Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann smiles before the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., Friday, March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
It's finally here. Almost.
After weeks and weeks of games and cuts and games and cuts, the end of baseball's spring training approaches and one final exhibition game remains.
In recent years, the Atlanta Braves played an American League team for a pair of games at Turner Field to mark the end of spring, making the final roster selections and designations before those games. But that changes for this season, and with the change brings the full big-league roster to the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves' Coolray Field for the last exhibition.
The Braves All-Stars vs. Future Stars game begins Tuesday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. And while the game is most certainly a final tuneup for the players preparing for regular seasons at any level, it is also a chance for the Gwinnett Braves organization to showcase its facilities to a new segment of fans.
In the first three seasons, attendance at Coolray Field has lacked many of the predictions, leaving the team wallowing near the bottom of the International League in fans in the seats. But by early last week, more than 6,000 seats had already been sold for Tuesday's game and ticket sales manager Ryan Moore said they expect to have standing room only tickets remaining by the day of the game for the 10,000-plus seat stadium.
"The Gwinnett Braves are excited to host this first of its kind game and the fans seem to be embracing it just as much," Moore said.
For baseball, and especially Braves fans, the draw of Tuesday's game is simple. It's a chance to watch All-Star and Duluth's own Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward in a more intimate setting than the cavernous Turner Field. And there will be plenty of rising prospects to see on the Bobby Cox managed Future Stars team. Third base product Joey Terdoslavich, catcher Christian Bethancourt and pitchers Sean Gilmartin, Luis Avilan and Jaye Chapman are among the players on the Future Stars roster. Bethancourt is the No. 5 prospect in the organization according to MLB.com and Gilmartin was last year's first round draft pick.
And then there are the off-the-field events.
For season ticket holders of the Atlanta Braves or Gwinnett Braves, the gates open at 3:30 p.m and they open at 4:30 p.m. for all other ticket holders.
There will be Braves alumni on hand and batting practice begins for the Atlanta players at 4:25 p.m. and at 5:25 p.m. for the minor leaguers. There will be live player interviews during both batting practice sessions. Fans with Home Plate Club tickets and select fans in the Super Suite also get a meet-and-greet with select players before the game.