ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker proudly spoke with tears in his eyes, while Nick Markakis made his way around the clubhouse, exchanging hugs with those teammates with whom he experienced something special over the final two months of the season.While other teams will spend the next couple of days
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker proudly spoke with tears in his eyes, while Nick Markakis made his way around the clubhouse, exchanging hugs with those teammates with whom he experienced something special over the final two months of the season.
While other teams will spend the next couple of days preparing for the postseason, the Braves walked away from Sunday afternoon's 1-0 win over the Tigers feeling a unique sense of accomplishment. They closed Turner Field's history in celebratory fashion and with an impressive late-season surge they enhanced the excitement surrounding the 2017 season and the start of their residency at SunTrust Park.
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"I'm going to be making a few trips there this offseason just to check on it," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "We took a tour a few weeks ago and it looked pretty spectacular. I'm looking forward to start making memories there. It's going to be a good thing."
On a day when John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were reunited with Chipper Jones and some of the club's other legends to celebrate the last day at The Ted, the Braves saw Julio Teheran help eliminate the Tigers from the postseason while matching a career-high 12 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. The 1-0 outcome matched the score of the final game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when the Yankees' Andy Pettitte outdueled Smoltz in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.
There wasn't any reason to believe this year's Braves would reach the postseason as they lost nine straight to open this season, dismissed Fredi Gonzalez with a 9-28 record in May and fell to 18-46 on June 14. But Freeman got red hot and the Braves began benefiting from the direction of interim manager Snitker, whose team won 20 of its final 30 games, including 12 of the final 14, to finish with 68 wins -- one more than 2015.
"I don't know how we could end it any better to kind of get momentum for next year, and I think guys are going to look forward to getting to Spring Training and see what we can do having this team together for the get-go," said Snitker, who stands as the favorite to be named the club's manager for the 2017 season.
Hank Aaron and Glavine made the ceremonial transportation of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium's home plate to Turner Field in 1997. Aaron once again participated in this ritual as he was part of the Braves' contingent that transported a plate approximately 12 miles north to SunTrust Park as approximately 30,000 fans remained at Turner Field on Sunday for a 90-minute postgame celebration.
"I've been around the team day to day since 1976 and I've seen us go through the full gamut of two stadiums," Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said. "I've never been as excited about a facility as what we're doing [with SunTrust Park]. I've been to every facility in baseball. I don't know of one that has this capability. It's going to be terrific."
While SunTrust Park will provide cozier sightlines, modernized amenities and a bevy of dining, retail and entertainment options outside its gates, the success of any stadium is rooted in what transpires on the field.
With Freeman coming off a National League MVP-caliber season that was enriched by the August arrival of Matt Kemp and late-season success by Ender Inciarte and Markakis, the Braves have reason to be excited about what will transpire next year and beyond, when they will have a chance to rely on the highly-regarded prospects that are rising through their farm system.
"People are going to look at our overall record and kind of write us off, but what we did the last two or three months was pretty special," Freeman said. "Ever since we got Kemp, he came in here and changed this lineup and we've been a force to be reckoned with. A lot of teams didn't want to play us at the end."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.