Running the bases at Turner Field after a Sunday Braves game…what a thrill that must be for a young fan. Imagine if we could’ve done that back in the day. My oldest was able to run the bases a couple of times, and during a chilly winter festival got to pitch off the bullpen mound. I think once I got to escort one of my younger two as they meandered around the Turner Field bases.
Now that I think about it, as a kid I did get to walk out on the old Atlanta Stadium outfield grass. Before a day game in 1966 or 67 the Braves players lined up in the outfield, and fans were able to pose for pitchers with them. I remember mainly because we still have the photos. Many were unrecognizable, but Felipe Alou was one of them. My younger brother was wearing his little Braves uniform, and Joe Torre scooped him up. Torre appeared to have ice cream on his face. My mom still tells the story to this day.
A few years later we made a huge sign to take to Braves’ Banner night. I thought it was a winner: Chief Noc-a-homa displaying a speared cardinal, that day’s opponent. The dead bird even had an “X” for it’s eye. Sadly for me, I had to stay in the outfield bleachers with my mom while she took pictures. My dad and sister carried the sign, and my little brother walked along with them, a mascot in his little uniform. Another fan put up a huge “SHUFFLE THE CARDS” sign that I thought was cool.
September 23, 1999 was home school day at Turner Field. While my wife watched from the stands, I lined up with my youngest two for the pre-game warning track parade. As we walked past the dugout, infielder Ozzie Guillen was at the top of the steps greeting people. Had I been a quicker thinker, I could’ve thanked him for tossing my son a ball earlier in the season. At the same time my oldest got to play tee-ball in right-centerfield. When Chipper Jones came out to warm up near the right field line, my son got the ball and threw it to Chipper. The Braves went on to beat the Mets that afternoon, a key game in the pennant race. MVP to be Jones hit the crucial home run.
A few years ago I took my youngest to a day game, that was to be followed with by a Mumford & Sons concert. Walking around the stadium after batting practice, for kicks we decided to get in line for the pregame parade. Underneath the stadium we saw the band’s stage, ready to be wheeled out onto the grass.
Were these on-field experiences something my kids will always remember? Only time will tell.