Slice of Life

Goodbye to Turner Field! Twenty Years of My Memories With the Atlanta Braves

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The photo is from the last game I went to back in 2008.

To paraphrase Paul DeGeorge of Harry and the Potters, “Everyone is a fan of something. Whether it’s a sports team, a television show, a band, or a book series, we all understand the feeling of being a fan.” This was many years ago, so I don’t remember exactly where he said it. I believe it was in a livestream with The Harry Potter Alliance, but it always stuck with me. I’ve used this example many times when explaining fan conventions. To me, there is no difference between a fan cosplaying at San Diego Comic Con and a fan painting their body at a football game. We can also be fans of many different things. I love comics, Star Wars, Pokemon, genre shows like Once Upon A Time, books like Harry Potter, and most nerdy stuff in between. Being a geeky woman, there is one thing I love that surprises most people:

I am a diehard Atlanta Braves fan. I was raised in Braves Country living and breathing baseball. It’s by far my favorite sport, and I yearn for it in the off season. I have the MLB app on my phone set to alert me to every hit, every trade, every loss, and every win for the Braves. Since I work second shift, I usually watch the replay games at night. In fact, I’m currently watching the Braves playing the Marlins as I write this. I don’t care if the Braves are the best or the worst team in baseball. I love my boys.

I even mention them in my profile at the bottom of the page!

Sadly, there are some changes coming for the Braves that I’m not quite ready for. Next season we’re getting a brand new stadium on the north side of Atlanta with Suntrust Park. I can’t get myself excited for it. I was raised with Turner Field over the last twenty years. It’s always been a place of excitement for me where anything could happen at a crack of a bat.

I believe one of the best ways to move past loss, in this case a beloved stadium, is to remember the good times there. So to celebrate the last week at Turner Field, I want to share some of my favorite Atlanta Braves memories from the last twenty years.

The One Time I Went to Fulton County Stadium

The previous home of the Braves before Turner Field was Fulton County Stadium. I only went to one game there. I was so young at the time. I couldn’t tell you who was playing against my boys. In fact, all I remember was trying to sleep on my mom. I kept telling her I was tired and demanded she get the rest of the stadium to shut up so I could sleep. Because I have so little connection to this place, Turner Field is my stadium.

I thought I was related to Greg Maddux

In my little kid mind, I thought that I was related to Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux. I would insist to my parents and grandparents that we were kin to him. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t ask our “cousin Greg” for tickets to the game. He was my favorite player in the 90’s, because it was cool to root on your family members. You see, my last name is Mullinax. I rationalized in my mind that with our names so similar, we had to be distant relatives. I was very upset when I realized this wasn’t the truth.

To clarify, I am in no way related to Greg Maddux.

Or Mallex Smith for the matter.

Listening to the Braves Radio Network with My Grandparents

One of my most cherished memories growing up was sitting on the porch with my grandparents. My Nanny and Papa would make big glasses of sweet tea with beads of condensation slipping down the sides of the glass. The ceiling fan squeaked as it wheeled above us to break up the Georgia summer heat. Sometimes, we would bounce a tennis ball around between our two chairs and the swing. Most of all, we would listen to the Braves on the radio. We could have watched it on television, but there was something extra special to crank up the radio to hear Pete van Wieren call the play-by-play. Since my Nanny passed away years ago and my Braves loving grandfather is aging, it’s one of the most precious memories of my childhood.

This is the reason why I love hearing the games on the Braves Radio Network. After work, I’ll tune into the game just to hear Jim Powell, Don Sutton, and the whole crew as I drive home. Many of my non-baseball fan friends have “suffered” through games as I invoked the “This is my car. We will listen to what I want, since I’m the driver” rule. My dad and I will sit on the porch instead of turning on the television to continue this family tradition.

Another note about my grandfather, he was in the hospital a few months ago. He made sure Braves games were playing on the hospital television and would hush us to hear the commentary. He’s since recovered and still watches as many games as he can.

My Sister’s Delayed Playoff Birthday

Back in the 1990’s when the Brave were constantly in the postseason, a playoff game fell on my older sister’s birthday. Our family had gathered at our home for a party. Being a big important one, we decided to watch the game, and then my sister could open her presents. We would go out to dinner afterward. The game was almost over when this was decided. Well, the game went into extra innings, like a lot of extra innings. By the time it was complete, my sister was pissed off, and we were all starving!

