Atlanta Braves, August 31, 2018

Day one of my visit to Atlanta was so memorable that there was a part of me that worried about the second day being a letdown.

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that wouldn’t be the case.

The Braves were hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates in an evening game, and I was excited to head over to the ballpark in the early afternoon, where I planned to take in The Battery for a few hours, and then experience SunTrust Park for a second straight night.

Before I walked to the park, I decided to grab lunch and take it back to my hotel. As I rode in my hotel elevator, another guest got on. He looked at my shirt — which you might be surprised to know wasn’t one of my shirts, but was just a generic Under Armour baseball shirt — and asked, “Are you here for baseball?” I told him that I was, and asked if he was, too. He indeed was, and he soon introduced himself as Wesley Wright, a former major leaguer. I recognized his name, but I don’t think I’d have recognized him, so I’m glad he introduced himself. We talked about some of the different ballparks we had in common — me visiting as a fan, and him playing in — and chatted the rest of the elevator ride, through the hotel lobby and out to the parking lot, where we took this photo:

I did some research on him afterward, and he played eight seasons in the big leagues with the Astros, Rays, Angels, Cubs and Orioles. His best season came in 2012 with the Astros, when he made 77 appearances and struck out 54 batters in 52.1 innings, all while posting a tidy 3.27 ERA. He last played professional baseball in 2017, making 30 appearances for the Triple-A Round Rock Express, and is now an MLB scout for the Twins. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love when I have interactions with professional baseball players, so meeting one in my hotel was a definite highlight that got this day off to a good start.

After eating lunch, I got packed up and took the short walk over to the ballpark. I was insanely early, getting to the area something like four hours before the gates were scheduled to open. But, if you read my post about my first day in town, you’ll understand my excitement about the area known as The Battery, and I was eager to experience it again.

Being so close to the ballpark made for a nice, easy walk — and I also appreciated not having to pay for parking at any of the games. The walk took about 15 minutes, and I spent part of that time dawdling and enjoying the scenery. Here’s how things looked a few minutes after I set out from my hotel …

… and it wasn’t long before I could see SunTrust Park poking through the trees:

I talked in my previous blog post about just how easy it was to get to the ballpark on foot, thanks to a network of sidewalks, pathways and pedestrian bridges. I took so many photos as I approached the ballpark that I could probably produce a coffee table book entitled, “Views of SunTrust Park From the Sidewalk,” but instead of sharing all of them here, I thought I’d just share a few. Here’s the view from the bridge over the interstate. You can see the walkway and pedestrian bridge that will take you from this spot right up to the ballpark:

And here’s another view of the park from the mouth of the bridge:

What could this scene possibly look like as a panorama, you might ask? You’re in luck — I’ve got just the picture for you:

When I got closer to the park, I took a moment to check out the Phil Niekro statue, which was something that I don’t even recall seeing a day earlier because I was in such a hurry to get to the Chop House Gate:

I love statues like this, especially when they’re placed around the perimeter of ballparks. The Braves have done a really good job in this regard at SunTrust.

As you might know, Delta Air Lines is from Georgia, and has traditionally had a visible advertising presence at the different ballparks that the Braves have called home. This is true inside of SunTrust Park, but there’s also a cool Delta display outside of the third base gate — check out this actual vertical stabilizer off a Delta airplane:

Definitely a cool spot for a photo, right?

After walking around the third base gate for a bit, and headed toward The Battery, just as I did a day earlier. Today, though, I’d given myself more time to wander, so I had fun taking in the sights as I walked. Take a look at how beautiful this scene is:

I snapped that shot on my walk, and I was impressed at how clean and tidy everything around SunTrust Park was. I know it’s a new park, but I also know that things can quickly get messy unless there’s a top-notch maintenance crew working on the site, and that’s obviously the case here.

If you noticed the Bobby Cox statue in the image above, you’ve got a good eye. Here’s a better view of it:

This is one of the more unique ballpark statues that I’ve seen because of the use of the dugout wall and steps that the sculptor incorporated. (Of course, I might’ve preferred seeing a Bobby Cox ejection pose statue.)

