Great American Ball Park

Washington Nationals @ Cincinnati Reds

2015 Regular Season. A spring visit to Great American Ball Park. I was on a road trip from Chicago, Illinois to Raleigh, North Carolina and stopped in town to catch the Cincinnati Reds hosting the Washington Nationals in a Sunday afternoon game. This is the seventh home field for Cincinnati Reds since their inception. There’s more baseball history here than in the urban legend of Cooperstown, New York and Abner Doubleday. Harry Wright Managed the first professional baseball team here in 1869. It used to be that the official first game of the season was always in the Cincinnati home field. In fact, Opening Day is practically a holiday in the Queen City.

Besides Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the Old Crosley Field is a park that, if it were possible, I would go back in time to visit. Growing up in Cincinnati, Pete Rose would go to games in Crosley Field with his dad. Its where he debuted in 1963. That was also where the first MLB night game was played in 1935.

I did get to see Riverfront Stadium in 1998. It was actually called Cinergy Field at the time. That was the site of more great baseball, when the “Big Red Machine” was dominant in the 1970’s. One of my early memories of baseball was watching that team on NBC Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek.

Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. A subliminal sign of Pete Rose, the banned “Hit King,” was created by the Architect beyond centerfield. An arrangement or placement of seven bats at the top of each of the two smoke stacks together add up to 14, the number of Pete Rose during his baseball career. In June of 2016, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and, in the following season, his statute was unveiled along the other legends featuring him posed in his trademark head first slide into the base.

It was an odd entry into baseball the record book. Cincinnati first basemen Joey Votto walked on three balls in the seventh inning and nobody noticed, not the umpires, not the score keeper, not the broadcasters, or even the coaches. Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 2 runs batted in. When it comes to a baseball pilgrimage, this layover was well worth it.

Turner Field

New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

2011 regular season at Turner Field. The day before was Jackie Robinson Day; when everyone wears No. 42. But the game was rained out. There was also a tornado outbreak in the Carolinas just north. The next day, I traveled from Florida for the weekend and was lucky enough to catch a double-header on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. So, in game one, his No. 42 was on the uniforms of all the players and coaches. That alone made this trip well worth the time and effort. But, having dinner between games over centerfield and watching the sunset at the old ballpark was an added bonus. The history of the Braves is perhaps the longest existing thread where we can trace back to the origins of Major League Baseball. The Braves are the oldest professional franchise in sports; starting with the 1860’s Cincinnati Red Stockings that went 57-0. Harry Wright moved his team to Boston.

The Boston Red Stockings were one of eight charter teams that established the National League in 1876. New England enjoyed having two baseball teams with the Boston Americans (Red Sox) established in 1901. Braves then moved to Milwaukee in 1952 and this mid-west era, for the Braves, saw attendance records, the 1957 and 1958 NL. Pennant, 1957 World Championship, and finally a rookie named Hank Aaron bloom to greatness. He was part of that historic move to Atlanta in 1966; the first professional team in the south-east region.

What makes a ballpark great is how it remembers the Legends. Many reminders around Turner Field of the great Hank Aaron, among other greats, who broke the all-time home run record in Fulton County Stadium, which once stood just yards from Turner Field. The Braves moved here in 1966; although construction of Fulton County Stadium was completed in 1965. Due to obligations with City of Milwaukee, 1965 was a lame duck year in Milwaukee County Stadium.

In 1997, Turner Field became the second venue in Atlanta for the Braves. From 1966 to 1996, Fulton County Stadium was their first home in Atlanta. Later, Turner Field would be built as Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996 as the City of Atlanta was host for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad. The Atlanta Braves had just won the 1995 World Championship in Fulton County Stadium. They were in the post season, in one form or another, for 14 consecutive seasons. Considering how busy it was, the move from Fulton County Stadium to Turner Field was seamless.

Turner Field is now used by Georgia State University. As of 2017, the Atlanta Braves now play at Truist Park, not to be confused with SunTrust Park; the original name when it first opened just three years ago. It’s hard to keep up with the naming rights business. It’s at a newly developed area in Cobb County; about 10-15 miles north of here. It’s expected to spur-on more development. You would think that this park could sustain the Braves another 20 years. Apparently, the demographic trends have moved away from downtown Atlanta; part of an effort to expand the south-east beltline. The 2020 Atlanta Region’s Plan is a 20-year vision for the future with the hope of adapting to technology and change in the area. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has $85.1 billion behind this plan.