Posted August 26, 2013
For the first time since 2005, I did not visit a new major league ballpark this season. I guess that’s what happens when you work 50 home games at an Independent League ballpark. Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita is steeped with baseball history, but it still only has two decks instead of three. So unless I make it somewhere new in September, heading into next season to reach a goal I set for myself back in 2005, I will have three seasons left to make it to the eight major league ballparks that I have yet to visit. That realization also reminded me that I had yet to write an “Upper Deck Tour” review this season. In honor of their first-place status in the National League East (and since one of my best friends is a Washington Nationals fan) I decided to write a review of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. I saw three games in three days at Turner Field on a trip when I was in town for a convention a few years back. The Upper Deck View: There is nothing fancy about the view from the upper deck in Turner. The view is pretty much dominated by the BravesVision Video Board. The state of the art video board is 29 feet by 38 feet in size – one of the largest in professional sports. Its biggest rivals are the board in the new home of the Dallas Cowboys and the remodeled CrownVision in KC’s Kauffman Stadium. Amenities: Turner Field opened in 1997, so its amenities are for the most part fairly up to date. They have wide concourses, clean restrooms and lots of seats. The exterior of Turner Field is pleasant and the concession stands offer plenty of tasty ballpark treats. Pre and Postgame Experience: There is tailgating allowed in Braves parking lots, but you won’t see near as much of it as you would at Kauffman or Miller Park in Wisconsin. The area in which the ballpark is located is not the best in Atlanta, but it’s also not the worst. If you go to Turner Field you are going to see a game and that’s about it. The Must-eat Park Treat: When I went to Atlanta, the must-eat menu item was the barbecue at “Skip and Pete’s.” That concession stand is no longer open, but they still serve barbecue. I had some really tasty soft-serve ice cream during all three games I went to – so it’s high-quality ice cream. The Unusual Ballpark Treat: The next time I visit Turner I want to eat at “American Crepes.” How many ballparks can you get crepes at? This concession stand offers both sweet and savory crepes. Sweet and savory are two images that get my taste buds watering. Parking: I took a taxi cab from my hotel to all three games that I attended. Therefore, parking was not an issue. The team’s website states they have 8,500 official parking spots, which is not a huge number. There is not a subway system that drops people off at the park like there is in Chicago or Washington D.C., but you can take the bus and there are plenty of taxis available after the game. History of the Park: Turner Field was built in 1996 to host the Olympic Summer Games. It has been remodeled to serve as a baseball only ballpark, but it still has a cavernous feel to it. The place is huge, but it does have very laid-back ushers. So moving around from seat to seat is not an issue unless there is a huge crowd. The Braves have embraced and honored their organization’s rich baseball history. The Braves have the best on-site museum and hall of fame that I visited. It really is spectacular and has some awesome artifacts, which include Warren Spahn’s purple heart. Another Atlanta Stop: Although I have given up pop (once again), a must stop in Atlanta is the Coca-Cola factory and museum. I could have spent hours in there just sampling all the different kinds of soda. Overall Upper Deck Rating: Atlanta is a very cool city to visit, especially with its great history. It really is a bastion of the south. Turner Field on the other hand is a nice ballpark, but nothing special. It lacks some of the unique qualities of, say, an AT&T Park, Coors Field or Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Turner Field moves up and down my list of favorite parks. Initially, I think I was too hard on Turner Field because of its location and the fact that it is just so large. After visiting a few other stadiums it has earned more credit than I initially gave. Turner Field is slotted in the No. 18 spot on my list of stadiums and I give it a Deck Rating 2.8 out for 4. Tomahawk Time……. So as is the tradition with past Upper Deck Tour blogs, here is my top-five list of my favorite players who called Atlanta Fulton County Stadium or Turner Field home. 5) Ron Gant- Gant was one of the most athletic baseball players I can remember watching – the closest thing to another Bo Jackson. He was as fast as a running back and in a linebacker body. Gant played for the Braves from 1986-1993 and a stretch in 1990-1993 where he was one of the most productive hitters in the game. He had home run totals of 32, 32 and 36 in ’90, ’91 and ’93. 4) Dale Murphy – Murphy was Mr. Brave in the ’80s. He was the best player on a lot of bad teams. He shared that model with Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, which is probably why I liked Murphy so much. Plus, I got to watch him play a lot of game on TBS. Murphy had six seasons of 30-plus home runs for the Bravos. 3) David Justice—Justice’s career was not that long in Atlanta, but that was when he was in his prime. He had five seasons of 20-plus home runs in his tenure in the Peach State between the years of 1989-1996. He played out his career with Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Oakland, but he will always be a Brave in my eyes. 2) Chipper Jones— Chipper Jones was one of the prolific hitters of my lifetime and he was a great leader on all those division-champion teams that the Braves had in the ’90s. Jones was one of the best switch hitters in the game and could have been even better if not for injuries he suffered. Jones played his entire career with the Braves and finished with 468 career home runs and 2,776 hits. He should be a first-ballot hall of famer. 1) Greg Maddux – The only “Mad Dog” that can compare to Maddux was Joe Cocker and his band of Englishmen. He won three Cy Young Awards pitching for the Braves and 194 of his 355 career wins came with a Tomahawk on his chest. The Mad Dog was the maestro of pitching. I had never seen anyone pitch like him previous to his debut with the Cubs and I am still waiting to see someone pitch like him today. Honorable Mentions: These three were close but did not make the final cut: Terry Pendleton, John Smoltz and Fred McGriff. Horsehides and Red-Hots to everyone, Deck.