Game 23: Atlanta Braves
The Best Western – Atlanta East/Airport had a really good shuttle service that ran from the hotel to the airport every half hour. From there we used the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transport Authority) train into Five Points station in central Atlanta and linked with the bus service to Turner Field. Kitty and I had time to stop for a refreshment on the way before getting to the ball park in plenty of time for the scheduled seven ten start.
Turner Field was the first MLB Park that I visited, way back in 1999, so it was something of a nostalgic journey for me. I was a bit disappointed with the small crowd (less than 20,000) though the inclement weather and it being a Monday night may have been contributing factors. The environment itself however entranced me again.
As mentioned, Turner Field was built specifically for the 1996 Olympics and the transferred from an arena into a baseball park in time for the 1997 baseball season. It replaced the old Atlanta-County Fulton Stadium which is now located in the parking lot. We entered the stadium through Monument Grove which pays homage to Braves greats from the past with giant baseballs and statues. Turner Field’s Grand Entry Plaza offers entertainment, interactive games, shops and of course refreshments for fans to enjoy before the game. It also has a fantastic museum and Hall of Fame which we visited, for a miserable two dollar donation.
Once again we had good seats courtesy of the Braves organisation on the first base line, but I walked right around the stadium to soak up the atmosphere. From most positions the beautiful Atlanta skyline was visible and above third base is the Coca-Cola Skyfield, complete with a 38 foot tall Coke bottle which displayed Braves pictures as they came in to bat. On the opposite of the upper deck was an open air patio section called Turner Beach. All in all a fantastic setting.
While the Padres season was pretty much in tatters the Braves were firmly in contention. Of late they have been on a roll and are leading the wild card race in the NL. They had won eight of their last ten games and would be expecting to make some inroads into the division. However such is the consistency of the Nationals, who had won a staggering nine of their last ten, Atlanta were only treading water. Still they are only four games behind Washington so would be looking for a win here over lowly San Diego who were playing .440 ball.
San Diego Padres………010 011 100 - 4
Atlanta Braves………….000 000 010 – 1
The Braves looked like a very sluggish outfit and that was probably understandable as they had played the previous evening then caught a flight home, arriving in Georgia at three in the morning. The Padres came in looking fresh from their late afternoon flight from Pittsburgh. San Diego then defied their ratings by giving the Braves only their fifth loss of their last 19 games.
The Braves bats were largely kept at bay by Padre’s starting pitcher, leftie Eric Stults, who threw a good mixture, including a host of off speed pitches along with his stock-in-trade curve balls. Atlanta managed just one hit through the first five innings and three hits through the first seven. They did not score until Stults made his 101st pitch of the night to Martin Prado in the eighth. Prado tripled to right field to score Michael Bourn, who had reached on a two out infield hit.
In contrast Braves starting pitcher, Mike Minor, battled. He allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in four of the six innings he pitched and three times, the leadoff man scored, including twice after Chris Denorfia led off with extra base hits and once after Stults singled. The Padres just kept chipping away at him and although Minor struck out Nick Hundley to wriggle out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth innings the Padres came back with another run in the fifth after Stults led off with a single. The Padre’s third baseman, Chase Headley, was the pick of the limited offence on the evening; going two for four and his solo home run off reliever Chad Durbin in the seventh iced the game for the underdogs.
One thing I noticed about the Braves, apart from their lack of offence, was their fashion sense. All the players wore their socks pulled up and tucked into their pants. Apparently this is the “old school’ look. This led me into another question that I had previously promised to research. Why do the home team wear predominantly white uniforms and the visitors grey?
Imaginatively they are actually referred to as “home whites” and “road greys.” My reliable source told me that it was because the visiting team used to have trouble getting their laundry done. After travelling they did not have time for cleaning, and by wearing the darker colour dirt and grass stains were less obvious on their outfits.
This actually got me thinking again. While I have already discussed the home field advantage, does this also add to it? The pitcher throwing a white baseball out of a white uniform must be slightly more difficult to see than if it were coming out of a dark uniform. The batters eye in baseball (the area of the ball park directly behind the pitcher, where the sight screens would be in cricket) is always a dark colour, predominantly green. There have been instances of clubs having to remove trees which were deemed to have been a distraction to the batters.
When Jered Weaver pitched his no-hitter against Minnesota back in May, was it the rockpile behind him at Angels Park combined with his white top that were actually the mitigating factors in his feat? Actually having seen the Twins batters, it was probably their ineptitude!
It reminds me that back in the late 1980’s the New Zealand cricket team wore a largely white uniform as their one day strip (don’t get me started on the beige – when is it coming back?) The team they were playing against, I believe India, complained because they could not see the ball out of the bowler’s shirt, and New Zealand then changed again, possibly to the teal blue. New Zealand cricket teams always need whatever assistance they can get, so maybe it was a conscious effort by the administrators to gain a competitive edge.
While we left the park slightly disappointed with the Braves performance we knew that we at least had the slick transport system to get us back to our digs. All went well with the MARTA, but the hotel shuttle disintegrated entirely. Airports around the country had been closed, so there was a huge backlog of people at Atlanta – all seemingly staying at the Best Western Atlanta East/Airport. Our shuttle could cater for 15 people and “no standing in the aisle allowed”. As the first two came and went with no room for Kitty and I, we finally squeezed onto the third one. Unfortunately for us, it was going to Best Western Atlanta West, so upon getting there we realised the error of our ways and returned on the shuttle back to the airport. The queues had doubled, so we decided that the only option was a taxi. The $20 cab ride got us back to our accommodation after mid night, so a stiff drink was the only answer before a good night’s sleep. An interesting travel experience.