Braves vs. Tides
When: 7 tonight
Where: Gwinnett Stadium
Web site: www.gwinnettbraves.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — The sod has been laid, the field has been lined and the seats have been sold; now it’s time for the Gwinnett Braves to begin their tenure as the new triple-A affiliate to the Atlanta Braves and residents of Gwinnett Stadium.
Ever since the announcement was first made public on Jan. 28, 2008, the Braves franchise and their fans have awaited this day, Opening Day at Gwinnett Stadium, a state-of-the-art, $64 million minor league ballpark off Buford Drive that seats 10,427 people, has a 30 by 40-foot video screen in right field and two rocking chairs where ticket holders in the club section can take a seat and watch a game.
“It looks good, it’s real nice,” said Flowery Branch High sophomore Taylor Jones. “It’s a good-looking minor league stadium.”
Aside from the video screen and rocking chairs, the new home for the Gwinnett Braves features a 42-foot long LED board along the left field wall and 22 luxury boxes that makes the stadium feel like the kid brother to Turner Field. That’s fitting, seeing that the players taking the field are trying to become major leaguers.
“I think I’m seeing stars,” said Sandy Orr of Cumming. “I think they’re all gonna be stars for the Atlanta Braves or another team.”
Right now they’re stars for the G-Braves (4-4). Players like top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson, outfielder Gregor Blanco and reliever Kris Medlen will one day be competing at the highest level whether it be with the Braves or another franchise, but for the time being they will do their best to wow the crowd at Gwinnett Stadium with great play and hopefully lots of wins.
“I enjoy watching these guys,” said Ken Brown of Gainesville, who used to travel to Greenville, S.C. when the Braves’ AA affiliate played there before relocating to Mississippi. “Some of the guys we’ve seen with the Greenville Braves have moved on to the Braves and we’ve enjoyed watching them grow.
“Now, they’re not playing for money, they’re playing to play baseball.”
And the fans will be there to see it.
An estimated 3,000 season tickets have been sold for the inaugural season of the Gwinnett Braves and tonight’s home opener against the Norfolk Tides — a Baltimore Orioles affiliate — is sold out. The G-Braves have yet to play a home game and they are already a hit.
“I think it’s gonna be a great thing for all communities around Atlanta, especially Hall County and Gwinnett,” Brown said. “It gives people a chance to go see baseball who can’t afford to go see (major league) baseball.”
Admission price is just one thing that makes the G-Braves so appealing. With ticket costs ranging from $8 to $15, a night at the ball park is no longer an expensive evening out.
“You can come with a family of four and not spend $100 if you don’t want to,” Brown said.
Nor do you have to sit in hours of traffic to get to the game.
“A lot of folks can’t get to Atlanta with the traffic situation, and it took us 15 minutes to get here,” Orr said. “It’s just in our backyard, we love it.”
Orr loved it so much that she and her husband purchased season tickets for the first time.
“We’re very excited about it,” she said. “I think this season is gonna go great. I think we’re hungry out here for a good baseball team that’s affiliated with the Braves.”
Jones’ family also purchased season tickets, and for the young baseball player, the benefits of watching guys trying to make the major leagues is undeniable.
“You can pick up on some of the stuff that they do that you can take to the field with you,” Jones said. “It’s always good to see the upcoming talent.”
That’s really why the Gwinnett Braves have become so popular so fast. They have talent, a popular major league affiliate less than 45 miles away, and most importantly, they have a fanbase that is ready to watch future stars grow right in their own backyard.
“I’m excited to be here in Gwinnett and this is a beautiful facility,” hitting coach Jamie Dismuke said. “All the guys are looking forward to coming out here and playing.”
And the fans are looking forward to watching.