Thursday, September 21, 2017

Joey's World Tour: Peaches and Creamed (Part I - Mets Put the Hot in Hotlanta)

At least it's not Turner Field.  (Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Welcome to the latest edition of my baseball world tour.  I'm your Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert Joey Beartran.  In today's two-part installment (you can read the second part by clicking here), I'll take you to the latest ballparks I visited; the brand spanking new SunTrust Park in Atlanta and the cavernous airport hangar in Miami known as Marlins Park.

The state of Georgia is known as the Peach State, and I was feeling pretty peachy myself after attending the middle game of the three-game series against the Braves.  My colleagues and I arrived at the ballpark about half an hour before first pitch.  We tried to get there at least an hour early to take photos around the park and to explore the stadium before first pitch, but it was impossible to park near the stadium.  You see, most parking facilities within a Juan Lagares throw of the stadium were "permit parking only".  My limo driver (and by limo, I mean rental car from the airport) had to drive around for close to half an hour before she found an area nearly a mile away from the stadium gates.  So after working up a sweat hiking, we arrived to notice that the area adjacent to the ballpark has been developed into an entertainment complex known as The Battery.

For those who don't have tickets to the game, The Battery has several restaurants, such as Wahlburgers, YardHouse and PBR Bar & Grill, where you can drink, dance and ride a mechanical bull.  And no, I did not ride the bull.  I weigh eight ounces and would be tossed from it immediately.

The Battery also has a theater for live entertainment (Coca Cola Roxy Theatre), an area where you can watch the Braves' pre-game show as it's been filmed and a huge floating baseball located high above the concourse that serves as a TV and scoreboard.  All in all, this area has everything for the baseball fan (and non-baseball fan) to see and do before and after the game.

(Above photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

As we walked around the ballpark, we noticed several statues dedicated to Braves legends.  Hall of Fame pitchers Phil Niekro and Warren Spahn (who won four games as a Met in 1965) are prominently featured, as is Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox.  Meanwhile, all the Mets can muster for one of its managers is a gnome-sized Casey Stengel statue-like piece hidden near a window at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.

Seriously, Mets?  This is the best you can do regarding statues?  (EL/SM)

We did notice that one statue was missing outside the stadium, and considering that the ballpark's official address is 755 Battery Avenue Southeast and 755 is kind of an important number in baseball history, we thought this was an oversight on the Braves' part, similar to Terry Collins not starting Michael Conforto regularly against left-handed pitchers until a couple of months into this season.

But we were proven wrong once we entered the ballpark.  Oh, how wrong we were.

Behind home plate is an area known as Monument Garden.  This area details Braves history from the team's days in Boston to its 13 seasons in Milwaukee to the last half-century in Atlanta.  From the World Series pennants (Did you know the Braves franchise has won exactly one championship in each of the three cities it has called home?  They won a title in Boston in 1914, Milwaukee in 1957 and Atlanta in 1995.) to uniforms of prominent players over the years, the Braves did a fantastic job honoring the history of the franchise as a whole; not just the team's days in Atlanta.  They even gave Casey Stengel - who played for the franchise for two seasons and managed them for six years - more than just a gnome.

Top to bottom: Monument Garden, Dale Murphy 1982 jersey, Sid Bream's leg brace from his pennant-winning run, Laaaaarrrry, Casey Stengel non-gnome.  (EL/SM)

That's just some of the Braves history in the park.  But you want to see the Hank Aaron stuff, don't you?  There was plenty of that to behold in Monument Garden.

First, there was the jersey worn by Aaron when he hit his record-setting 715th home run on April 8, 1974.  Then there is the massive statue of Aaron making solid contact with a baseball, which sits atop a beautiful waterfall.  And of course, there are the 755 Louisville Slugger bats behind the statue which form a number 755.  (There are 201 bats in the number 7 and 277 bats in each of the two 5s.  I'm not as nerdy as my colleague; he was the one who counted the bats.)  The whole area is truly an awesome tribute to a legendary player and ambassador of the game.

Henry "Hank" Aaron.  Legend.  (EL/SM)

At the other end of the ballpark in straightaway center field is an area devoted to kids.  From rock climbing to a zip line to a whack-a-mole game, kids who are more interested in playing than watching millionaires play will certainly have plenty to keep themselves occupied.  But if I were a parent, I wouldn't be happy with it, mainly because there is no way to see the game from center field.  That concourse area does not have a view of the field so you'll have to depend on small TVs that you have to be standing directly under in order to know what's going on in the game you paid good money to see.

If I were one of those kids' parents, I'd just leave them there and walk around to one of the many food areas.  At least there, I can turn around and watch the game.  What are some of these food choices?  I'm glad you asked.

In addition to the regular ballpark fare, there are street tacos, a build-your-own ice cream bar, a Chick-fil-A, a Waffle House (not pictured), the Chop House (which serves the regional favorite H & F Burger) and a cleverly named stand that specializes in Thai food (Intentional Wok).  Although I was interested in trying the Chicken Pad Thai noodles there, I did not.  That was mainly because the name of the stand reminded me too much of the intentional walks issued by Kenny Rogers to Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan in Game Six of the 1999 NLCS right before the unintentional pass to Andruw Jones that won the pennant for the Braves.  Those walks made me intentionally walk right by the Thai food stand without ordering anything.

Wok on by, wok on by.  (EL/SM)

The game itself was quite entertaining, as Jacob deGrom bested former Met R.A. Dickey in a 7-3 Mets victory.  DeGrom threw seven innings of one-run ball, Gavin Cecchini collected his first three-hit game in the majors and drove in two runs and Dominic Smith got back at the moron who chose to play "Dominic the Donkey" as Smith's walk-up music by lashing a two-run double.  Seriously, if the Braves were going to play a Lou Monte song, they should have picked "Lazy Mary" instead of "Dominic the Donkey".  But what should I expect from a team that can't spell "Lagares" correctly?

Well, he has legged out several triples and stolen bases this year, so maybe that explains the misspelling.  (EL/SM)

So what did I think of the ballpark?  Well, I liked the area around the park.  I also enjoyed Monument Garden and the food options.  Another cool feature was the rent-a-glove station, which allows fans who don't want to injure themselves by attempting a barehanded catch of a screaming Freddie Freeman foul ball to leave their gloves at home.  All that makes it seem like I enjoyed my experience at the ballpark.

But it's the Braves.  As a Mets fan, I will never like anything about them.  So if you're not a Mets fan or if you are but don't have a long memory, come on out to SunTrust Park.  As long as you don't have kids who will keep you in the center field play area all game, you'll have a wonderful time before, during and after the game.

I do give credit to the Braves for trying to give an out-of-town Mets fan such as myself a pleasant experience.  In fact, I'd like to give them a full moon salute for their effort.  You can't say I don't appreciate a team trying to impress me.

Chop this, Atlanta!  (EL/SM)

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)
World Tour Stop #17: Detroit


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