Overall Grade: A
Aesthetic Grade: B-
Turner Field really isn’t anything special when it comes to looks. That and it has tons of ads when you look towards the outfield. For me, ads, unless they blend classically with the stadium, are a negative. On the positive side, because it is built in the style it is, it has some oldish charm to the stadium. The scoreboard is beautiful and prominent. The reason I had it on the positive side of a C is it really doesn’t have anything that detracts from the game experience, but it has certain qualities that enhances the visual aspect of it.
Two words: Tomahawk. Chop:
You may have heard of it and know of the rhythm of it. Heck, you may have even heard it on TV during a Braves. However, there is truly nothing like being there when they get going at Turner Field. I mean really getting into it. I was there when there really wasn’t much of a crowd, but even with my experience in those three days, I feel the moral obligation to do the chop along with the Braves fans whenever I see a game of theirs on TV. Besides this, you may or may not know this, but the Braves have the largest geographical fan base of any team in the major leagues:
Okay, I know it looks like the Rangers do in the map, but I think they’re being very generous to the Rangers and the two Florida teams. I think the three teams surrounding the Rangers have a bit more of that territory, and the two Florida teams are still very young. While they may hold the majority of fans in the regions highlighted, everyone over the age of 45 in the region is more likely to be a Braves fan than anything else. Both the Marlins and the Rays have been around for less than 20 years. Anyway, the ultimate point I’m trying to get at is that there are a lot of people who travel to Braves fans. Therefore, the crowd is more likely to be passionate. Who do you think will be cheering louder: the fan just getting to the game as a way of relaxing after work or the person who is taking vacation days just to visit their favorite team’s stadium. I hadn’t even considered the geographical factor until I got to Turner Field and talked to people about where they were from. More so than any other stadium I have visited thus far, there were a ton of people from out of town.
Fan Experience: A
First of all, I consider “Atmosphere” a contributing factor. Secondly, I couldn’t tell that well about the stadium as a whole, which is why I held off on giving this an A+, but the sample of people I encountered in my three days there were definitely nice in the aggregate. It really did feel like a southern hospitality stereotype was coming to fruition. But more than that, it was so refreshing coming from the New York City environment. For example, in New York you can for the most part tell it is the vendor’s job. In Atlanta, the beer vendors have fun with it. There are vendors that use humor in their selling in New York, but their default emotion while saying the jokes is one of emotionlessness; whereas some Atlanta vendors had the demeanor of a stand-up comedian while in the stands.
Turner Field also has a couple other things going for it in the “fan experience” sub-category. First, maybe I’m just blowing this out of proportion because of my familiarity with the Yankees and Mets, but I liked that it didn’t seem like even though they had this vast fan base that they were “too good” to cater to the paying fan. Also, even though I never entered it. Turner Field looks like possibly the best play area of the stadiums I have been to:
Well except for the Nick-loving kids. For the record, the reason it is a Cartoon Network themed play area, it is because the team was owned by Turner Broadcasting Systems, which is a part of Time Warner Cable, owner of Cartoon Network.
Another great thing about Turner Field’s fan experience is they have a pretty neat museum. It isn’t free on it’s own like most museums, but if you go on a tour of Turner Field (before batting practice), a ticket to the museum is included that you can use all day. If you want to check out these along with other pictures I took on the 4th of July game, here is the link to the gallery on Facebook.
This is where you see what a team is made of. In the details of the stadium.The lazy, unimaginative teams fail here and the better ones thrive. As you can see, the Braves are in the later category. If you didn’t know, my trip last year was at the beginning of July (4th of July 2011 was my first game there). Atlanta in July is not exactly the arctic tundra. Therefore the touch the Braves had with installing fans in the center field concourse/plaza that sprayed water was absolutely magnificent.
Even better, an oft overlooked feature: the seats. The Braves –although not spectacular– have (sadly) one of the better seat designs in the major leagues:
Ballhawking During Batting Practice: A+
This is what we in the old country call Glove Trick Heaven. (Side Note: If you try to get a ball via Glove Trick or other retrieval devices in left field, you have to be quick on the draw, because there are probably a couple other people with a device on hand. I would factor this into the equation, but I’m only evaluating the stadium itself.)
