By Diane Larche’ (Special to the Daily World)
The Atlanta Braves embarked on a flurry of activities in recent weeks to get fans fired up for the 2011 baseball season which began April 2.
The “Leadoff Luncheon,” benefitting the Atlanta Braves Foundation, was held at the Marriott Marquis downtown on April 15, bringing out longtime fans who got to break bread and rub elbows with the local heroes of the game.
Braves coaches, players, executives and broadcasters shared stories and personal facts all afternoon. Fans even got the inside scoop from Jason Heyward and others about pitcher Tim Hudson being the team’s biggest prankster.
Before a packed house, first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez discussed his goals for the team while being interviewed by broadcaster Don Sutton, and fellow broadcaster Chip Carey led a panel discussion with Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla.
Having to fill big shoes with the departure of longtime, endeared Braves manager Bobby Cox, Gonzales said he’s not worried that his team’s record is currently below .500.
“It’s early and I see glimpses of our offense playing well,” said Gonzales. “It takes a while to get it going.”
As a continuation of season’s opening events, community leaders gathered at the 755 Club at Turner Field for the “Jackie Robinson Day” celebration, in recognition of the slugger breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball 64 years ago on the same date. Robinson’s efforts paved the way for African Americans in the league.
Entrepreneurs Darryl Armstrong of Armstrong Apparel and Darrell Stabler of A-1 Technologies received “Diverse Business Partner” awards during a pre-game celebration on the field. The Braves present this award to businesses that have sound business practices, quality products, and who exhibit efficiency, reliability and accountability.
Martin Luther King III, president and CEO of the King Center, was scheduled to throw out the first pitch against the New York Mets in the first of a three-game series. However, a storm and subsequent downpour canceled the game, which was rescheduled for April 26 as part of a double-header. Atlanta then went on the split the next two games, winning 4-2 on April 16, but dropping 0-3 on April 17. The Braves will return home on April 29 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals after their West Coast road trip against the Dodgers, Giants and Padres.
The Braves will host “Civil Rights Weekend” activities beginning May 12-15.