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Turning the page on Turner Field — Part 2


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In Part 1 of our series on Turner Field, Braves executive John Schuerholz provided his feelings about the team’s home stadium. Here we gain the insight of a long-time season-ticket holder. By the way, you can find my article on Turner Field in this week’s USA TODAY Sports Weekly, on sale at newsstands across the country!

When T.W. Lord expresses his opinions about the Braves, they should carry some weight.  After all, the 89 year old has been attending their games as long as there have been Atlanta Braves, as he was in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 12, 1966 when the team played its first game in Georgia after moving from Milwaukee.

And when you’ve been a season-ticket-holder for a team for over four-and-a-half decades, you know something about them and their ballparks.

I asked him for his thoughts on Turner Field and the team’s move to the northern suburbs of Atlanta in 2017.

JOE MOCK:  Do you recall the first Braves game you ever attended?

T.W. LORD:  Actually, I went to the first game in 1966 in the old Fulton County Stadium.  I didn’t start buying season tickets until 1969, and I’ve been a season-ticket holder since then.

I have some memories (of the games in the ‘60s).  I remember one game where we pitched a pitcher and let him stay in too long and it ruined his arm. Back then, they let pitchers pitch 11, 12 innings. I believe that pitcher’s name was Tony Cloninger (note: he pitched for the Braves in Milwaukee then Atlanta, 1961-68).

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Turning the page on Turner Field — Part 1


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As the final baseball games at Atlanta’s Turner Field approach, we are bringing you a series of articles that provide insight into the ballpark. Here in Part 1, read the thoughts of John Schuerholz.

I conducted a phone interview with John Schuerholz for an article I wrote for USA TODAY Sports Weekly about Turner Field, as the Braves were about to move from their home park for the last 20 seasons. Schuerholz, after a 22-year stint with the Royals, nine as General Manager, came to the Braves in 1990. He served as their GM throughout the team’s remarkable streak of 14 consecutive division titles that began in 1991, and in ’97, the team moved into Turner Field. In 2007, he moved up to team president.

I asked him about the planning that went into Turner Field, which had the original purpose of hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics. We also spoke about the reasons behind the team’s decision to move out of Turner and, in 2017, into SunTrust Park in Cobb County, in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. The team is a key partner in the commercial development surrounding the new ballpark.

JOE MOCK:  In your early years as GM of the Braves starting in 1990, there must have been discussions about a possible replacement for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (which opened in 1966).  What went into the planning for Atlanta’s Olympic stadium to become a baseball park?

JOHN SCHUERHOLZ:  At very high levels, (there were discussions between) political leaders and business leaders and the Olympic leaders and we the Braves, being owned then by (Ted) Turner. It was Ted’s desire that when we would have our new stadium, it would be located in the area where it’s now located. He wanted to do something to try to stimulate the growth and the improvement in this area. He was very conscious of that. But of course the Olympic Committee had to get a facility. They negotiated their deal with the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta and ended up with this spot as the preferred spot by all of the leaders I just mentioned. So we end up where we are, which is on the southern end of the City of Atlanta. A beautiful ballpark (was) built, now in its 20th and final year for us, and it (has) served us well. Lots of great memories here, Joe. Lots of excitement created for our community, for our fans not only in the Atlanta area or the State of Georgia, but throughout the Southeast, what we refer to fondly as Braves Country.  Many, many, many good and exciting times in this ballpark, some of which became historic. Read More

Grainger Stadium regains pro ball, sorry Sam Lynn loses it


Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC will once again host pro baseball in 2017. The Texas Rangers announced that they have purchased controlling interest in a Carolina League franchise that will begin play in Kinston in 2017. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s story is here.

Grainger Stadium is no stranger to pro baseball, as it hosted a Carolina League franchise from 1986 through 2011. In 2012, the franchise moved to the stadium in Zebulon, NC, which had lost its double-A tenant when it moved to Pensacola, FL.

The move to Kinston is part of a two-step process, where the high-A California League will shrink from ten teams to eight and the Carolina League, also high-A, will increase by two teams, to a total of ten. The two franchises to be contracted from the Cal League are the Bakersfield Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks, who play in Adelanto, CA.

