Sunday, August 5, 2007

Game #9: Evening in Hotlanta

The drive to Atlanta was perhaps one of the toughest of the trip. It’s 10-11 hours from DC to Atlanta, and I left in the morning, and needed to get to Atlanta in time for a 7:30 first pitch. In the end, it wasn’t that bad at all, but, as I’d previously mentioned, the irony is that the game wound up going 5+ hours and 14 innings. Figures.

That drive also exemplified part of the point of doing this as a road trip. It’s been remarkable how quickly I’ve gone from one area of the country to another, as just like that my surroundings have gone from distinctly East Coast to thoroughly Mid-West, to American South. Toss in Northern, Central, and Southern Florida, which are also very distinct from one another, and you really get a feel of moving around the country. While I’d anticipated this to a certain extent, I was still struck by the suddenness with which the environment seemed to change.

A couple of things about the drive down were particularly amusing:

* The Phillip Morris headquarters in North Carolina, including the cigarette shaped post in the picture to the right.

* Highway billboards suddenly promoting values such as Right to Life and Abstinence.

* Lots and lots of religious-oriented highway billboards with messages as eerie as “Welcome to Georgia, mortality rate 100%. Are you ready?”

* This was classic: An “inmates working” sign on the side of the freeway, followed by orange-jumpered inmates cleaning the side of the road

And yes, while Georgia can probably be considered the most civilized state in the South, and Atlanta its metropolitan center, there were definitely fans at the game with accents (and approaches to yelling at the opposing team) that would have done Cletus of the Simpsons proud.
Ok… on to Turner Field, aka, The Ted. Generally, this was definitely quite a nice park, with a good feel, size, and atmosphere. It’s relatively big, but despite the flak the Braves get for not filling it, including for some playoff games, even this Thursday evening game against the Astros had plenty of people in the park. Furthermore, with the track record the Braves have had recently, you can forgive the fans for being a bit blasé about turning out in droves for mid-day weekday playoff games.

This was also the home of Hank Aaron, a fact that was reinforced throughout the park. With Barry having just tied the record, this particularly stood out, including mentions of 755 everywhere, and a big panel on the back of the scoreboard saying “715”

In an interesting approach, the Braves also had a set of seats allocated as “all-you-can-eat” seats, with the price of food included in the ticket. This was a novel idea – we’ll see if it spreads.

The torch from the 1996 Olympic games is, meanwhile, bravely guarding the corner of a parking lot. This is quite a shame, really, as it would have been great to see the flame incorporated into the park somehow. While this is likely the original location from the Olympic Stadium, prior to its remodeling into the current baseball-only park, it’s still a bit disappointing.

The classic Braves signature, the Tomahawk chop turned out to be not nearly so annoying when at the stadium and cheering for the Braves as it is when watching on TV and rooting for the other team. And the fans definitely get into it.

The Braves scoreboard deserves a nod. The screen was great, but more to the point, the elements shown on the scoreboard were especially good. Baseball is a statistic-driven sport, and the more stats provided to the fans, the better. Unique to the Ted were details listed in the same format used when scoring by hand, and shown both on an inning-by-inning and player-by-player basis over the course of the game. Good stuff. That said, the left-on-base (LOB) line score item shown in some parks wasn’t included here – a notable oversight.

The game itself, as I said, went 14 innings. The Braves should have won, as they were up 9-5, but gave up a grand slam in the 8th in a situation were, arguably, all three baserunners should have been out. The Braves then came back from being down 2 runs in the 12th with a home run off Astros closer Brad Lidge. In the end, it was a battle of attrition, as both teams started running out of players and pitchers. The Astros go-ahead run, tragically enough, was batted in by reserve starting pitcher Jason Jennings, scheduled to have a day off, and nursing a season batting average of .057. Dah…

Let me also include a quick shout out to I had a good chat with Braves fan Mike from Columbus as the night went on and the Braves continued to squander chance after chance. He, and his friends, keep this blog going, talking about all matter of sports stories, with an emphasis on Ohio sports.

Oh yeah – one final thing. There’s far too much red in this league right now. The Astros had a great thing going with the yellow and orange, and while it was painfully seventies, a modern upgrade could, perhaps, have taken them down the road of UT burnt orange. Instead, the yet-again-red meant two nights in a row of red-clad fans cheering against red-clad fans. Ah well…

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey! Thanks for the nod and the mention of my blog. I really enjoyed the conversation in Hotlanta too.

You were very true about our fellow section dwellers use of language and the annoyance they presented. I was blessed with a 60-something gal the next night nexst to me who was nicer but no less loud and annoying in screaming at the players and action.

I have really enjoyed reading about your journey and travels. You are certainly living the dream of so many baseball fans myself included. Hope you have safe travels all along your trip. Enjoy the visit to Cincinnati too!

Oh, and I told you Tropicana was like being in a shopping mall!