Wow. Yet another heavenly sight. This is debatably the best outfield section in the major leagues for snagging baseballs in the major leagues. The seating goes all the way from the foul pole to the batter’s eye. And while there may be another place in the major leagues where this is the case (I can’t think of any), this is the only one where all of the individual section go across in a more or less straight line. The simplicity of it makes it absolutely gorgeous in terms of ballhawking, and the sheer amount of space in the outfield makes it amazing for snagging hit baseballs during batting practice
While center field sections usually aren’t the way to go, this is a pretty viable back-up plan. It may seem like light years away from home plate, but even though the home bullpen acts as a partition between it and the right field seats, the rightmost section in the center field seats is really right-center field when you think about it. It’s just the mentality that makes people think it is further than it actually is, but it doesn’t take a shot to reach that section, which can be a nice place to camp out if the left and right field sections of the outfield are crowded.
This is what it is: a right field section for when lefties are up. I’m not particularly in love with it, though. First of all, the home bullpen takes out a prime section and makes it so players have to pull the ball a bit more than usual to get it into these seats. Then there’s the fact that the seats don’t open until an hour after the gates do, so maybe there’s a negative association there. But finally, the gap in right field is so much smaller than the one in left and center:
It is a maximum of three feet (probably one or two, so really the only balls that go down there are dropped baseballs by fans in the first row.
Ballhawking During the Game: A
While the outfield is a great place to be during the game if it’s not crowded, it’s not very crowd-proof if there are a bunch of people during the game, since Atlanta is 22nd in home runs in 2012. That means if you get moved back like tens rows due to fans, there is a slimer chance for a game home run. However, the place to probably be for the game is the cross-aisle behind home plate (highlighted by the green line I have included:
I personally didn’t stand back there, but it was because I had pretty much an entire section to myself:
For the record, I did catch a foul ball, which to this day remains the only foul ball I have ever technically “caught on the fly” off of the bat of Nate McLouth. If you want to check out the gallery from that July 5th game, I’ve linked this entire sentence to the page. Heck, I might as well give you the July 6th gallery while I’m at it. Here’s that link. I was also with my mom for this whole roadtrip, who wanted me to sit with her, but otherwise I might have gone to the cross-aisle once this section filled up a little.
Special thanks goes out to Todd Cook for allowing me to use many of his panoramic pictures in the entry from his plethora thereof. If you want to check out his gallery of 10,000,000 pictures and more, check out his museum by clicking on the words you just read.
Anyway, that’s that. Keep voting for the entries you would like to see:
If you have already voted and have a different perspective, I have taken the repeat voter restrictions off and they will remain off for 24 hours after the publication if you want to vote again. However, I do please ask you to only vote one additional time.
And although Ballhawk Interviews is the next most voted subject, I still have to ask you guys who you want to see interviewed, so in the meantime, I will do an entry on whatever the second most voted on item is in the poll (hint, hint, for those people voting a second time). Meanwhile, here is a poll to let me know which ballhawk you would want to see me interview:
Disclaimer: As of now, none of the ballhawks have agreed to be interviewed (since I just sent the e-mail five minutes ago), so the person who is interviewed is the highest voted-for person who agrees to be interviewed; not necessarily the most voted-for person period.
