her friend, rap artist “Tropakana,” while the participants raised their posters with anti-bullying sayings. We closed out the rally with a selfie of Erin and all of the students.

To learn more about how your school can become a “No Place for Hate” school, please visit www.atlanta.adl.org/npfh. To purchase Brian Jordan’s Time Out for Bullies book, please

http://www.brianjordanfoundation.com/

Braves Host Equipment Drive Benefitting Local Youth

The Atlanta Braves teamed up with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund this season to host an Equipment Drive at Turner Field to benefit local youth baseball and softball organizations in the Metro Atlanta area. The drive took place August 15th-16th in Monument Grove prior to the Braves vs. Diamondbacks games. Fans who made donations received autographed photos of Braves players.

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is a joint initiative between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association that awards youth baseball and softball organizations with much needed equipment to conduct play in their community. Each year, the fund collaborates with MLB Clubs to host equipment drives at the stadiums where fans, front office staff and players are invited to donate new and used equipment to benefit local organizations.

This season, we are donating the equipment collected from this drive to two organizations: The Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, and ATL Metro RBI. In addition to these equipment donations, both of these organizations are receiving a grant of $2,500 from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. These grants are designed for the sole purpose of helping these organization purchase baseball and softball equipment.

On Monday, August 24th, we hosted both of these grant recipients for an on-field presentation prior to the Braves vs. Rockies game. Coaches and players from both organizations were on-site to receive the grant checks.

We were very pleased to be able to help give back to the community in this capacity, in order to help strengthen and grow the opportunity for local youth to participate in the game. We are looking forward to similar opportunities in the future to help make a positive impact in our community.

Colombian Youth Visit with Atlanta Braves Players

In September, we hosted a special group of teens from the small town of San Bernardo del Viento in Colombia, South America. The youth were part of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sports Diplomacy initiative hosted by the Colombia Consulate of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves.

The sports exchange program focuses on towns with a high rate of children recruited by illegal armed groups. The youth live in a town that has been affected for many years by the Colombian conflict. The sports diplomacy initiatives’ goal is to get children and adolescent to think of sports, culture, and arts as a life possibility and an opportunity to build a better future. This was the very first time these boys have ever left their small town and none of them spoke any English.

Upon arrival at Turner Field, The teens were treated to a behind the scenes tour. This was the 1st time for these boys in a Major League ballpark and they were in awe at each corner of the facility. For some, it was their first time stepping on an escalator and they seemed perplexed at the moving stairs.  After their tour, the teens met with Braves players Pedro Ciriaco from the Dominican Republic, Christian Bethancourt from Panama, and Sugar Ray Marimon from Colombia. The players talked about their experiences living in the U.S., their youth baseball development, and they shared words of encouragement. After the meet and greet, the Colombian team enjoyed a traditional Atlanta meal… Chick-fil-A sandwiches, courtesy of the Braves 400 Club. With huge smiles on their faces, the youth proudly walked through Turner Field displaying their Colombian flags as they got ready to cheer on the Braves!

Colombian Kids 2

The following day, the Colombian youth participated in a friendly baseball game with FCA Urban Baseball lead by Brent Slate. Brent went above and beyond for the Colombian team. He arranged for both the US and Colombian national anthems to be played and well as lineup introductions.  At the end of the game both teams exchanged gifts representative of their counties.  Although, these two teams were unable to communicate verbally with each other, baseball brought them together. They cheered for one another, signed baseballs, hugged each other, and posed for group pictures.

On their final day in Atlanta, the Colombian team participated in the Braves and MLB’s Youth Baseball Clinic with more than 100 other youth baseball players. They learned fielding, pitching and hitting skills from Braves alumni including Alejandro Pena, Jose Alvarez, Marty Perez, Charlie Leibrandt, Dwight Smith, and Pete Smith.  The alumni signed baseballs and took pictures with everyone and our friends from Delta Air Lines served as volunteers and interpreters for our Colombian guests.

