Interest in the Braves' minor league affiliates is at all time highs, especially for us here at Talking Chop. The rebuild the Braves' put in to force over the last season and a half or so has shifted the focus from the current roster playing in Turner Field to the prospects that, hopefully, will be ushering in a new era of playoff caliber baseball in SunTrust Park starting in 2017.
In that spirit, to start the 2016 off right, Garrett and I spent the opening weekend of MiLB baseball in Rome scouting what has turned out to be an incredibly talented Rome roster while also enjoying the amenities at State Mutual Stadium. Here is a quick look at the Rome Braves, their stadium, and our review of our visit there and why all followers of the Braves' minor league system should go.
The Rome Braves
The Rome Braves, as a team, have only been around since 2003 when State Mutual Stadium opened. Before then, the Braves Class-A affiliate was located in Macon as the Macon Braves from 1991-2002. Macon had a baseball team long before it was the Braves' affiliate and have been the home of a couple of indy league teams off and on for a couple years since the Braves' relocated to Rome.
For those of you in to this sort of thing, the Rome Braves have won one league title (during their inaugural year in 2003) and for most of the past 10 years has been managed by Randy Ingle. Based on what we witnessed during drills, Ingle is intimately involved in the development of many of the players under him...often running drills himself and taking time to give individual instructions and feedback directly to the young players on the roster. Its no surprise that the Braves have kept him in the organization for over 30 years at various levels and capacities.
State Mutual Stadium
When you enter Rome on the north side of town, its pretty hard to miss all the signs directing you to the stadium and the surrounding area. There are a few restaurants around the stadium if you prefer to eat before you go to a game. If not, you can generally buy tickets well in advance online (I recommend this as its the best way to get the best seats) or just right at the gate. You will be hard pressed to spend more than $13 on a ticket regardless of where you sit and you can typically enter the park about 1.5 hours before first pitch.
Once you enter the stadium, you will notice that the stadium is quite a bit smaller than Turner Field as it only seats a little over 5,000 people. The concourse area (where most of the concession are located) is also where you will occasionally see players
Over the right field wall, you will notice a nice lawn seating area as well as a some tables where folks hang out and enjoy the game. We noticed the tables were among the first seats occupied so act accordingly. We didn't see a ton of people on the actual lawn, but imagine that if there were more lefty power hitters on the roster (such as in Freddie Freeman's days in Rome) that more folks would have taken the opportunity.
Over on the left field down the line a bit, there is an outdoor bar as well as more seating. This is also the general area you want to be in if you want to come out before the game to get autographs from the players. The players are extremely approachable and happy to give autographs so long as you aren't completely obnoxious about it....so don't be that guy/gal. Also, you can apparently you can pay to sit in a boat for the game. We didn't do that, but I was certainly curious. Here's the boat.
As for food, the typical stadium staples including nachos and hot dogs are plentiful at multiple sites in the stadium. I did partake in the nachos and hot dogs and they were both tasty and actually really reasonable in price. There are also various beer promotions that the team does during games and the prices there are also reasonable. Please drink responsibly while at the stadium (or really anywhere for that matter). However, one of the main food attractions of the stadium is the BBQ
You can see that I am scoping out the place while Garrett was doing actual useful things like taking pictures before the game on Sunday. This is the home of the BBQ Sundae which Gaurav (you may know him better as @BravesReddit) tried to goad me in to eating and Garrett did in fact partake in. They both described it as a tasty BBQ meal in a cup and gave it their highest endorsement. I am filled with regret that I didn't get it as a result.
Overall, the games in the minors move at a good pace, the seating was comfortable, and the experience was fantastic overall. I cannot express enough how great the staff was for the Rome Braves. We were fortunate enough to be press credentialed for these games and from the media relations folks to the ladies that helped keep us from getting lost to the fine folks that ran the ticket counter and concessions stands, all of them went out of their way to help us and anyone else that needed it. You will struggle to find a better group of people anywhere, let alone at a minor league park
The 2016 Version of the Rome Braves
We cover the 2016 incarnation of the Rome Braves quite a bit (with lots more coverage to come as well), but for the uninitiated, here are a few helpful links to guide you to a better understanding of what you are coming to see when you go to see a Rome Braves game.
Well, that's it for our look at the Rome Braves. We hope to soon highlight the Gwinnett Braves and Coolray Stadium as well as visit Mississippi and Carolina during the course of the year. We at Talking Chop can't recommend enough going to see some minor league baseball, especially with the infusion of talent in the minor league system now. Its affordable and, if you are in the Atlanta area, two of the teams are within an hour of the city. It was a great time and hopefully during our next trip, we will see even more people out there with us.