Going into last night’s game against the Miami Marlins, the Atlanta Braves' chances of winning were pretty good. First, they had won 13 games in a row, the last six on the road. Second, they were playing the Miami Marlins, a team that has played better of late but is still tied with the White Sox for the second-worst record in baseball. And finally, I would be in attendance. In my previous visits to opposing stadiums, the home team’s record is 8-5, which includes the 2011 Indians' sweep of the Twins at Target Field. And in the last two games I saw (Detroit and Toronto), the home team’s starting pitchers threw complete game shutouts.
With Turner Field being so close to Columbia I’ve wanted to visit for a while, and after a few years of putting it off and a failed attempt earlier this year, a few friends from work and I finally managed to get out to Atlanta to see a Braves game.
Getting to the stadium was actually a lot easier than I thought it’d be. A few of my friends from work and I planned on leaving Columbia around lunchtime, but we ran late and got to Atlanta about an hour before first pitch, without tickets. Turner Field is located right next to I-75/I-85 and we found parking on the other side of the interstate and walked under the overpass to the stadium. Getting tickets was kind of crowded, but we were able to get them quickly enough and get to our seats in plenty of time for first pitch.
It might have been the fact that we sat so low, or maybe that Turner Field seats over 50,000 fans, but it felt significantly bigger than most of the newer parks I’ve been in. The stadium has all the modern amenities, including a huge scoreboard in center field with a square video board. I had the feeling that in the 18 years of the stadium’s existence, the owners have taken care to keep it up to date. The stadium lacks the facsimile nooks and crannies of Nationals Ballpark or Target Field, and instead is sort of a no-nonsense approach to seating.
Much like the Indians, the Braves decorate their concourses with homages to their storied history. The concourses on the lower level weren’t open to the field, which made them a little cramped and stuffy, but the second level concourses (not the upper deck, but the higher part of the lower deck) was open and created some really nice sightlines as we walked around the park. We also got a look at some of the upper deck seats and much like Progressive Field, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
There were a lot of food options, and some of them were unique, like a steakhouse and pork nachos, and yes, a Waffle House. Prices seemed a little high for the quality, but there are definitely worse options in terms of ballpark food, and it doesn’t take much to please me in any case.
As far as scenery behind center field goes, I’ve always been more partial to the city skyline myself, and unfortunately the Atlanta city skyline is behind first base foul line and out of sight of most of the seating bowl. It’s a minor issue to be sure, but the skyline behind the center field wall would have been nice.
On the whole the fans were more engaged and more intelligent about the game than most stadiums I’ve visited, although the winning streak might have increased everyone’s awareness a little bit. One moment I noticed came on a shallow pop fly to left field by a Braves hitter; several people around me whispered “infield fly!” derisively, referencing a controversial infield fly call in the playoffs last year against the Cardinals. It was good memory, for starters, and on top of that it wasn’t a particularly popular controversy nationally (unlike Steve Bartman, for example), so it was pretty impressive how many people remembered that moment.
The game was a good one and had a little bit of everything, and ended with the Braves on top 5-0, extending their winning streak to 14. Incidentally, it was my third consecutive shutout (and four out of five if you include the doubleheader I went to at Progressive Field earlier this year). Much like most other major league parks, Friday night was fireworks night and the show was pretty impressive: better than Detroit’s for sure, but maybe not as good as Cleveland’s still.
It should also be noted that getting out of the park was a breeze. The time between when the last firework cracked across the sky and the time we merged onto the interstate was no more than twenty minutes, and apart from some somewhat busy traffic getting out of town there was almost no slowdown.
The Braves and I have a history: they broke my Dad’s heart in 1991 and 1992, and they broke my heart in 1995. Nonetheless I enjoyed Turner Field more than I thought I would and more than I wanted to. It helps that when you buy a ticket to a game part of what you’re buying is the product on the field, and over the last 16 years the Braves have been nearly perennial contenders. But even apart from that, the stadium is an enjoyable, not overly complicated experience. Despite the fact that I don’t root for the Braves, I look forward to being back at Turner Field.