Battle of the Choirs and the World Series

My dad used to be with a group called the Gwinnett Choral Guild. During the 1995 drive towards the World Series, the decisive game six against the Cleveland Indians fell on a night the Guild was performing. This wasn’t a regular show. It was a battle of the choirs. One group would perform, then another, and another as judges voted on them. The last choir standing won. Honestly, I don’t remember who won (Sorry, Dad. It was pretty boring for little kid me). What I do remember is between each group’s performance, the announcer would read out the Braves-Indians’ scores and list all the major plays. I remember the man sitting in front of me had a small black and white portable television. I draped myself over the back of his pew to watched the game instead of my dad’s performance. Thinking back, that was a very nice gentleman to let a random child watch the game with him.

Afterward, we went as a group to a restaurant to see the end of the game. I asked my dad if the Braves won the World Series, could I stand on my chair and dance around?

I got to dance in my chair that night.

Another memory with the Gwinnett Choral Guide is they performed at Turner Field one time. My dad was the only person wearing sunglasses. My mom had a camera focused on the BravesVision screen in the outfield waiting for the moment. My dad’s face flashed on the screen, and she snapped a picture of it. We have that photo in our storage safely kept with our favorite memories.

Touring Turner Field as a Camp Counselor

In college, I was a summer camp counselor at the MJCCA (I highly recommend this! They’re great people, and I loved being there). I was assigned a group of 3rd-6th graders called All Around Atlanta. We got to go on daily field trips away from camp to tour locations in the city. It was fun to see the Capitol building, the World of Coke, and Georgia Aquarium.

But when I arrived one morning to find out we were going to tour Turner Field, I screamed with glee. I was more excited than the children were. This was easily my favorite Braves moment. I got to sit in the broadcast studio where Chip Carey and Joe Simpson worked. We walked along the field, and I savored the scent of the fresh cut grass as the grounds crew prepared for the game that night. On the Coca-Cola Skyfield, I crawled into the huge red chairs to gaze at the field I loved. The absolute highlight of the trip was touring the Braves History Museum. My favorite players like Chipper Jones had their jerseys hanging in lockers along with ten Boston Braves jerseys. Photos of the best moments in the franchise coincided with my memories growing up. But it was touring the refurbished 1954 railway car from the “Bobolink” in the Milwaukee Braves’ era that took my breath away. I wondered if I stood where the great Hank Aaron once was. Gazing into history, I imagined the players of those days riding from city to city by train. Away from family and cooped up in small quarters with their fellow players, I knew it was the true birthplace of the team I loved so much. The comradery, the adventure, and the bonding they did from those days were the foundation of this team.

I hope the Braves History Museum goes to Suntrust Park with the team so others can experience it too.

Some Dreams Aren’t Meant to Be

Touring Turner Field as a camp counselor was the last time I visited the “Ted.” That was over five years ago. I wanted to see my team one more time this summer in Turner Field’s last year. But balancing four jobs, I didn’t have the time or the money to make it.

I always had a dream about Turner Field. It’s more of a theory really. I believe that if the stadium is empty, the walls of Turner Field would be so high it would block out the noise of Atlanta. I always wanted to lay in the outfield and test this as I gazed at the clouds drifting by. I wanted to see for myself how quiet it was out there. When I toured it as a camp counselor, I wasn’t allowed to step on the grass. Sadly, I don’t foresee ever living this dream while the Braves call my field home.

 

With twenty years in the books, it’s time to say goodbye to Turner Field. A few years back, we lost my childhood home to foreclosure. Leaving Turner Field churns up the same emotions I went through then. This huge chapter of my life is coming to a close, and I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. But during that difficult time, my mom gave me some insight that a house is just a building. A home is the people who are there with you. So next year as long as Freddie Freeman still gives out hugs, A.J. Pierzynski’s leadership and fun attitude is carried out by next year’s veterans after his retirement, Chase “with the good hair” d’Arnaud still rocks with his guitar in the dugout, Julio Teherán dazzles with his ace pitching, Matt Kemp stands as a leader as he reclaims his career, Ender Inciarte soars through the skies of the outfield, and the newcomers Mallex Smith, Dansby Swanson, and our stellar farm system set the foundation for the future, I know I’ll never lose my home.

I’ll always be okay as long as I have my Braves.

Hope set out into the world to be a Pokemon Coordinator. When she realized that Pokemon were not real, she pursued her other passion: writing. Hope was raised in fandoms and saw how they can help save the world from her work with The Harry Potter Alliance. Now, she works to bring that love into writing one article at a time. She's also a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, so don't diss her team.

1 Comment

  1. Alex Leal

    September 24, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I love this story Hope. As a lifelong, diehard fan of the Indians, Browns and Cavs, I can relate. After 30 years of utter heartbreak, I was definitely in the “just 1 before I die” camp. So when the Cavs beat the Warriors in the NBA finals I was literally running through the house screaming, tears rolling down my face, smiling for weeks. I think it’s great that you compare the cosplayers with the people painting their bodies at games!

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