Jim Alldrink saw the last game at Turner Field and the first game at SunTrust Park but he won’t be able to add their names to the custom-stitched sweatshirt he wore to the Braves home opener on Friday. He’s out of room.
The retired steel worker from Grand Rapids, Mich. has made it his business to attend every ballpark’s first and final game since the Cincinnati Reds hosted the Atlanta Braves at Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970. Hammerin’ Hank Aaron blasted the first home run out of that park. (That stadium met the wrecking ball in 2002).
His first-ever game was a Reds-Cubs matchup in Chicago as a kid (he can’t remember exactly what age) and boasts that he and his dad once saw four games in one day – two doubleheaders in Chicago, then up the road in Milwaukee.
So.. his take on the new home of the Braves?
“Nothing knocks my socks off, to be real honest,” he said. While the park boasts loads of interesting dining options, miles of bathroom facilities and pretty good views from even the cheapest seat, there’s nothing terribly unique about it, in his assessment. It might be too perfect.
“I like little nooks and crannies,” he said. His favorite place to watch a game is loaded with character: Boston’s Fenway Park. High on his list of newish places: PNC Park, home of the Pirates since their old digs, Three Rivers Stadium, was taken down in the name of progress.
SunTrust feels sort of like a Frankenpark to Alldrink.
“It looks like they took a lot of parts from a lot of parks and them together,” he said.
We should pause to make sure no one thinks Alldrink was disparaging Atlanta, or the Braves, or the team’s fans. He seems like a great guy to watch any game with, and happily delayed his departure to talk with a reporter after the game ended.
“I don’t to get banned from coming back,” he said. (He’ll be back on Saturday, by the way).
As a consolation, Alldrink did offer some faint praise to the Braves’ new headquarters: “I like it better than Turner Field.”