LAWRENCEVILLE -- Robert Deschenes attends about 80 percent of Gwinnett Braves home games. He was the team's first registered season ticket holder, back three seasons ago. It'd take a sizable catastrophe to keep him from something like "Fan Fest."
Under pristine skies and the croon of Bruno Mars (from stadium speakers), hundreds of minor-league baseball enthusiasts overtook Coolray Field on Saturday, playing catch in the outfield, roaming the stadium from dugouts to the suites and trying their hands at batting cages.
The free, perennial festival serves as a prelude to Opening Day, and it whets the appetites of the Triple-A affiliate's diehards, like Deschenes, who lives a couple miles away. His daughter, Tegan, 7, discovered a latent baseball talent in the batting cages.
"She's loving it," Deschenes said.
G-Braves ticketing sales manager Ryan Moore said the team flings open its doors once a year to boost community involvement. Season ticket sales have been strong, as have packages for fundraising groups and youth leagues, Moore said.
"A lot of people are having a great time with their families," Moore said. "It's a beautiful day for it."
If the field looked supremely lush for March, there's good reason for it.
Moore said the organization recently hired a turf sports manager from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans who counts two national titles as the best in minor league baseball -- in addition to five consecutive Carolina League titles. His name's Chris Ball, but they call him "Butter."
Home stints for the G-Braves begin April 12, a night game versus the Durham Bulls. Lawn tickets are $6 in advance.