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Zopf: No one's too cool for Coolray
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My next-door neighbor is notorious for never leaving the friendly confines of his garage.

At almost any point in the day you can find him standing in front of a flat-screen television, enjoying some beverages and watching some sort of sporting event.

Then he attended his first Gwinnett Braves game.

Immediately upon his return from the game, the experience was all he could talk about. From the proximity to the house to the atmosphere of the game to the $5 draft beers, everything about spending an evening at Coolray Field was enjoyable.

“What a sweet setup they have there,” he told me. “I really had a great time.”

At first I was shocked. After all, this is the same guy who is known to avoid large crowds and anything that kept him away from his comfort zone.

But then I got to thinking.

It’s hard for anyone, especially a sports fan, to not enjoy a minor league baseball game, specifically a Gwinnett game.

Every seat in the house provides a positive viewing area, and even if you never take your seats – like my neighbor – you can still follow the game, chant along with the crowd and witness some potential Major Leaguers.

It’s also cost effective. The food is cheaper than at Turner Field. The drinks are cheaper than Turner Field. And of course, the tickets are cheaper than Turner Field. And “in this economy,” we all can enjoy cheaper activities, especially when they are a measly 20 minutes from your front door.

For my neighbor, those are the things that appealed to him most. Living just an exit north of the stadium, he can leave his house 20 minutes before game time; arrive in time grab a hot dog, a beer and still witness the first pitch.

For him, it’s kind of like going to a bar with a live sporting event taking place.

For me, it’s a bit different.

As a father of two small children, attending a professional sporting event really isn’t all that feasible. Sure, we’ve done it in the past, but face it, there’s no way two small kids can sit in their seats and watch a game, let alone a nine-inning baseball contest.

Bringing small children to a pro game might seem like a good idea, but trust me, it’s not. You spend the majority of the game going to the bathroom and the concession stand, and trying everything in your imagination to find something to keep your kids entertained.

You don’t have to worry about that at Coolray Field.

There’s seating on the outfield grass that allows the children plenty of space to run. Inflatable slides located beyond the outfield grass provides something to do if the kids get bored, and the seats are so close that the kids actually feel like they’re at a ballgame and not some elevated seating area with what appears to be ants running around the diamond.

And if that’s not appealing, where else can you go and see a monkey riding a dog on one night, and a purple, yellow and green bird dancing with the opposing team’s shortstop while Naughty By Nature’s “Hip-Hop Hurray” blares through the sound system the next.

I’m sure that all these words are coming across as pro-Gwinnett Braves propaganda, but I assure you that I have no ties with the club or the stadium, and I’m not making a dime on their attendance numbers.

What I am making is a point about how, for a lack of a better term, cool it is to have a minor league stadium in your own backyard.

We’re lucky the Atlanta Braves decided to relocate their Triple-A affiliate to Gwinnett County, now all we have to do is embrace it.

It took more than a year for my neighbor to do it, and if he can do it, anyone can.

So grab your significant other, children, or just a random co-worker and head down to Coolray Field.

There are plenty of good seats available.

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