Later that day, Braves starting pitcher and Colombian native, Julio Teheran, surprised the team before batting practice. The kids had been waiting to meet Julio all week! He answered all of their questions including his favorite American food, how he was able to adjust to the U.S., what he missed most about home and what advice he would give his 16 year old self. Julio signed autographs for the youth and posed for pictures. The teens stayed to watch batting practice and meet other Braves players then headed to their seats to catch their final Braves game before heading back to Colombia the next day.

Colombian Kids

Special thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia and the Consulate of Colombia in Atlanta for their partnership and for allowing us to host this special group of kids. We certainly hope this will be a lasting memory for our new friends and we look forward to seeing them again one day!

Atlanta Braves Celebrate Citizenship Day!

Once again Turner Field opened its gates to host the largest Naturalization Ceremony in the State of Georgia to celebrate Citizenship Day and Constitution Day on September 17. Each year, on this date, our country celebrates the signing of the U.S. Constitution and Americans are encouraged to reflect on what it means to be a U.S. Citizen.

ATLANTA, GA - September 17: Atlanta Braves host Naturalization Ceremony at Turner Field on September 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Pouya Dianat/Pouya Creative/Atlanta Braves) *** Local Caption ***

In honor of Citizenship Day and Constitution Day, we hosted 500 candidates as they took the final step on their path to obtaining United States Citizenship. Candidates and their families lined up outside the gates of Turner Field bright and early and were greeted by Braves and United States Citizen Immigration Services (USCIS) staff as they entered the ballpark, many for the first time. Our candidates marveled at the green field and pulled out their cellphones to capture every moment. Many posed with our very own Lady Liberty, Homer the mascot posed for photos around the plaza, and at the sound of the bell, led the candidates to their seats.

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USCIS Deputy Director, Joseph Kernan and Atlanta Field Director Brett Rinehart opened the ceremony and Braves President, John Schuerholz, gave a warm welcome and congratulations to everyone in attendance. In all, ninety-one countries were represented and each received a heartfelt cheer during the reading of each country.  Mexico had the largest number of candidates with 31. As Mr. Kernan administered the Oath of Allegiance, there were tears of joy and lots of hugs throughout the audience. Braves bullpen coach, Eddie Perez, a newly naturalized citizen, lead the Pledge of Allegiance and at the conclusion, our newest citizens were congratulated by President Barack Obama, via video.

Our new Braves Fans who walked out with bright smiles on their faces and a Coke in hand thanks to our friends at Coca-Cola.  Many stopped by the League of Women Voter’s booth to complete their first task as new citizens —- register to vote!  This was truly a memorable moment for these new United States Citizens as well as the entire Braves organization.

Atlanta Braves #ChopOutCancer by Painting Turner Field Pink

Each season, we celebrate the lives of breast cancer survivors during the annual Braves Breast Cancer Awareness Day presented by WellStar Cancer Network and Kroger.

ATLANTA, GA - October 03: Breast Cancer Awareness Day before the game was postponed due to rain. (Photo by Patrick Duffy/Pouya Creative/Atlanta Braves) *** Local Caption ***

This year, for the first time, we were able to host this celebration of survivorship during October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the unfortunate weather forecast, more than 200 fearless survivors helped us paint the park pink on Saturday, October 3.

In an effort to make a huge impact and raise more awareness than ever at Turner Field, we included all of Braves Country in the fight against Breast Cancer. When fans started arriving to the game on Saturday, they received exclusive, one-of-kind pink tomahawks, presented by WellStar, an “I Go Pink for…” placard for fans to insert the names of loved one affected by breast cancer, and a pink ribbon from GSU’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Fans also had the opportunity to sign and take photos in front of the “Braves Country Goes Pink for…” pink wall located in Monument Grove.

Our survivors started arriving Saturday afternoon in the sprinkling rain to check-in and receive their tickets and pink Breast Cancer Awareness Day shirt. To generate additional awareness, various breast cancer organizations including WellStar Cancer Network, American Cancer Society’s Making Strides against Breast Cancer, I Will Survive, Inc., Loving Arms Cancer Outreach, and Zeta Tau Alpha were stationed in Monument Grove distributing information to Braves fans about screenings, early detection, and support groups.