Finally, since Ballhawking Gear is one of the entry types that is in second place, keep voting on how you would like to see it:
Third and final day at Turner Field and I was very optimistic:
The first game was packed and the second game was slow HR wise in bp so why shouldn’t I have been. For those of you who don’t know, Turner Field opens 2 1/2 hours early. That means the gates were opened at 4:30 this day. I had been moving back and forth. When my mom caught up to me in a section and rightfully ask how many I had caught in forty minutes of batting practice I had to give her the second worst one-handed gesture I could have:
About five minutes later, I moved over closer to straight away left field in order to get a ball from the Rockies warming-up and en route caught a Brooks Conrad Home Run:
but let me tell you right now that I could have easily had five baseballs. I moved back to my spot where I had been standing for ten minutes now and had moved from to catch the Conrad homer when a 14-ish year old kid came down the aisle. I moved aside and he slid right in to the row in front of me. Thirty seconds later, he called out to his dad asking if the Braves had been taking bp before then. When his dad answered yes, he pulled a ball out from under a seat and said he might have found one. Oh my goodness. How could I have not spotted that earlier. Oh yeah I’ll tell you, I figured since the stadium opened 2 1/2 hours early and most teams start hitting that early that there wouldn’t be any thing there. Still, let me show you how close I was:
The lower arrow shows where the ball had been. The upper left arrow shows where I had been standing. So this seat being an aisle seat in row 21 I was in the aisle adjacent to row 22. Gaaaah! As I explained before, I did not think at all to look for easter eggs so I have reason not to be disappointed but it was right in the row in front of me. On a lighter note, notice how the seat is designed so it cannot go completely up like the seat next to it. Whoever designed the seat forgot about the curvature of the stadium and so the armrest prevents the seat from going up.
That was it for bp the Braves weren’t really stingy and it wasn’t really crowded but people were in spots so that there wasn’t a full empty row except at the back of the left field bleachers or a ways away from home plate in deep left center. I stupidly stayed in this section of left field because, as I said, it wasn’t that crowded. The draw back was that the Home Runs that were hit always took some crazy bounce or were deflected by other people. One specific example when I came oh so close was a ball that bounced off of a person’s hands came back to me and I extended as far as I could over a seat but only managed to stop the ball’s momentum as someone picked it off the ground. I extended at chest level but did not think the scenario through as I would have gotten the ball had I extended for the ball at a lower height (the ball was still going back towards me so if I would have given it more time to fall it would have come closer to me and thus right into my glove). The toss-ups I normally get were also at a low as Jim Wright ignored me for half an hour and I am always afraid that if I call out to payers from too far away they will see me as impatient and not throw me a baseball when they come close to the wall. So I kept quiet but they kept away from the wall as Wright retrieved the majority of the balls. Here is a picture that describes the last sentence perfectly:
Jim Wright is the one in the middle with the ball in his hand he is standing to Houston Street I believe. Had he stayed longer (Street) I might have gotten a baseball out of him but he left soon afterwards. I am the one in the stands with my hand and glove cupped around my mouth asking him if he could spare a baseball. You can also see the two groups of three pitchers on either side of the the picture that just stayed there. I don’t know that much about Wright but he also seemed like one of those coaches that keeps an eye out for how much the players are tossing balls into the stands and thus they don’t do it as often. Any ballhawks out there know what I am talking about? He was like a lesser Randy St.Claire this day. Kapish?
…I would also, in light of the Shannon Stone incident, like to tell any one that Turner Field, although with high walls and a gap like Ranger Ballpark, is a very safe place. In addition to the signs, like that which I am standing in front of in the previous picture, there are chains that prevent one from getting within two feet of the wall of places like bullpens. Anybody skeptical of Turner’s safety because of the gap can be assured that you would have to almost try and fall into the gap…
I then went to the Rockies dugout in hopes of an early third out ball before going back to my ticketed seat in hopes of snagging foul balls in consecutive days. I first got Mark Ellis to toss me his pre-game warm-up ball but then a guy reached right in front of me and grabbed the ball. I could have reached in front of him but I didn’t want to step on any toes, even if it was my last day (keep this in mind later). Thankfully, Ellis had another ball in his back pocket and threw it, this time OVER the grabby man:
Remember how I said I would get an early third out ball and run back to my section. I spent nine innings behind the dugout and did not get a single ball because of a variety of circumstances.
