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My Trip to SunTrust Park

As I walked around the Braves’ new home, you could not wipe the smile off of my face if you tried. Everything about SunTrust Park was pristine and immaculate.

Ben Poplin

When I was approached to contribute an original piece a month or so ago, I struggled to come up with an angle that had not already been covered. Look, at this point we are two weeks into the Major League Baseball season and the Atlanta Braves are 2-6. Not exactly clickbait. The Minor League Baseball season is also in full swing, and as a result, has been written about extensively. So what I am going to write about today is a personal experience I had last weekend at the new home of the Braves, SunTrust Park.

As the incomparable Julie Andrews once serenaded, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” Far be it for me to argue with someone who once possessed perfect pitch. Seriously, look it up. But I digress, this is how my trip to SunTrust Park came about. On Tuesday, April 4th around 12:19 p.m. I received a call from an MLB representative. His inquiry was regarding my duties performed at every Rome Braves home game as the GameDay Program Operator. If you don’t know what that is, think ESPN Gamecast and you will see roughly the same content. He wanted to know if I could drive down to Cobb County and run the program as a tune-up of sorts during the Georgia vs. Missouri game before the Braves returned home to christen their new park. First course of action was to call and ask off from my day job, which surprisingly presented zero issues. Next step was to procure a media pass and find the best route to the stadium. After some trial and error with lots of texting back-and-forth, I was all set for this trip.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I departed from Rome, GA with a full tank of gas and childlike exuberance wondering what this day would bring. One of the first things you hear about when SunTrust Park is brought up in conversation is traffic. Being from Rome, I can honestly say the drive was completely bearable with little to no traffic encounters. SunTrust Park is actually closer in proximity to Northwest Georgia than Turner Field.

Having emailed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta representatives, the organization backing this game, I knew exactly where I needed to go for media parking. Getting there successfully was an entirely different story. You see, I have the navigation skill equivalency of a dog chasing its tail. I see where I need to go, but somehow I always end up making a wrong turn or decide to toss Siri’s directions aside. One day I will learn (No, I will never learn).

Once I was parked and walking to the nearest crosswalk, I saw it for the first time. SunTrust Park in all its glory was a mere 100 feet away (I don’t do mathematics, measurements, etc.). It was beautiful, but I unfortunately had no time to take it all in. I rushed to the Right Field Gate to pick up my media pass and speed-walked even faster back to the 3rd Base Gate to enter the stadium. After a few tries at the metal detector, I was in (I forgot to take my phone out of my pocket). Conveniently the elevator to the press box was straight ahead, so I boarded and told the attendant what level I needed to reach.

I have only been in two MLB press boxes, both belonging to the Atlanta Braves. The circumstances were different on this day, however. Much like the unpopular kid at school pacing around the cafeteria in search of an open seat, I had no idea where I was supposed to go. The first pitch was not going to come until 1:10ish, and it was just after 12, so I took it upon myself to walk around in search of a label. My eyes widened as I saw names of journalists and friends I had followed for years. I would not dare drop anchor in any of these seats. For the time being, I took a seat on the first row waiting for someone to unlock the workroom which held the laptop I would be using. It was a very bright day, more so than usual due to the fact that I had run out of contact solution the night before. DISCLAIMER: Eye drops are not a substitute for solution.

The room was finally opened and I grabbed what I thought was the correct laptop. Foiled attempts at logging in quickly revealed that this was not the case. Another laptop sat inside the workroom and it was in fact THE ONE. I successfully logged in and started to follow step-by-step instructions I had saved in a note on my phone. Checking them off one at a time, I was cruising along but still did not know where to sit. There was an Ethernet cord in need of a specific, and I mean specific, outlet or else the program would not function properly. I thought I had located said cord. Nope. And so my search for the seat to end all seats began again. I asked around, which I had already done once, and was pointed to a spot on the third row next to the scoreboard operator. This was in fact the right seat. I was in business, or so I thought. The Ethernet cord was in. The program was up and running. One problem. The wireless was still on and needed to be turned off in order for me to run the game. In more ways than one, I went into the press box blind and again asked around. After some more trial and error, I located a tiny arrow at the bottom of the screen on the toolbar. The wireless was off. I was good to go, this time for real.

For this particular game, the press box was mainly filled with UGA students and faculty and a handful of CHOA volunteers. As I surveyed the room, I could not help but notice one thing. I was the only one dressed in a jacket and tie. TANGENT: What happened to looking professional in a professional environment? This is a Big League press box and I saw t-shirts with shorts. Unacceptable. Now it was time for the game. From this point on, it was business as usual for me. Missouri ended up defeating Georgia by a final of 6-1.

After the game ended, I stuck around to soak all that had just happened in. The press box was for the most part empty by now. I was ending my conversation with an MLB representative whom I communicated with during the game should any errors occur. Laptops were left agape and papers askew. I packed up all of my equipment and returned it to its rightful place in the workroom. Before walking downstairs, I also left a few notes thanking the Braves for their hospitality, etc. My work was done and now the fun began.

There was no way I was leaving this place without taking in as much of the experience as possible, and that is exactly what I did. Pictures were snapped. Conversations with friends I used to work with at Turner Field (4 Seasons – Guest Relations) were had. You could not wipe the smile off of my face if you tried. Everything about SunTrust Park was pristine and immaculate. I highly recommend a trip in the near future.

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