In my quest to visit all 30 MLB stadiums, I’ve gotten to the point where there aren’t really any stadiums left in places I might want to go where I know people to visit. One of the remaining cities is Atlanta, and since the Twins were going to be playing there this year (for the first time since the 1991 World Series!), I figured that my only shot at visiting the stadium was to buy some plane tickets and go. Which is what I did this week — I flew in on a red-eye Monday night/Tuesday morning, took in one game on Tuesday night, one game Wednesday afternoon, and then headed to the airport to fly back to San Francisco. (It’s still not as crazy as the time I flew to Baltimore and back in one day.)
Before I get to the games, first a shoutout to Robyn at Bicycle Tours of Atlanta, who took me on a solo tour (since no one else booked) in the morning before I was able to check into my hotel. Because it was just me, she was willing to mix up the tour a bit and take me to the ballpark, specifically the parking lot. Why the parking lot? Because that’s where Fulton County Stadium used to be and where they still have the basepaths laid out and a marker where Hank Aaron hit homerun 715 to break Babe Ruth’s record. Warning me that if anyone saw us, they’d run us out, she had me bike around the bases and took a cute little video of it:
After the 15 mile bike ride through Atlanta and a nap, I headed to the current ballpark, Turner Field, for my first game.
The first thing that happened was that I attempted to go down and watch batting practice, but the usher wouldn’t let me into his section unless I took an “I came to chop” sticker. I tried to politely decline by saying that I was a Twins fan, but he wouldn’t let that be a reasonable excuse. I thought about bringing up that it’s also an awful racial stereotype, but over the years, I’ve learned that there are some people not worth having certain arguments with. Don’t bring up politics with my mom’s family (except Uncle Bobby) and don’t try to explain race privilege* to an usher at an Atlanta Braves game. So instead, I walked over to a different section to watch the Twins take BP until the game started. But let’s be clear — I really and truly despise the tomahawk chop. I hate it because of the 1991 World Series, I hate it because it’s an embarrassing racial stereotype which in 2013 we ought to be past, and I hate it because it’s an incredibly annoying rhythm that gets stuck in your head like the earworm from hell. So, no, I will not wear your sticker, Mr. Usher.
The Braves broke things open with two runs in the first. Mike Pelfrey looked pretty shaky on the mound for the Twins through two innings, but then a glorious thing happened. In the top of the third, with the score 2-1, Joe Mauer got a single… and then it poured and thundered. After a lengthy rain delay and brief power outage in the stadium, the game started up again. Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau had back to back singles that resulted in Mauer scoring and tying the game. When the bottom of the inning rolled around, Pelfrey was out and Anthony Swarzak was pitching instead. Swarzak pitched four solid innings, only surrendering a solo homerun to Brian McCann in the 4th, which is actually pretty decent for Twins pitching this season.
In the 8th, the Twins managed to put together two runs on some classic Piranha Ball style singles (and a walk) to take the lead. Glen Perkins came out in the 9th with a one run lead. As one of the lone bright spots in the Twins pitching staff, I figured the game was in the bag.
I figured wrong. With two outs and one strike, Braves rookie phenom Evan Gattis launched a solo shot to left to tie the game and we went into extras. The Twins went hitless in the top of the 10th and the Braves… did not. Heyward doubled, Justin Upton walked, and Freddie Freeman became the hero in Atlanta that night who drove Heyward home with a single.
After a good night’s rest, I braved the heat (and better seats!) for the Wednesday noon game the next day. I was pleased to see Dan Gladden still trolling Braves fans by hanging a Kent Hrbek jersey out the press box right behind home plate for the third consecutive day. (Ron Gant was totally falling over anyway, and Hrbek was just holding the tag on.) Unfortunately, if Gladden was looking to jinx the Braves or bring good luck to the Twins, he failed. Vance Worley gave up 8 runs in 3 and 2/3 innings of work, capped off by a grand slam by the previous night’s hero, Evan Gattis. (Worley was demoted to AAA immediately following the game.)
The Twins scored once in the 6th on a Justin Morneau single and twice in the 9th off two rookie homers from Aaron Hicks and “Where’s Oswaldo?” Arcia, but 3 runs weren’t even close to enough. However, I came close to getting a souvenir from Wilkin Ramirez. In the top of the 7th, he took a swing at a pitch and just let the bat fly… and it landed three rows in front of me.
Despite the failure of the Twins to win either game, I still had a nice time in Atlanta. The bike ride was great — I can’t recommend it enough if you’re ever in the area. The stadium had its charms too… and if they’d get rid of the tomahawk chop, I’d consider making another trip back there in the future. Pictures from the games below the jump.
* To be fair to Atlanta, before the Braves moved in, their minor league team was called the Atlanta Crackers… so they’re equal opportunity with their racial stereotypes.