Since there was no traffic, I went over to the roadway and walked down the center of it for a minute or so to capture this view of the area …

… and then took this shot of the exterior of Live! at the Battery Atlanta, which is an enormous restaurant and entertainment venue that even offers mechanical bull riding on select nights:

I then crossed back to the opposite side of the street and took this photo of the plaza that divides SunTrust Park, on the left, and the start of The Battery, on the right:

I spent the next little while slowly browsing through the Mizuno and the Baseballism stores, each of which I’d visited a day earlier but definitely wanted to see again. Then, it was time to head back over to the Chipper Jones Road to the Hall Pop-Up Experience and explore it a little more thoroughly. I’d been impressed with the selection of artifacts when I’d stopped in briefly a day earlier, but now I had the chance to finally check out one of the space’s prime attractions — the actual Braves dugout bench from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which Jones and the Braves used from 1993 through 1996. Even better than seeing it was the chance to sit on it, which is exactly what I did:

Eventually, I made my way back toward the Chop House Gate, which was still pretty quiet. I snapped this photo of the big Atlanta Braves sign that stretches overhead …

… and then set out to find a way to get up there. I wasn’t sure if this bridge was open to fans or only to authorized personnel, but I figured that I’d do my best to see if I could get up there. There’s a restaurant at each end of the bridge, so I started by going into the one at the left of the bridge in the photo above. The restaurant wasn’t busy because it was the middle of the afternoon, so I just sort of walked with a purpose until I found a set of stairs, went up it and discovered a second-level patio that was empty. I made my way through it until I was standing here:

Success!

I have no idea whether I was supposed to be up there or not, so I quickly got busy enjoying the 360-degree view around me, as well as snapping a bunch of photos. Here’s a view of the Chop House Gate, the First & Third restaurant, the Omni Hotel and the Georgia Power Pavilion from above:

And here’s a look at The Battery, including a bunch of the residences, from my elevated position:

I spent a few more minutes in that spot, enjoying the surroundings, before retracing my steps back to ground level and continuing to wander around. After taking several steps away from the bridge that I’d just been on, I took this panorama that shows the scene:

Pretty soon, there was a live band — Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band — starting to get ready to play on the pavilion stage, so I walked over there, found a place to sit in the shade, and watched it for a little bit:

After a couple of songs, and feeling refreshed from the shade, I headed back to The Battery to check out the sights. It starting to fill up now as game time got closer, and that brought out more attractions. Chief among them was this street performer, who was hugely entertaining to watch:

His ability to not only stay still for long stretches at a time, but the comic relief that he’d provide by moving just as an unsuspecting passerby thought he was a statue, was highly entertaining, and a large crowd was soon gathered around him. I watched for a few minutes, and then browsed through a few of the shops to not only get more of the area’s experience, but to also enjoy some A/C.  The cool air in the shops was refreshing, but I soon headed off to find a cold drink, and spontaneously bought a margarita from a restaurant in The Battery called Goldbergs:

It’s actually a bagel restaurant, but they were inexplicably selling margaritas and other cold drinks from a cart on the sidewalk, and I couldn’t resist. It felt very resort-like to walk around the area and sip on this drink — but the knowledge that SunTrust Park’s gates would soon be opening quickly snapped me out of any all-inclusive resort daydreams I might have been experiencing.

After I finished my cold drink, I headed back toward the gates, which were much more active by this time. The live music had ended, but there was a big game of Wiffle ball taking place on the pavilion turf, and jugglers and other performers were also making the rounds. I enjoyed the scene from a few vantage points, and then took a spot near the head of the line.

As soon as the gates opened, I went straight to the seats in center field, where I checked out the pond/fountain display and the batter’s eye beyond it:

It very much reminded me of the display at Coors Field in Denver, which I visited a few seasons ago.

Next, I followed the concourse around to the area behind the visitors dugout on the first base side, where I enjoyed the scene for a brief period …

… before finding the netting annoying and deciding to seek another vantage point.

As always, there’s a part of me that can understand the reason for the netting … but I absolutely loathe it.

My next view of SunTrust Park was thankfully unobstructed. I’d climbed all the way up to the upper deck and, unlike a day earlier when I’d spent a lot of time down the third base line, I went straight to the seats behind home plate. From here, I had this outstanding view of this beautiful park:

I was in no hurry to escape this view, so I grabbed a seat and just sat and enjoyed for a few minutes, occasionally checking my Twitter account.

