Sports turf manager Chris Ball uses the infield mower to cut the grass while the organization prepares on Thursday for opening week as the Gwinnett Braves will play their first home game at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville tonight. (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan)
IF YOU GO
• What: Gwinnett Braves vs. Durham Bulls
• When: Friday, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Sunday, 2:05 p.m.
• Where: Coolray Field, Lawrenceville
• More info: gwinnettbraves.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — On a breezy and sun-splashed Thursday afternoon, Karen Mobley stopped by the Gwinnett Braves ticket booth to pick up a surprise for her mother, Annie.
A baseball and Braves fan, Annie last month turned 65, and next week has a surgery scheduled. So her daughter figured what better way to give her a good time than going to the G-Braves home opener tonight against the Durham Bulls.
“She loves the Braves, it’s easier to get her here than to take her downtown,” Karen Mobley said. “She’s going to be surprised. The weather’s supposed to be great, that’s the best thing about it. I think she’s going to be excited to come and see the game.”
Despite Thursday’s loss at Norfolk, the 2014 G-Braves will introduce themselves to the home fans tonight with a 4-3 record and an offense that’s been led by first baseman Ernesto Meija’s five home runs.
Fans like the Mobleys will be treated to the return of Friday night fireworks throughout the season, along with T-shirts for the first 2,000 into the stadium on Friday. The homestand continues on Saturday with former Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and on Sunday with “Bark in the Park,” the opportunity to play catch before the game on the field and kids running the bases after the game.
The team will also have bobblehead giveaways for Mike Minor (June 7), Julio Teheran (July 5) and Ron Gant (July 19).
Sixth-year season ticket holder Dan Foster of Suwanee plans to be in attendance tonight to help set off the fireworks, which will be wheeled inside the stadium on trailers, while working for Pyrotecnico.
“I’m excited about it,” Foster said. “I’ve always enjoyed going out to the Braves. You don’t have to fight the traffic to go all the way down to Turner Field. We have a lot of pictures out there. A lot of people like to go on an extravagant trip, I like to take my family out to the game.”
General manager North Johnson said season ticket sales are slightly higher than last year — the club has about 900 season ticket holders. Group and suite sales are also doing well, he said.
Several menu items are new or have returned after not being sold last year.
Friends American Grill will sell chicken wings and tater tots; McCalister’s Deli will sell sandwiches and salads; Chick-fil-A will return after sitting out last season; and Papa John’s will sell in more areas.
“One of our challenges has been our food and beverage delivery,” Johnson said. “We’ve been able to work with Aramark over this winter so the fans don’t have to wait in line so long to get their food. We think we have a pretty good handle on it.”
The G-Braves have experimented with different types of foods in their five years in Lawrenceville.
Cheese steaks, for example, seemed popular at the outset, but after 70 home games, the G-Braves sold less than 500.
“For the amount of space and preparation and cook time to prepare those, it really wasn’t worth it,” Johnson said.
Chick-fil-A returns after the company chose to spend more resources at Turner Field last season.
“It’s always fun just to start a new season,” Johnson said. “We’ve obviously got an exciting team. The pitching has done really well. The offense in general has probably been a little better than I expected.”