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. where they had the chance to fellowship with one another.

At the reception, survivors heard encouraging words from our guest speaker and host Lauren Hudson.  Lauren is an Emmy award-winning reporter, motivational speaker, and a breast cancer survivor. Lauren used her consistently inspiring and uplifting attitude to encourage the survivors, and even led everyone in a special version of Take Me out to the Ballgame! Georgia State Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler, who is also recent breast cancer survivor, gave a very inspirational speech about her journey and the importance of keeping a positive attitude during treatment. Crystal Mantooth from Making Strides spoke on behalf of the American Cancer Society’s efforts to raise money for breast cancer research at their upcoming Making Strides Walk.

We were honored to round out the program at the reception with a special announcement of our Diamond of Hope winners for this season. This special award honors survivors who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer or assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. We selected 5 incredible survivors from different parts of Braves Country who were nominated by friends and family. The winners were: Michelle Hedman of Pensacola, FL, Rhonda Williams of McDonough, GA, Loretta Billingsley of Doraville, GA, Felicia Mahone of Union City, GA, and our very own Braves front office staff, retiree Brenda Hendricks, of Atlanta, GA. These five lovely ladies all received beautiful diamond-shaped awards presented by Braves outfielders Cameron Maybin and Nick Markakis, who have both been affected by breast cancer in their immediate families.

Once the reception came to a close, it was time for the most exciting part of the day, the survivor’s “Walk in the Park” and on field balloon release! All decked out in pink and with pink balloons in-hand, the survivors marched down the baselines led by the Braves wives including, Gabriella Perez, Chelsea Freeman, Bri Pugh, Lisa Castro, Keri Detwiler, and Camille Winkler. The survivors lined the base paths while the Zeta members created a 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. Fans “chopped out cancer” with their pink tomahawks as survivors hugged one another, cheered each other on and remembered those angels smiling down on us. This ceremony ended just in time for the grounds crew to rush the field with the tarp and just like that… the rain came falling down!

Although, we would have loved sunshine and clear skies for this special day, all survivors had a wonderful time and were able to attend a double header the next day! We are so grateful and thank you to all who made this possible Kroger, WellStar Cancer Network, American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the Braves Players and Wives, our volunteers from the USO, Georgia State University, Fort Benning and friends and family who sacrificed their Saturday night for a wonderful cause!

Braves Country Goes GOLD to Chop Out Childhood Cancer

In August, the Braves Wives hosted the “Favorite Things” auction, which is an annual event where the wives fill baskets full of their husbands’ favorite things to raise money for a charity of their choosing. The wives optioned to have all proceeds from their auction benefit Childhood Cancer research this year, raising more than $3,500.

In honor of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, we celebrated the lives and legacies of pediatric cancer survivors and fighters during Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. On September 13, we welcomed more than 200 children affected by pediatric cancer to Turner Field for a very special pre-game program. All proceeds from this event along with the money raised at the Wives auction benefited four nonprofits that raise awareness for pediatric cancer research, Rally Foundation, Camp Sunshine, CURE, and Curing Kids Cancer.

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Participants started arriving early that Sunday morning to the ballpark to check-in and receive their tickets, commemorative “Going Gold” t-shirt and unique neon “Chop out Cancer” sunglasses. Once checked-in, all survivors/fighters along with their family and friends entered the gates and made their way to the Childhood Cancer Fighter/Survivor Celebration reception. More than 500 guests enjoyed complimentary snacks and refreshments and the opportunity to fellowship with one another. Children also got their faces painted compliments of the Braves and free Go-Go Squeeze Organic Applesauce.