Then, I decided to do a little exploring of the upper deck. One of the unique things I noticed in this area was the walkways behind the seating sections. There’s a normal upper-level concourse that you can walk along, but in several spots, you climb up and walk across these areas to get into the seating bowl:

If you were to glance at the scene above, you might think that I was in a prohibited area, but that wasn’t the case. It’s definitely a unique way of reaching your seat in the upper deck.

I next checked out the ballpark from the first base side of home plate, which provided this view:

After taking this photo, I decided to set off in search of something to eat. One thing had caught my eye at a nearby concession stand earlier, and while there were still lots of worthy choices around the ballpark, I made a bit of an impulse purchase with this meal. It was called the Spec-Tator:

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Smoked jumbo potato, wrapped in bacon
  • Jalapeno cheddar sausage, stuffed inside of said potato
  • Topped with cheese, sour cream and green onions

Sounds ridiculously awesome, right?

Awesome, it was not.

In fact, I think I can safely put this meal at the very top of the “Worst Thing I’ve Ever Eaten at a Ballpark” list. Don’t get me wrong — the idea of the Spec-Tator was cool, but the execution was incredibly flawed. For starters, the potato wasn’t remotely cooked through, so much of it was inedibly hard. Speaking of uncooked, a lot of the bacon that wrapped around it was barely cooked and had a slimy consistency. The sausage inside of the potato was also underdone, and had a terrible gelatinous texture. And, to add insult to injury, the cheese in this dish was actually a ladle of oily nacho “cheese,” which is one of my top ballpark nemeses. In fairness, the sour cream and green onions were fine — but it’s hard to get them wrong, right?

Know what wasn’t fine, though? Spending $15 for this, taking two bites and then tossing the entire thing in the nearest trash can. I perhaps could’ve returned to the concession stand to explain the situation and get my meal replaced, but after just a couple of bites, I wasn’t in the mood for eating another Spec-Tator in this lifetime.

As a lover of ballpark food, it’s always disappointing when I eat something that doesn’t deliver — and it’s also disappointing not to be able to share my excitement about the meal with you. Fortunately, more ballpark meals are good than awful, but it’s a letdown when I run into something that sits firmly in the “awful” category.

Fortunately, even a bad meal wasn’t going to leave a bad taste in my mouth about SunTrust Park. I put the Spec-Tator firmly out of my mind and continued to explore the upper deck. My next stop was high above the right field foul pole, where I could clearly see the pool deck at the nearby Omni Hotel — including some guests who were wearing Braves gear and would undoubtedly be watching the game from the deck once it got underway:

From here, I also took took this shot of me with the field in the background — and with my red road trip shirt, which you might recognize from this visit to Target Field a season earlier:

By this time, the grounds crew had just about finished getting the field ready for play, so I went back down to the main concourse and watched the scene from an outfield seat for a few minutes. Then, I headed past the Sandlot kids’ play area, snapping this shot to show the hotel’s pool deck and some assembled fans from a different angle:

I watched the first inning from an outfield seat, and then went up to the upper deck on the third base side to watch the next couple of innings, where I had this amazing view as the sun set to my right:

 

It was fun to watch a bit of the action, but I was soon anxious to continue to exploring the park. I went back down to the concourse and checked out the team shop. Immediately outside of the shop, I paused to snap this impressive sight:

This is a Braves tomahawk that is made out of 17,257 Lego bricks, made by a Lego enthusiast from nearby Alpharetta named Jason Williams.

Next, I headed straight toward Monument Garden, which I’d visited a couple of times a day earlier but was eager to check out again. Here’s another neat display that you’ll find in this spot — a staggering 755 bats positioned to recognize Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs:

I probably spent about an inning in Monument Garden, and then took another big lap around the concourse before heading back to the seating bowl to check in on the game. And that’s how I spent the remainder of this game — a bit of time in the seating bowl, and then a bit of time walking around the concourse.

As I’d done a day earlier, I left SunTrust Park promptly after the last out, and was back in my hotel about 10 minutes later — ready to crash after a long, outstanding day in and around this tremendous National League ballpark.

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