ATLANTA -- The weather outside was anything but frightful -- actually, it was a clear and quite pleasant low-60's Friday evening at The Battery Atlanta.The fired-up fans were so delightful.There was plenty of 'choppin' around the Christmas tree' as the Braves threw the first pitch of the holiday season, holding
ATLANTA -- The weather outside was anything but frightful -- actually, it was a clear and quite pleasant low-60's Friday evening at The Battery Atlanta.
The fired-up fans were so delightful.
There was plenty of 'choppin' around the Christmas tree' as the Braves threw the first pitch of the holiday season, holding their inaugural Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
"Welcome to this wonderful ceremony, the first ever at The Battery Atlanta and SunTrust Park," Hall of Famer and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz told the packed plaza. "You're a part of it. We're so excited."
The fans would be, too. A fun, holiday-spirit-filled evening began with singing by the Big Chicken Chorus then the Like the Dickens carolers, followed by a question-and-answer session with pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, led by Braves play-by-play announcer Jim Powell, a visit from Santa, the actual tree lighting, and, finally, a showing of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," starring Jim Carrey.
Foltynewicz was impressed.
"This is a great turnout," he said. "To have The Battery getting all these people to show up like this, it's something special. Look at all these people. For me to be a part of it, it's pretty cool."
This holiday season is special for the 26-year-old right-hander, as Foltynewicz and his wife, Brittany, are expecting the arrival of their first child in February -- he refers to it as their belated Christmas present.
"It's like a little Valentine's Day present for her, too. [Brittany's] birthday is the seventh so maybe it will be around hers," he said. "I'm excited for him to arrive and start the future, and start the family. It's an exciting process. We're nervous and excited."
Foltynewicz was cool, calm and in great spirits as he anticipated Powell's questions, taken from young fans' emails.
"You never know what to expect when you get questions from kids," Foltynewicz said, breaking into a smile. "I expect a lot of things along the lines of 'What was your favorite Christmas present?' It's going to be a fun thing. I'm excited to hear what they ask."
Powell warned he would pull no punches.
"I was just telling Mike, 'This is my one chance to really grill you in front of all the fans out here,'" he deadpanned. "So I'm really going to ask him some tough things like, 'What is your favorite holiday tradition?' 'What was the best gift you ever got for Christmas?' Mike is starting a young family of his own -- he's got a baby coming this winter. He's going to find out that Christmas is a really special time the bigger your family gets."
Foltynewicz survived the grilling -- for the record, his most memorable gift was a Playstation when he was about eight (he also got a guitar, although he now admits he now plays the drums, making him "The Big Drummer Boy").
Foltynewicz then settled back with Brittany, and their adorable Great Dane, "Rookie," as Schuerholz spread more holiday cheer by reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas In Braves Country."
After a visit from Santa, it was time for the lighting of the tree.
"I hope it lights when I click that bad boy on," Foltynewicz said, with a laugh, prior to taking the stage. "It makes me feel like Clark Griswold ("National Lampoon's Vacation" character, played by Chevy Chase) out here. I've been watching them ever since I was five years old with my dad."
The lighting went off without a hitch and the tree lit up the plaza.
Foltynewicz expects that next year at this time, he'll be celebrating his first Christmas as a father and looks forward to future ones, and creating memories for his family.
Having addressed his spirits of Christmas Presents Past (the Playstation) and Christmas Presents Future (his and Brittany's son, they plan to name Michael Jett) he turned to Christmas Presents Present. That list is a short one.
"There's nothing right now," he said, after a pause. "I've got everything I need. I've got a little baby boy on the way, I've got a beautiful wife, I've got a little family coming. I love dogs -- I've got three of them -- and life's good right now. Really all I can ask for right now is health going into next year and just a healthy 2018."
There is one thing that the Braves are asking of their fans. That is to participate in The Braves Foundation toy drive for less-fortunate children in the Atlanta area which is taking place through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Fans are encouraged to bring new, packaged gifts to The Battery.
"We want to get a lot of gifts to kids who otherwise won't get them," Powell said.
Powell believes the holiday spirit is alive in Atlanta for what promises to be a new Braves tradition.
"I got here early and was just amazed at car after car after car. It was just endless," he said. "They were all coming in and it was a mom, it was a dad, it was two or three kids. They were all dressed for Christmas. Then you get out here on the green and it's just beautiful. The Battery's been transformed. This has got to be about the best place to come celebrate Christmas and the holidays of any place in Atlanta."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com.