After the game, I went over to the umpire tunnel. At Turner Field, it is to the right side of the visitors’ dugout:
I went over there and waited for Home Plate Umpire, Cory Blaser, to walk over before asking him for a ball. He was about to walk right into the tunnel until he heard his name. At which point he back up out of the tunnel and rolled a ball across the dugout in my direction but then a teenager, younger than I , reached out in front of me and grabbed the ball. He said the reason he did it was that he had been at the dugout the whole game and hadn’t gotten a third out ball “Wow, what do you think I’ve been doing all game”. He didn’t say sorry or offer me the ball (I wouldn’t have taken it and already had two baseballs but still that doesn’t justify his actions because he didn’t know either of those facts). Pretty disappointing considering how the game had gone to that point.
- 2 balls at this game
- 58 balls in 18 game= 3.22 balls per game
- 43 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 8 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 13 straight games away from NYC with at least 1 ball
- 20 balls in 4 games= 5.0 balls per game on this trip
- 2 balls*26,271 fans= 52,542 competition factor
- Time at Game 3:57-9:54= 5 hours 57 minutes
Second day at Turner Field:
I was excited because it was now the day after the fourth of July and the attendance would probably be low not only because it was a day not fourth of July but specifically because it was the day AFTER when not that many people would want to get to the game at 4:30.
As foreshadowing, my day started off poorly. I was obligated to put on sunscreen outside the gate and as a result the glove trick with fishing line (as I use it ) became a very difficult task because my hands kept slipping on the line and thus i couldn’t get a ball that fell in the LF gap:
I eventually conceded to a person with a cup trick that snagged it in five seconds after he readied his device.
Why was I not by the first base foul line for the pitchers warming up you ask? Well because right field and all sections to the right of that were closed until 5:00 but I did eventually make my way to the center field corner spot (the spot furthest to the front and left, from my perspective, of the section). From there I had priority to any ball hit in right field. I used this to get Brain Snitker, the third base coach, to toss me a ball.
I then moved back to left field when a few righties came up and when Martin Prado tossed a ball to a kid and missed high I collected it and handed it to him right away.
Back in right field when Jason Heyward’s group came up, I used my glove trick to pick up a ball that landed in the gap between the walls:
Yes that is a Hilton pen that I have my fishing line on. Why? In order to prevent tangling like that which I pointed out at the end of the day before’s entry. There was another ball that landed in the gap later on during bp (I don’t remember when) but it was wedged perfectly between two metal strips in the gap so that I could not move it. I then moved back to left field when the Rockies pitchers came out to warm-up and got Ubaldo Jimenez to toss me a ball:
Bad News: He under threw me by two feet and the ball fell into the gap.
Good News: There was a construction/painting platform below me so I just had to lean over a bit and I picked it up.
Back to right field. I got Matt Pagnozzi to throw me a ball. As you can tell there really wasn’t much Home Run action. Had there been I might have found myself in double digits at the end of the day. Oh well, someday. There were a few that came near me but people were just in the right spots as I positioned myself to have as much open running room as possible. The picture to describe this:
I would described the feeling behind my face as tired due to running back and forth, disappointed because of the balls I got blocked on, and a little annoyed because I don’t have one shot of me actually snagging a ball. I mean I’m not catching ten balls a game so it is a bit tough with a screen that goes to sleep every five seconds but given my luck at that point the smaller details were what I was fretting about to distract myself from how the game had gone.
…Until I made it to my seat:
I mean that was AFTER the game had started. I mean literally if a foul ball landed in that section I had a 50% chance of catching it. Turns out all I needed was that one row as in the second inning Nate McLouth hit a foul ball right to that row. I only had one person to beat which was a kid behind me that also had a glove but he was talking to his dad at the time and didn’t even see the ball go up. I ran about half way through the row, put my glove up, caught the ball and then had my left leg hit the back of a seat because I had been tracking the ball. That was what I was going for so I was happy but not surprised. I stupidly did not have my mom take a picture of me after I caught the ball but here I am with it later on:
I am actually holding the smudge that the bat created on the ball towards the camera, if you can see. I also made a shocking discovery involving my first foul ball (as a ballhawk. I ended up with one in… 2000 I think.) that I had not thought through before catching this one. It had not been rubbed up much if any. Here is a picture of me with that ball that I took for a mygameballs.com article:
If you look at the color difference of the two it shows you how little this ball was rubbed up with mud. I have gotten umpire balls before that were rubbed up but I guess it took me catching a second foul ball to realize that those had just been in the game. I know this train of thought may seem weird but I just didn’t think about the ball at the time because I was too excited that I had,won a scramble for, a foul ball.
