We made it to Rome! Kannapolis Intimidators vs. Rome Braves, 4/29/12

Beautiful day for baseball in Rome!

Can you believe it? After being rained out last August, I–with two faithful companions–made it back to Rome, GA to see the Atlanta Braves class A affiliate, the Rome Braves. There was hardly a cloud to be seen today and the weather was perfect for baseball.

Rainouts were behind us, and with friends along for the experience, we trekked up to Rome this afternoon to catch the Braves take on the Dale Earnhardt-themed Kannapolis Intimidators (class A affiliate for the Chicago White Sox) in a battle of class A MiLB action!

First, a little back story. The Rome Braves are celebrating their tenth anniversary in Rome since making the trek up from Macon, GA following the 2002 season. The Braves have moved around their affiliates frequently in recent years. In the last decade, the Braves moved class A, AA, and AAA affiliates from their previous locations, most recently relocating the Richmond Braves to Gwinnett County, a busy suburb of Atlanta. Rome was no different and after Macon was no longer a suitable home, the class A Braves made the move. Just to note, the Mississippi Braves relocated from Greenville, SC following the 2004 season, and the Braves recently switched their class A advance team from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to the Lynchburg Hillcats (who they are attempting to move to North Carolina). Whatever the Braves are doing is working, as they currently boast one of the best farm systems in baseball.

Rome is a small, but bustling town about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta and is a great spot to see a ballgame. The stadium is convenient from downtown and traffic was minimal. The stadium–as in the case of the Gwinnett and Mississippi Braves–appears to be a shrunken version of Turner Field. It was a comfy place, with a friendly staff and generous food options. Hilariously enough, they have something called the ‘Shrimp Bucket’. What is a ‘Shrimp Bucket’? For 25 buckaroos you can load up on shrimp and a whole load of Coors Light ($12 without the booze). Yum… (FYI: we stuck to tailgating, save for my buddy Chance eating a hot dog, and a few non-alcoholic beverages). In terms of other stadium fun, there’s a decently sized team store (far surpasses what I saw in Huntsville or Birmingham last year and was on par with Montgomery), plenty of the aforementioned food options, games for the youngsters, and a nice sized lawn beyond the right field fence known as the ‘Home Run Zone’.

Yup, there is something called the ‘Shrimp Bucket’ at State Mutual Stadium…

Ticket prices are reasonable too, although that didn’t factor into our trip (funny story upcoming). General admission tickets (lawn or near the ‘Shrimp Bucket’ area) will run you $4, and seats run anywhere from $6-$10. Not too shabby! We were considering getting the general admission tickets, when a nice gentlemen approached us as we were walking up to the box office. Unlike most places, where folks are offering tickets at discounted prices, this guy gladly handed us three tickets that weren’t being used. We thanked him numerous times and proceeded to high five each other before heading into the park. Best part about the free tickets? We were in the shade on a day when the thermometer in center field read 91 degrees. Downside? We were seated with about a dozen kids (who were mostly well behaved. Thankfully…).

Picked up a snazzy Rome Braves cap at the team ‘Tradin’ Post’!

Of course, this being a Root for the Home Team trip, we headed to the team store, conveniently called the ‘Tradin’ Post’ using the Braves stylized logo. We picked up some souvenirs and took our seats.

Then the game started…

The Rome Braves aren’t exactly off to the hottest start in the South Atlantic League. In fact, they came into today’s game 10 games under .500 at 6-16, good enough for last place in the Southern Division in the league. Ouch.

Even more ouch? They lost 24-2 to the Hagerstown Suns last week.

This fact became apparent to us as the Braves proceeded to flop hard in the top of the first inning. Rome’s starting pitcher A.J. Holland couldn’t find the strike zone to save his life and when he did find it, Kannapolis was all over the ball. The Intimidators put up 4 in the top of the first and then we came to understand that Rome isn’t off to a scorching start. Fortunately, neither is Kannapolis (8-14 going into today’s game; second to last place in the Northern Division).

The game settled a bit, and after a scoreless second and third (Rome failed to score in the first) we thought that with plenty of time left, our trusty Braves would find a way to come back. That was until the Intimidators continued to thrash Braves’ pitching for another 4 runs in the fourth inning. The Braves’ Elmer Reyes crushed his first homer of the season in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-1, but this game seemed to be a lost cause.

However, in the seventh, the game appeared to be in reach. After a walk, a single, and a player reaching on an error, the Braves seemed to catch every break. They played small ball, and with some smart base running, managed to put another four runs on the board. It was 8-5 after 7 and we were jumping with joy in Rome!

Luck didn’t favor the Braves and sadly, we went home on the losing end 8-5. (The big boys in Atlanta pulled out a big win against the Pittsburgh Pirates so it all balanced out!)

For those looking for an early (and I mean early) game tomorrow, Rome finishes off their series with Kannapolis at 10:30 a.m. Yes, first pitch is at 10:30 a.m. Not sure who scheduled the game, but a 10:30 first pitch sounds mighty…interesting?

Final Thoughts

Overall, I give a huge thumbs up for Rome. Their park is great, and is more fitting of any respectable AA or AAA club. The fans–while not as numerous as recent games–were boisterous, having a good time, and incredibly friendly. While the game was played by youngsters who need a lot of work before moving up, the presentation was top notch. It was shocking to think we were seeing a class A team. If you’re looking for a great, intimate venue to see a ball game in the South, look no further than Rome. It’s an easy drive and close enough to Atlanta and the surrounding cities, that it’s a breeze to head north and catch the Lookouts of Chattanooga, or head south and see the Gwinnett Braves or the big boys in Atlanta.

The stadium is convenient from downtown Rome and perhaps the only downside is–unlike Montgomery–the stadium is not directly in downtown and there’s not much in the way of development around the stadium. Hopefully this changes!

State Mutual Stadium is a great place to catch a game. Bring the whole family to see Rome’s home team, the Braves!

Since Will couldn’t make the trip today, I look forward to a return trip to Rome later in the season and I hope we can root on the home team to a big victory! Also, if you’re interested in joining Root for the Home Team on a trip to a baseball game, send us an email or leave us a comment!

What’s next?

We’re looking at heading down to Turner Field to see the wraparound game with the Pirates tomorrow evening. I haven’t determined whether or not I’ll cover Atlanta Braves games this year. I see anywhere from 10-15 Atlanta games a year and I’ve probably seen 150+ games at Turner Field in my life. After a while there’s only so much you can say. However, tomorrow will be my first Atlanta game of the season, and I’m sure I can gin up some coverage. Additionally, we’re looking at making a trip up to Chattanooga to see the Lookouts in the near future. The tentative trip to Cincinnati and Louisville is still up in the air. Keep checking the schedule page, Facebook, and Twitter for all the latest!

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One response to this post.

  1. […] of my baseball adventures on RFTHT have been to Minor League games, stopping by towns as small as Rome, Georgia and larger ones like Birmingham, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cincinnati would be […]

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