At the reception, participants heard encouraging words from guest of honor and two-time Childhood Cancer Survivor, Taylor Scheibe. Taylor is a motivational speaker and entrepreneur from Jacksonville, FL. Her charity, With Love, donates toys to local hospitals and play rooms for children going through cancer treatment. After Taylor spoke, we recognized four extremely brave individuals on behalf of each organization who have survived cancer and been a light to the cancer community simultaneously. These honorees were deemed the “Diamond of Courage” award recipients and were presented their awards by Braves wives, Joanna Swisher, Jamie Lavarnway, and Gabby Perez. The following children were honored:

Madie Ice was selected on behalf of the Rally Foundation for her contagious smile and positive attitude during chemotherapy. CURE chose Grace Bunke as their award recipient because of her perseverance and positivity moving forward after having a leg amputation from cancer. Montana Brown was selected on behalf of Camp Sunshine for beating cancer twice at a young age and going on to study nursing at Georgia Regents College in hopes of being a pediatric nurse. Our only boy representative came from Curing Kids Cancer. Reece McPhail was chosen by his organization for his willingness to help others during his cancer treatments and for being an advocate for childhood cancer research through drives and fundraisers.

Once the audience gave our award recipients another round of applause, the reception came to a close and families and friends started lining up for the on-field parade. As the survivors and their families paraded around the field, many groups held and released gold balloons in honor of those lost in the pediatric cancer battle. Once the parade was over and game time was drawing closer, Braves Wives, Gabby Perez, Joanna Swisher, Chelsea Freeman, and Jamie Lavarnway joined the four Diamond of Courage award recipients and their nonprofit organization leaders on the third baseline for a special on-field ceremony and check presentation. Combined efforts by the Braves wives and fan donations, the Atlanta Braves Foundation was able to cut a check for $5,000 to Childhood Cancer research.

To round out the day’s festivities, nine children were selected to “take the field” with the starting lineup that day. The crowd gave a standing ovation to the kiddos as they ran out to the positions and waited for their favorite major league player to join them at their position. The following kids were chosen by their organization to participate in this activity: Mary Tipton Carter, Drew Kruszynski, and Audrey Arrowood on behalf of Rally, Elijah Ligon and Connor Meadows on behalf of CURE, Colton Moore and Josh Mack on behalf of Curing Kids Cancer, and Emmalee Watkins and Matthew McMahon on behalf of Camp Sunshine. Childhood cancer survivor, MaKayla Jefferson yelled “Play Ball!” on the field indicating it was time for some Braves baseball!

This is the start of something really beautiful for Childhood Cancer Awareness in the sports industry! We look forward to making this event bigger and better every year until we find a cure. We want to say a HUGE thank you to our beneficiary organizations who worked hard to help make this event go off without a hitch and another big thank you to our Braves Wives who raised so much money for such a wonderful cause!

Braves Game (7)

Making Dreams Come True On Miracle League Mondays!

This season, the Atlanta Braves partnered with the Miracle League to give players and their families the opportunity to not only attend a Braves home game, but also to experience batting practice on the field. These “Miracle League Monday” visits took place prior to every Monday home Braves game.

The Miracle League serves children and adults who suffer from any physical or mental disabilities, by removing the barriers that keep them off the baseball field, and letting them experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime.

One Miracle League family was selected to participate each Monday. The families were greeted by Braves personnel and received baseball-themed goody bags. The families were then escorted down to the field to watch batting practice up close. They received numerous autographs and took photos with many of the players and coaches, and in some instances the players even gave them their batting gloves and bats!

Following batting practice, the families were escorted to their seats to watch their favorite team in action. The families had a blast, and we loved having the opportunity to host them. We are already looking forward to hosting them again next season!

MLB Umpires Take a Break from Behind the Plate to Host Local Charities

This season, the Atlanta Braves partnered with UMPS Care Charities, established by Major League Baseball umpires, to help offer memorable baseball experiences for at-risk youth in mentoring programs through the BLUE Crew Tickets program. The youth participants and their mentors were selected from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to attend a Braves game at Turner Field, and meet the umpires before the game. This experience is designed to strengthen relationships of at-risk youth and adult caregivers.