Wanting to catch another foul ball, I stayed in those seats until the seventh inning stretch. At which time, I moved over to around the Rockies dugout, via seat weaving. The view:
I got nothing in two innings (because there was no bottom of the ninth) from, first baseman at the time, Ty Wigginton. He just threw it elsewhere to one Rockies fan and one non-Rockies fan.
I then tried to once again tie my career high by getting the home plate umpire (I don’t remember who) to toss me one of his excess baseballs. He either had none or wasn’t in the mood after being argued with by both teams various times and walked straight into the umpires’ room.
Next up was the bullpen guys who just had no baseballs with them. Actually I shouldn’t say that. The bullpen guys always have a ginormous bag full of baseballs but unless one of the actual pitchers picked a ball up before it was put into that bag and had it in his pocket it is unlikely the person carrying the bag will go through the trouble of setting the bag down, unzipping it, taking a ball out and zipping it back up again just to give a ball to one of their out-of-town fans. I would have been fine with this but I was on my way out of the stadium when, rookie bullpen pitcher, Rex Brothers arrived and started signing autographs. I ran down in hopes of getting a ball signed when he stopped signing. The culmination of these things led to this face (notice I did not forget my attention grabbing Rockies shirt this time):
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave two away)
- 56 balls in 17 games= 3.29 balls per game
- 42 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 3 straight games with at least 5 balls
- 12 straight games outside of New York with at least 1 ball
- 6 balls*17,718 fans=106,308 competition factor
- Time at game 4:18- 10:13=5 hours 55 minutes
Oh Fourth of July. The proud day where Americana reigns supreme and the gates open… THREE HOURS EARLY?! Thank goodness my mom had taken a tour at 3:00 because had she not gone I would have showed up a little late for the gates as she warned me via phone of this scheduling change. As I arrived I saw this:
Nothing horrible but then I got the priviledge of sitting for half an hour doing nothing:
My first “ball” of the day was sort of a weird situation as Bullpen coach Eddie Perez threw a ball to a person. That person rejoiced because he thought he had gotten a ball. Eddie then flapped his glove like he wanted it to be thrown back. The man threw it back and Eddie continued this process with several other people. Eventually, I convinced Eddie to throw me the ball but then had to throw it back. I have had this situation happen to me before where I have caught a ball and the player asked for it back but the number of people that actually touched this ball makes me wonder if I should count it. For the moment, I am counting it but let me use the handy dandy poll daddy widget to find out the readers’ reaction/opinion
When the Braves pitchers began to warm-up along the 1st base foul line. You can expect I made my way over there (I was in left field). My mother however, thought I was coming back to left field right after the pitchers ended their warm-up. So before I go into detail on a miny snagging rampage here is a picture of a group of pitchers in left-center field (if you’re a little lost my mom had the camera so I don’t have any pictures of said rampage):
Now to the rampage. Although I didn’t get any balls from the pitchers warming up, a ball got hit to the wall in the right field corner where George Sherrill picked it up. Since I was in foul ground I was the closest to him because of a tunnel leading back into the depths of stadium where there were obviously no seats. So I called out and he promptly tossed me the ball. I then moved into the actual right field seats and caught a Home Run from a lefty I didn’t recognize at the time, but later identified as Freddie Freeman. This due to the fact that it was the exact same swing as Home Run he hit during the actual game (to be seen later). I stayed put in left field because a) there were a lot of lefties up and b) this was the crowd in left field at almost that exact same time:
You can see in the background how much less crowded the right field seats were. Anyway, a ball got hit into the Braves bullpen in right center field and no one went after it but me. Scott Proctor was in the bullpen and as he picked up the ball I got him to throw it to me . While I was coming back down the steps, a ball got hit and a kid around seven years old managed to stop it but it dropped into the gap between the walls and so I swooped in with my glove trick and after a bunch of tangling brought it up and handed it to him.
