• Exclusives

    The Battery Transforms Your Braves Gameday Experience

    Battery-1 (600px)By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA — Back during my sports writing days – before Twitter and wi-fi and blogs – one of my favorite assignments was covering college football on campus. There are few things that beat the atmosphere, the energy, the feeling of being in Atlanta or Clemson or Baton Rouge on a crisp clear Saturday in the fall, seeing the people, hearing the music, smelling the food.

    For many, attending a college football game goes far beyond four 15-minute quarters on a 100-yard field. It is the experience of gameday, of eating and drinking with your friends, of gathering with fellow fans, with hanging out for hours before kickoff and hours after the final whistle. When time would allow, I would always try to spend a few minutes soaking in the pregame atmosphere before walking into the stadium, and would attempt to decompress from deadline by enjoying the postgame vibe.

    Outdoor concert stage and lawn at The Battery

    Outdoor concert stage and lawn at The Battery

    Which leads me to a sunny Sunday morning at the confluence of Interstates 285 and 75, on the first weekend in August at the new home of the Atlanta Braves.

    Certainly, I have been fortunate to experience some incredible pre- and postgame atmospheres through the years with Braves baseball. Playoff and World Series games, anticipation for opening days following division-winning seasons and a long offseason, the gathering of friends old and new and good food and cold beverages is not a new concept for those who chop and chant and wear all things tomahawk.

    But this year, it is different.

    And it is glorious.

    In the rush of working fulltime, of doing freelance work, of coaching kids baseball – heck, of just being a responsible adult – I often do not take the time to slow down and enjoy what’s around me. I think we’re all guilty of that, especially in the crafts I ply and the life I lead. But every once in a while, even I have to slow down the whirlwind that is the day-to-day grind.

    Without a live deadline on this day and with my best friend of 30-plus years en route for his first foray to SunTrust Park, I made it a point to get to The Battery nice and early, some 3 ½ hours before first pitch. It is not the first time I’ve arrived at a Braves game way early, but not for a regular-season game in August with the team seven games under .500, and certainly not something I would do in previous years.

    Antico's Pizza at The Battery

    Antico’s Pizza at The Battery

    Because in years past, the Braves played at the confluence of other interstates (namely 75, 85 and 20) on the southern fringe of downtown Atlanta, adjacent to a part of the city that, to be kind, is less than desirable. To be blunt, there have been more than my fair share of moments through the years, from attending games as a kid in the 1980s to taking my wife and kids to games in recent years, where I questioned why a professional sports franchise would choose to have its headquarters in an area like what the Braves left behind when they moved to Cobb County.

    For all the fervor and angst over the team leaving downtown, it has turned out to be a brilliant move. And for the incredible job done in constructing SunTrust Park – which is one of the nicest, most enjoyable places to watch a ballgame in the majors – it is what has taken root right outside the outfield gates that sets this place apart.

    Some three hours before gametime, The Battery already was abuzz with fans congregating, chit-chatting with others, playing catch on a patch of green grass, browsing shops (some of which still are not open yet). Two hours before first pitch, the various restaurants in the area already were dishing out food. An hour before Lucas Sims delivered the game’s opening pitch, the taverns had the taps flowing. The place still was packed an hour after the final out of a 4-1 loss to the Marlins, fans catching a postgame meal and listening to music and watching Kelsey Wingert (who, like the team she covers, is a young rising star in her own right) anchoring the postgame show.

    Roll it all together, and you get a place that is completely focused on the Braves and baseball. It is a dream come true for this fanbase, to have a locale where those who cheer for this team can gather and make every one of the 81 home games a season a true experience that goes far beyond the nine innings played on the field. And as for the other 284 days a year when the Braves are not playing, The Battery remains a true destination, a must-see for any baseball fan.

    Live at the Battery sports bar & grill

    Live at the Battery sports bar & grill

    I left The Battery nearly 90 minutes after the game concluded. The only times I can remember a large gathering of fans outside of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium or Turner Field that long after a game ended were in Octobers long passed. But this day was in August, another average day in the midst of the long marathon that is a baseball season that will not end with a playoff appearance.

    Yet here they were, fans by the thousands still soaking in the experience of a day spent watching major league baseball. The Battery was designed with the modern fan in mind, but the ability to gather with people who love this team, love this game, harkens back to a bygone era where a sports team can meld an entire population behind one squad, one goal, one dream.

    All I can think of as I walk through this place is how amazed I am, as a fan who as attended games in person for parts of five decades, that the Braves call this place home.

    And how incredible it is going to be in Octobers to come.

    —30—

     

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.