Out to the ballgame at the Braves’ spring training
When I found out that I would be in Orlando for a vacation during the Braves’ Spring Training season, I immediately looked up the dates the Braves would be playing at Disney’s Champion Stadium, hoping that I’d get to catch a pre-season game for the first time.
Luckily, there were tickets still available for their March 1 match-up with the Nationals – on the first base line in the second row, no less – so I snapped up two for me and my girlfriend, Alayna Fisher, before I could talk myself out of splurging on the experience.
We left the house in Madison at 9:13 p.m. on the day of the game, figuring that we’d get to Orlando in plenty of time to catch the Braves’ batting practice before the 6:05 game time.
After seven hours of driving, which included two stops – one for McDonald's dollar burgers and one for overpriced gas – the parking attendants at Champion Stadium corralled us into a grass parking lot and we got to exercise a well-deserved leg stretching.
We made it halfway to the gate before I discovered that – partially out of weariness and partially out of excitement – I had forgotten to lock the car...with all of our stuff in it.
Luckily, everything was still there when I arrived, out of breath, back at the car after quickly covering the trek we had just made.
Finally, we made it to our seats on the second row. After looking around for a second, I realized that the foul line met the seats about 15 feet to our right, putting us right in foul territory for right-handers’ late line drives.
In fact, the batboy sat about six feet away from us wearing a batting helmet throughout the game.
Wait... if he needs a batting helmet, don’t I?
In the end, however, that didn’t become an issue. No balls came our way, and I left only with the ball that I brought with me in the hopes that I’d get a signature.
I didn’t, by the way, although I did get to stand pretty close to Jason Heyward while he was signing autographs for a few lucky fans standing just a bit nearer.
The game began just after Alayna and I got to share an $8 hot dog and, in the first inning, I realized that I had been staring right at the back of Terry Pendleton, whose poster I had on my wall when I was a child when he was still a third baseman for the Braves in the early '90s.
It became cold as the sun went down. I found myself ready to go around the seventh inning, but we stuck it out until the end.
Oh, and the game itself?
Jason Heyward hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first to tie the Nationals, who had already scored in the first inning, 1-1.
Designated hitter Reed Johnson earned an RBI in the second to move the Braves ahead before BJ Upton hit a two-run RBI triple in the fifth to set a 4-1, which the Braves would hold until the eighth inning.
But in the eighth, Braves’ pitcher Cory Rasmus blew up, allowing five Nationals to reach home and take the lead 6-4.
Although the Braves scored once more in the bottom of the ninth, they couldn’t pull of the rally, losing 5-6.
Well, there’s always the regular season...
Printed in the March 7, 2013 edition