The First Ever Baseball Game at SunTrust Park in Atlanta
T he first ever Major League Baseball game at the new SunTrust Park baseball stadium occurred on Friday, March 31, 2017 at 7:30 in the evening Eastern Daylight Time where the Atlanta Braves hosted the New York Yankees in the final exhibition game before the official start of baseball season — which just happens to be today, Sunday, April 2, 2017 — and I was fortunate to be invited to the game.
The First Ever Baseball Game at SunTrust Park in Atlanta
I have been a passenger on an inaugural flight by an airline; but I have never witnessed the inaugural game at a new stadium. Opening day for the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park does not happen until Friday, April 14, 2017 when the San Diego Padres arrive in town — but the exhibition game was the first professional baseball game played at the ballpark.
Before seeing photographs on the night of the game, here are some more photographs which were taken on the day of the Open House of the ballpark on Saturday, March 25, 2017 as I first documented in this article.
The Third Base Gate is one of the main entrances into the stadium.
Stadiums charge for naming rights. Should airports charge for naming rights as well?
Regardless, SunTrust Park will be the name of the stadium for at least the next 25 years.
The entrance to the new Delta Sky360° Club at SunTrust Park appeared to be open and ready for business. I did not venture inside; but the size of the club is 18,000 square feet.
A brand new Comcast building flanks the plaza near the entrance to the stadium from what will be known as The Battery, which is a new lifestyle destination comprised of restaurants, at least one hotel, bars, shopping and residences.
Welcome to the land of the free and the home of the Braves.
Fountains are part of the centerpiece of a plaza within the entrance to the ballpark which contains shops, bars and restaurants.
Ahh…nothing like a sea of corporate sponsorships — including Delta Air Lines.
Should I conduct a pole asking if this is the most foul photograph I have ever taken?
Monument Garden is inside of the stadium and honors some of the greatest baseball players to have ever played for the Braves — whether they were in Boston, Milwaukee or Atlanta.
The Braves Hall of Fame is located opposite Monument Garden inside of the stadium.
Despite being new, the history of the stadium is not without controversy. “I am not sure that players of the Atlanta Braves will consider using Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport if that team moves to a new site located in Cobb County…and starts the 2017 baseball season there, as Delta Air Lines is currently one of the official sponsors of the Atlanta Braves,” I wrote in this article back on Friday, November 14, 2014. “Tim Lee — who is the chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Cobb County — apologized for the way that the deal with the Atlanta Braves was handled” and faced the possibility of a hearing scheduled by the Ethics Board of Cobb County.
No longer the chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Cobb County, Tim Lee was voted out of office — one of the primary reasons was because of his role in the relocation of the Atlanta Braves into Cobb County and the way he handled it. For that matter, David Austin is no longer the commission chairman of Paulding County — likely at least in part because of his handling of Silver Comet Field of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.
The views from the stadium are not what I would call spectacular — at least, not for photographic purposes — but they are rather scenic: in addition to the city of Atlanta southwest of the stadium, look northwest to view the trees and mountains of northern Georgia.
Finishing touches were still being put on the pedestrian bridges. The Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria hotel property is one of the buildings in the background.
You also get a view of the headquarters of The Weather Channel, which is located across Interstate 75.
SunTrust Park tends to evoke elements of other baseball stadiums around the United States. For example, the low brick wall behind home plate tends to emulate the one at Wrigley Field, which is the home of the Chicago Cubs…
…and the inspiration for this natural area in the outfield 400 feet away from home plate was from a similar feature in Coors Field, which is the home of the Colorado Rockies.
If you have ever wondered what is behind the scenes of the electronic scoreboard atop which sits the Delta Air Lines logotype and “widget”, the above photograph pretty much shows it all.
The capacity of the stadium is approximately 41,000 — which is 9,000 fewer seats and 20 percent smaller than the former stadium at which the Atlanta Braves played.
The seats in row 13 located in the upper deck are typical seats you would find in a baseball stadium.
Trivia: originally established in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings, the Atlanta Braves claim to be the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball and the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in the United States — predating the National League by five years.
The New York Yankees Versus the Atlanta Braves
If you look carefully in the background to the immediate right of the illuminated Coca-Cola sign, you will see the building which houses Travelport, which powers technology solutions for the global travel industry. One of its products and services is one of the largest global distribution systems in the world. That building was from where I shot photographs of the stadium as it was first being built.
You can see the ball pitched by Bartolo Colón of the Atlanta Braves about to cross right down the middle of home plate for a strike against Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees during the first pitch ever thrown in a Major League Baseball game in SunTrust Park.
I witnessed some experimentation with the light-emitting diode lights — designed to save energy and money — during the game. For example, at one point, the lights flashed after a strikeout of a batter for the Yankees. Unlike traditional stadium lights, these lights are adjustable.
Interestingly, players of both the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves were wearing dark jerseys with light colored pants; so discerning the differences between them was difficult. In the above photograph, there still was no score; but the Yankees were at bat with a runner on first base.
Greg Bird of the New York Yankees has the distinction of being the first Major League Baseball player to not only drive in a run; but also to hit the first home run — which gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead over the Braves in the top of the third inning. The Braves had the last laugh, though — they won the first Major League Baseball game in SunTrust Park by a score of 8-5.
Sunset on a cool and clear evening with low humidity accentuates the experience at the ballpark.
Mood lighting — evoking that found aboard airplanes operated by Virgin America — changes colors underneath the overhang of the stadium.
There are some interesting features to SunTrust Park — for example, there is free access to Wi-Fi within the stadium, which was nice — but in the end, it is basically another stadium. In my opinion, the Atlanta Braves could have potentially done so much more with this ballpark. I personally would have added more greenery; the signage within the stadium is not the best; and the stadium could use more monitors to watch the game from other areas of the ballpark where the line of sight to the actual playing field is obstructed…
…but it is a nice stadium in which to watch a baseball game; and I hope that the area surrounding the ballpark is successful so that the stadium is not the only attraction to the area. Perhaps one day it will become a destination for travelers.
The New York invasion continues: Billy Joel will be the headliner of the first ever concert at the stadium on Friday, April 28, 2017. Ticket prices range from $58.00 or $2,141.00 each.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.