While in right, I noticed a fair amount of balls going into the center field bleachers (or Pavillion as the Braves so graciously renamed it). Like just as many as in left and right. Since it was 400+ feet from home plate to glove so there weren’t that many people there but in all actuality the rightmost section (looking from home plate) is really right center and isn’t that out of the question when it comes to Home Runs. Anyway, five minutes after I got there, Brian McCann hit a Home Run to that rightmost section I ran and set up right behind the (barehanded) person camped under it but he deflected it forward and a third person out-scrambled him for it. This turned out to blessing in disguise as a the next pitch McCann launched a ball back to my right and all I had to do was run ten steps and catch it. For those keeping score at home that is now six balls on the day, five sans Perez ball.
I met back with my mom in Left Field and stayed there for the remainder of Braves bp because I wanted to wait until the Rockies pitchers finished throwing:
I got nothing from them and returned to right field, this time with a photographer. The closest I came to a ball in left field because of the crowd was a ball that landed in the gap. I had my glove trick and got to the point quickest but gave way to a person with a cup trick type thing a few moments afterward. I add on the “type thing” because it was a cup trick but I am used to something other than a roll of duct tape being used as a weight:
Anyway, Rockies batting practice was pretty slow. Not necessarily in terms of balls hit into the stands but it seemed like there were never balls hit close enough to the stands to shout to the players for toss-ups. It was also pretty crowded in right field on the aisles so of course let me give you a picture of the middle of the row:
Towards the middle of Rockies batting practice, a lefty hit a Home Run to my right. I was two sections so I came a little late to the party but managed to win the scramble when the barehanded person inevitably dropped the ball and I scooped it up. I then proceeded to give the ball to a kid also chasing it. I probably should have given it to a kid with a glove but it was more of a reactionary move to endear myself to the section as they had seen me snag a few balls. I just kept trying the players from close up using words and from far away using gestures:
but it was hopeless as I forgot my attention grabbing Rockies shirt in a rush to get to the stadium and just had my hat add that to the fact it was the Fourth of July and the stadium was packed, even in bp. So batting practice ended:
and I was happy as I had set my season high and tied my career high for balls in a game. I didn’t try to go for third out balls and set a new career high just yet. If it were to come, it would be a Home Run or a bullpen ball that sent me to #8 as this was the view from my seat:
Guess what. A Home Run did come within twenty feet of me and guess who caught it. Not me. This was my view right after the catch as I had to watch helplessly because of the crowd:
I mean he caught it on the fly so there was nothing I could really do about it but still I go in my mind to thinking how that would have played out on a day that was not the fourth of July. That of course, the Freddie Freeman Home Run that I referenced earlier that helped me identify him as the one that hit the ball that I caught.
There were mostly lefties hitting so I just watched the spectacle that was a family trying to land more peanut shells on the first wall than each other:
In the eighth inning it started to rain and the section really emptied out but it was too late:
as there were only six hitters after that point.
Still the Braves commemorated my six/seven ball performance with some nice fireworks:
Can you spot my hotel? I am staying at the Holiday Inn. I stayed for the entire fireworks ceremony and ended up drenched:
The funny part about that picture is the camera didn’t move that much it was the water on the lens that made it look so blurry.
Oh and remember how I said my glove trick got tangled on the first ball. Here is a picture of it after I got home:
Just keep that in mind when I write my next entry today/tomorrow.
- Seven balls at this game ( four pictured because I kept that many)
- 50 balls in 16 games= 3.13 balls per game
- 41 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 11 straight outside of New York
- 7 balls*36,137 fans= 252,959 competition factor
- Time at game 3:38- 11:27=7 hours 49 minutes A record I do not think I will break any time soon.