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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Turner Field

Atlanta, GA
New York Mets at Atlanta Braves
July 20, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

I started out excited about going see my Mets today.  Everything was going great, starting with my adventure at the Ty Cobb Museum.  Its not too often that you can get someone to open a store just for you, so I figure that nothing could go wrong.  I figured wrong.  Royston is about a 2-hour drive from Atlanta and I left with plenty of time to make the 1 PM game and take my traditional circle around the stadium.  Little did I know that some unfortunate truck driver would jackknife across the entire highway and burst into flames.  Clearly, he was the one with bad luck and not me, but the 2 hours I spent standing still on the highway was not fun.  Another car full of Braves fans from North Carolina were stuck in the car next to me.  They were as frustrated as I was so they finally drove the wrong way on the highway to exit from the on ramp to find another route.  I waited it out until the path was clear, and when it was finally clear, I passed the spot where the truck was, and I saw how much of the road was melted away.  It made me cringe to think what the driver must have gone through, but I was finally off to the game.

I realized I was not going to make it for the start of the game, so I found the radio station that broadcasts the Braves games.  I listened to the top of the first inning in the car and heard the most horrific and embarrassing thing I could imagine the Mets doing.  Jose Reyes reached 1st on a Rafael Furcal error, moved to 2nd on a Jeff Duncan walk, and to 3rd on a Roger Cedeno fly out.  Then the unbelievable happened.  Braves pitcher Horacio Ramirez picked off Duncan at 1st for the second out.  There was a brief rundown to get him, followed by a quick Ramirez throw to 3rd to pick off Reyes as well!  So the Mets were picked off into a double play.  I have never seen that before or after this game, and I have been a Mets fan my whole life.  I consider myself lucky to not have actually seen the play.

After that on field mishap heard on the radio, I made it to the stadium.  I had no time to make my loop around the stadium, so I had to head right to will call to pick up the tickets that Jim Shultz left for me.  I have to mention that when I started writing about this trip, I wrote that the Braves, along with the Yankees, were the only two teams that did not provide me with tickets, but since that time, Mr. Shultz of the Braves came through for me.  Therefore, I will apologize for my earlier comments and follow that with a Thank You!My goal was to quickly get my scorecard, souvenir soda, and free t-shirt from the credit card giveaway, before heading right to the seats for the 2nd inning.

I quickly filled out the lineup and made whatever field observations I could.  So in a quick nutshell, I noticed the retired numbers in left field (Ruth, Aaron, Matthews, Spahn, Neikro, and Robinson), championship banners in left-center (under the out-of-town scores), scoreboard on the right field wall, the big Coke bottle over left field, and that it was hot and humid as hell!  I read in the scorecard that the Braves Hall of Fame located within the stadium closes after the 7th inning, so I scratched that off my to-do list since I did not want to miss any more of the game.  The museum holds memorabilia and artifacts going back to their inaugural season in Boston in 1871, their time in Milwaukee, and the years spent in Atlanta.  I would make it back to see the Museum a few years later, but not on this day.

Back to live action.  The Mets Al Leiter and Braves Horacio Ramirez both held their opponents scoreless for the first 2 innings.  The Mets would break through first in the 3rd inning when Tony Clark and Joe McEwing led off the inning with singles.  After Al Leiter sacrificed the runners up a base, Jose Reyes came through with a 2-run double to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Braves countered that in the 4th.  Gary Sheffield reached with a one-out walk, starting the most annoying part of my day. First, the most annoying fan in the world started his incessant yelling of “Hey Pitch, He’s Going!” with the ridiculous belief that it was either a smart thing to yell or that it would actually affect the pitcher.  Once as a joke is tolerable, but I had to listen to this moron yell that every time the Braves got a runner on base, and unfortunately, that happened frequently on this day.  Andruw Jones followed Sheffield with a double, which led to some disappointment.  Having watched the Braves on TV either against the Mets or on TBS, it was impossible to avoid seeing and hearing the Braves fans doing their Tomahawk Chop.  As much as I hated to hear it, it was cool knowing that it was a unique thing that the Braves fans shared.  My disappointment came, when I realized in person, that the only time they do it, is when they are prompted to do so by the loud speakers and scoreboard.  Not once did it happen spontaneously. I did get a laugh when a Braves fan sitting next to me said that he would hear the Tomahawk Chop at Shea Stadium when he watched on TV.  I had to break it to him, that it only happens when the Mets have the lead over the Braves, and Mets fans mock the Braves fans (I have been such a culprit in the past).  Oh yea, back to the game.  Julio Franco walked, Vinny Castillo brought Sheffield home with a Sac Fly, and Henry Blanco’s double brought Andruw Jones home to tie the game at 2.

The Mets added 3 runs in the 5th to knock Ramirez out of the game.  Scoring was similar to last time; Tony Clark singled, McEwing walked, Leiter sacrificed them over, but this time he reached 1st as well on a throwing error by Ramirez.  However, this time it was Duncan knocking in 2 runs with a one-out single and Ty Wigginton knocking in the 5th run with a two-out RBI single of his own.  The Braves would get one run back in the 6th on 3 singles by Julio Franco, Castillo, and Darren Bragg, followed by a bases loaded walk by David Weathers to Robert Fick to bring the score to 5-3.  After the Mets failed to score in the top of the 7th, my traditional baseball values were wrinkled again.  They started the 7th inning stretch with Kate Smith’s recorded version of God Bless American and then had the audacity to forgo the playing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame altogether…the blasphemy!  It was bad enough to play a religious him instead of the traditional baseball song, but it was not even a live singer!  Disappointment all around.

