Reflections on the Atlanta Braves Home Opener 4/6/23

A baseball and an Atlanta Braves capPhoto by Brian Benefield

[This is the latest installment of “Cobb Cuisine, Culture and Communityby Brian Benefield]

Baseball has always been special to me. It was the one thing my late father and I could talk about for hours, yet somehow, the conversation wasn’t always about the game but about life. We attended many home openers back in the ’70s at Fulton County Stadium, or what I nicknamed the toilet bowl because it kinda looked like that from aerial pictures. The tickets were less than five dollars, the hot dogs were crappy and the PBR was lukewarm.  But still, it was quality time with my father, and that’s what mattered.

Those were the days of Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, and the guy with great hair before Dansby, Bob Horner. I vividly remember being in the elementary school library when they announced over the PA system that Henry Aaron had hit home run number 715, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record. Throwing the ball around with my dad in the front yard was like a religion, and I can still hear the sound of leather slapping as the ball lands in the mitt. Baseball connects us all in different ways but still bonds us together. It can teach us about teamwork, strategy, and camaraderie. Most everyone can relate to the personal assets we use in business and everyday life lessons that can be drawn from the game of baseball.  

There’s something about the home opening game that is extraordinary. The new stadium in Cobb County is located in an entertainment behemoth known as the Battery Atlanta. It’s as if a Royal Caribbean cruise ship floated up next to the ballpark, and its innards spilled out onto the streets with upscale restaurants, carnival games, and beers so expensive that you have to take out a home equity loan to buy a round for your friends. You can hear infectious laughter from the nearby crowds, and everyone is decked out in their team’s gear. I am not a fan of the new rules with a game clock or that Freddie is now playing for LA, but I will always be a fan.  

A plethora of food offerings at the Battery includes Fox Bros. BBQ, where you would be remiss not to chow down on a pulled pork sammie or some smoked wings. If you want a pinky-out type of experience, get a table at C. Ellets Steakhouse and order some oysters, and if your credit cards are paid off, try the bone-in 42-ounce Porterhouse for two that will set you back $260.00. Woo, that’s fancy. I like the wood-fired pizza at Antico that cooks with a perfect char in only 90 seconds because of the authentic Italian ovens they use and the very high temperature.  

Beer, so much beer everywhere you turn. I love IPA-style beers, which according to my wife, smell and taste like a combination of fresh-cut grass and cat pee. I beg to differ. There is no shortage of places to get good quality hop-filled beverages, such as the Athens-based Terrapin Tap House, where they have the OG mainstays such as Hopsecutioner IPA and unique Brew Lab creations that are only offered at the Battery location. Yard House is known for collaborating with world-renowned breweries to make their own unique beers. In addition, you’ll find many locally produced brews and some you can’t find anywhere else but there, as Yard House touts having the world’s largest draft beer selection.  

Every year at this time, I get giddy, dreaming of that little boy running through green grass pretending to be Glenn Hubbard, sliding to catch a grounder off the dirt, and turning a double play.  Thanks, Dad, for giving me the love of the game and a happy way to remember you, as I always will.  It’s a rebirth in the springtime with the flowers blooming, the smell of grilled burgers, and the boys taking the field. It is a most glorious time. Go Braves!