We hosted this program several times throughout the season. Upon arrival, we escorted our special guests to meet the umpires. They were very gracious, allowing the children to try on their umpire gear, step onto the field prior to the game, and answer all of their questions regarding baseball and the art of umpiring. The umpires were very engaging and enthusiastic about their jobs. Most of the guests had never attended a Braves game before, which made these opportunities all the more special. They even received their very own official Major League baseball along with goody bags courtesy of the Braves and UMPS care, full of snacks such as cracker jacks and skittles, cash to spend on food and beverage in the ballpark, Braves caps and foam Tomahawks.

Together, the Braves and UMPS Care helped to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences and make a positive impact on the youth in our community, and we look forward to helping make more memories like these happen again next season!

Extreme Makeover – Youth Baseball Field Edition

In honor of Chipper Jones’ retirement from baseball, the Atlanta Braves Foundation pledged to refurbish ten baseball fields throughout metro Atlanta.

Earlier this month we refurbished the third field which was located at Powder Springs Park, Home of the Powder Springs Park Youth Baseball Association.

Ed Mangan, the Braves award-winning head groundskeeper, completed the work in record time! He and his crew worked hard to improve the field and make it look brand new. Some of the work they did included regrading the infield and replacing it with new sod, cutting in a new mound area and replacing all bases and homeplate, installing new nets on the foul poles.

BEFORE PHOTOS!

After the field work was completed, they added the finishing touches by painting the foul poles and foul lines, the dugout benches and the scorers stand.

AFTER PHOTOS!

To celebrate the new and improved field Braves players Cameron Maybin and Ross Detwiler were joined by Braves alumni players Marquis Grissom Mark Wohlers, Terry Harper and Craig Skok  for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Braves Heavy Hitters and the Tomahawk Team kicked off the morning with an exciting performance.

Braves EVP of Business Operations,  Mike Plant,  spoke on behalf of the Braves and along with Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn, Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee, Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid and Powder Springs Baseball President Wade Baker.

To close out the dedication, a celebratory ribbon cutting was followed by a ceremonial first pitch with the Braves players and youth from the Powder Springs Baseball Association.

We look forward to coming back out to Powder Springs Park to see the youth in action on their brand new refurbished field!

Braves Players Make Magical Memories with Some of Their Favorite Fans

The Atlanta Braves recently partnered with the Miracle League and Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids to host its 3rd annual Miracle League baseball clinic at Hunter Memorial Park in Douglasville, GA.  The Miracle League provides opportunities for children with disabilities to play baseball, regardless of their abilities, and have a great relationship with teams across Major League Baseball. More than 30 participants from Miracle League teams all over the state of Georgia showed up bright and early with a smile on their face ready to learn baseball skills from their favorite Braves players.

When the participants arrived at the park that morning, they received their very own personalized Atlanta Braves jersey, goodie bag, and tickets to that evening’s game to see the Braves take on the Miami Marlins. The players and their families were greeted by Douglasville Mayor, Harvey Persons, who then introduced our special guests for the day, Braves pitcher Andrew McKirahan, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, infielder Pedro Ciriaco, outfielder Eury Perez and Homer the mascot.

The Miracle Leaguers were split up into 4 four groups and rotated to different stations to work on various baseball skills. Braves catcher, Ryan Lavarnway, led the hitting station where participants hit from a tee on the pitcher’s mound into the fence behind homeplate. Braves outfielder, Eury Perez, led the fielding and catching stations where the participants worked on fielding ground balls. Braves pitcher, Andrew McKirahan, worked with the children on catching “cans of corn” at the pop fly station while Braves infielder, Pedro Ciriaco, led the throwing stations where he showed the Miracle Leaguers the proper technique to throwing a baseball.

To wrap up the camp, participants all ended the clinic as a group to say goodbye to their new friends 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!! A HUGE thank you to Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids for making this such an incredible experience for all participants. To learn more about what they are doing in our community, check out their site.

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