The Mets brought my spirits back up in the 8th with 3 runs.  Jason Phillips led off with a home run.  Raul Gonzalez singled and moved to 2nd on a wild pitch.  Walks to Tony Clark and Rey Sanchez loaded up the bases.  Reyes singled in the 2nd run and Duncan walked to bring in another run, giving the Mets an 8-3 lead.  It was looking like my bleak afternoon was turning much brighter, but that would not last for long.

The Braves erupted with 8 runs in the bottom of the 8th to put the Mets away.  Castillo, Blanco, and Bragg hit consecutive singles to score the 1st run.  Javier Lopez followed with a 3-run homer off Mike Stanton pinch-hitting for Matt Franco.  This was the point that I learned that the Coca Cola cannons are set off to celebrate Braves home runs, and where I heard the Tomahawk chop for the first time without having the fans prompted to do it (so I may have fibbed a bit before).  Furcal then singled and reached 3rd on Stanton’s error.  Singles by Mark DeRosa, Andruw Jones and Marcus Giles plated 2 more runs to give the Braves the lead.  An error by 2nd baseman Rey Sanchez allowed the Braves 10th run to score and knock Stanton out of the game.  At this point, I still have my theories that Stanton is still being paid by the Yankees or Braves to make Mets fans suffer with his awful pitching.  How could he look so good on those teams and so bad on the Mets?  For good measure, the Braves added an 11th run as well.  To start the 9th, ACDC’s Thunderstruck blasted through the loud speakers as Braves closer John Smolz ran to the mound to save the game and finish off my Mets.  If you are keeping count, the Mets are now 0-4 on my journey.

Now that the game is over, I can take my walk around the inside and outside of the stadium.  Thankfully, it was a day game, so I can do all of this in daylight.  Turner Field is a beautiful stadium.  The blue seats and nicely manicured field can be seen from the concourses, where the Braves recognize the team history.  For one thing, the stadium is located on 755 Hank Aaron Way, to honor the team’s biggest star of all time.  I was very disappointed that I could not go into the Museum, but in my walk around the wide concourses, I did notice pictures and memorabilia of the team’s history, and even a display on current star, John Smoltz.  There is a big 1995 World Champions sign over Scouts Alley, which is a great interactive tribute to the scouts in baseball history.  That is quite a unique tribute to the unsung heroes of the game.  The other things I noticed on my walk through the concourses was all the food I missed out on eating.  I would have liked to try a turkey leg, fried shrimp, a deli sandwich, or a Bison dog for a different taste.  They offer hot dogs and sausages in styles from all over the country, so what I am saying is that there are plenty of good food options here.

My walk around the outside of the stadium was fun as well, but before I discuss that, I will provide my brief history of the stadium.  Turner Field was originally built for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as the main stadium for opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field events.  Michael Johnson stole the show there with his gold shoes and electrifying speed in the 200 and 400 meter events.  The stadium was then converted for baseball for the 1997 season.  It was built in the parking lot of Fulton County Stadium, which was the home of the Braves from 1966 through 1996.  Again, I will say the Braves remember their history.  They have marked out a baseball diamond in the parking lot in the spot that it existed in Fulton County stadium before it was demolished.  There is a big blue wall outlining where the old stadium once was, but the best artifact left from Fulton County Stadium, is the monument of the spot where Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run.  They have the old fence, warning track, grass and the 715 marker, which is fabulous!

There a several noteworthy things for kids of all ages; Big Hitters, where you can test their hitting skills; Peach Pitch, where you can test your pitch speed; Rookie Card, where you can make your own baseball card; and Stick by Stan, where you can make your own bat.  You can also go to Tooner Field, which is Cartoon Network’s section.  You can find merchandise and entertainment for kids there, including Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear walking around for photos and autographs.

The statues of Phil Neikro, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb (replicating his famous slide into third), and Casey at the Bat are all beautiful and impressive at the same time.  The outside plaza also includes huge statuesque numbers for their retired players numbers as well and a wall with all the Braves pennants.  However, my favorite part of the outside entrance is the ring of baseballs representing every team in baseball, including one for my Mets!

Once I finished my stadium walk, I prepared for my long drive.  This was one of three nights on my entire trip where I did not have lodging set up beforehand.  I needed to get to DC and Baltimore the next day, so I just planned to drive as long as I could that night.  Part of this journey would bring me slightly out of the way, so I could add Tennessee to my list of states driven through.  I was rewarded for those efforts by finding Dee Snider’s House of Hair on the radio during my drive, which made my think of my friends likely hanging out listening to the same music in the Sweeney’s basement.  I physically ran out of gas around 1:30 AM around Roanoke, Virginia to sleep at a Days Inn.  I later learned that I was practically in the back yard of Matt Angle, the person nice enough to publish these stories on Ballparksofbaseball.com.  We would not meet until a year or two later.

Bottom line – Although my team lost (again), and I had a bunch of trouble getting here, but I did have the opportunity to enjoy my time at this beautiful baseball stadium.  I look forward to coming back to see the Hall of Fame Museum.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium # 22
-Old Stadium Sites visited – Fulton County Stadium (Total – 11)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 1)
-Miles traveled – 637 via Car (Totals: Driving – 14,828, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total – 18,064)
-States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia (Totals: States – 40, Provinces – 0, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats – Section 119R, Row 24, Seat 13 – Field Level
-Prices: Parking – $10.00, Beer - $7.00, Hot Dogs - $6.50, Program (including pencil) - $5.00, Souvenir Soda Cup – $4.00
-Credit Card giveaway –  Braves T-shirt
-First Pitch -  1:06 PM
-Attendance – 36,029
-Results – Braves 11, Mets 8, W – Ray King, L – Mike Stanton, S – John Smoltz
-Home team record to date – 12 wins, 13 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 9 wins, 16 losses
-Lodging – Roanoke, Virginia

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