The park in Bakersfield in particular has been substandard for years.  Sam Lynn Ballpark is routinely rated at the bottom of the Cal League, and has often been referred to as the worst in affiliated Minor League Baseball. The city’s failure to provide its baseball team with a facility as nice as its minor-league hockey franchise has certainly led to the loss of the Blaze. This is truly a shame, not only because the city is a charter member of the Cal League, but also because the market would support pro baseball in an adequate facility. Read More

Turner Field to be bought by Georgia State


Turner Field, hosting its final season of Braves baseball, will be sold to Georgia State University for $30 million. The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, with buy-off from the Atlanta City Council, announced the deal on August 18. Here’s the story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The baseball stadium itself will be converted into a football stadium for Georgia State’s gridiron program. The University’s baseball program will also receive a new home, as a ballpark will be constructed near the site of the Braves’ former venue, Atlanta Fulton Country Stadium, which is part of the 67-acre site.

The University also plans to build student housing and commercial space on the property.

Not only will we be covering the final weekend of Braves games at Turner Field at the end of the season, we will also give you a preview of the Braves’ new stadium, currently under construction in Cobb County, north of Atlanta.

Fort Bragg Field is Ballpark of the Year


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This is the 17th straight year that we’ve named a Ballpark of the Year, but it’s most definitely the first time the award has gone to a park where only one game was played.

Used for only one game, Fort Bragg Field is the 2016 BaseballParks.com Ballpark of the Year.  It was announced in an article in USA TODAY Sports Weekly (see photo). Pick up a copy on a newsstand near you to see our article on the three finalists: Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, Michigan; Spirit Communications Park in Columbia, South Carolina and the winner, Fort Bragg Field in North Carolina.

You can also read all about the award — with reaction from MLB headquarters, the architect, the man behind the playing field itself and even the commanding general at Fort Bragg — in our press release.

Here’s what the plaque looks like. Copies of this will go to Fort Bragg, Populous and MLB headquarters:

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Feel free to add your comments about the park and/or the award below.

Dunked: Dunkin’ Donuts Park won’t open in 2016


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The Eastern League has made formal what was widely expected:  the Hartford Yard Goats will play no games in Hartford this year. Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the $63-million ballpark that sits nearly finished in downtown Hartford, will not open in 2016.  The Hartford Courant‘s report can be found here.

The former New Britain Rock Cats had originally planned to move into the facility on April 7 of this year. However, last winter it became apparent that the facility wouldn’t be completed by then, so the home opener was pushed back to May 31.  The revised plan called for the park to finished by May 17 so the team could get the park ready for baseball by the end of the month. When that failed to occur, the Eastern League decided to push back the opener indefinitely.

A series of charges and countercharges then began to fly between the developer of the park and Hartford’s mayor. A lawsuit was filed by the developer to force the city to permit them to complete the work. With the situation now embroiled in a court battle, the official announcement came Friday that there would be no baseball at the facility in 2016.

Not since the Winston-Salem Warthogs failed to open their new park (originally scheduled to debut in April 2009) for a whole year has there been a ballpark story of this magnitude. However, the Warthogs had the ability to return to their old park in Winston-Salem for the 2009 season because they weren’t changing markets. The Yard Goats, though, can’t do that. Even though their previous home is only nine miles away in New Britain, that ballpark recruited a new tenant, leaving the Yard Goats with nowhere to return to. Their games have largely been played at the visiting team’s home or in Norwich, CT. That makes Hartford’s situation even worse than Winston-Salem’s.

Of course, the Winston-Salem franchise (which cleverly changed its nickname to the Dash) opened BB&T Ballpark the next year, and it was named our 2010 Ballpark of the Year. To this day, they are always among the league leaders in attendance … so there can be happy endings to these sagas.

About the Author

Joe Mock

I surprised myself recently when I determined that I had visited 349 different parks where Major or affiliated Minor League teams are either current or former tenants. That's a lot of pro-baseball stadiums. Read More ❭❭