ATLANTA -- After more than six weeks in Florida for Spring Training and an 11-day road trip, the Braves are finally coming home. And what a home it will be.Following two impressive dress rehearsals, SunTrust Park officially bows tonight when Atlanta hosts San Diego at 7:35 p.m. ET. Pregame ceremonies
ATLANTA -- After more than six weeks in Florida for Spring Training and an 11-day road trip, the Braves are finally coming home. And what a home it will be.
Following two impressive dress rehearsals, SunTrust Park officially bows tonight when Atlanta hosts San Diego at 7:35 p.m. ET. Pregame ceremonies can be seen live on MLB.com and braves.com beginning at 6:30 ET.
The Majors' newest ballpark has already generated quite a bit of buzz, most recently on Saturday, when 33,025 watched the University of Missouri beat the University of Georgia. It was the second-highest attendance for an NCAA baseball game in history, but of course they're expecting even more tonight when Julio Teheran and Jhoulys Chacin take the mound in the official opener.
• Welcome to SunTrust Park, Braves fans
Braves legends Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro and John Smoltz will all be part of a pregame ceremony, which will include the unveiling of the club's retired numbers. Aaron will throw out the first ceremonial first pitch at the new ballpark.
Georgia native and former "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips will perform the national anthem, which will conclude with a flyover from four Navy F/A-18A+ Hornets.
"It will be fun," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "The city is excited, and of course, we're excited. I think everybody is anxious to allow everybody to see the new stadium. We're excited to play in it. There's nothing really to complain about that we would change or upgrade. We're definitely fortunate to have that as our home field."
It will be good to be home for a variety of reasons for the Braves, who will be the last team to play their home opener in 2017.
They had a three-day stint in Atlanta between the end of Spring Training and the start of a 2-6 road trip that concluded with Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Marlins. The three-city trip included a two-hour flight delay from New York to snowy Pittsburgh and the lighting delay that interrupted an Ender Inciarte power surge during the series finale in Miami.
"This has been one for the ages," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the trip. "It's going to be really nice to get home."
After a positive conclusion to a challenging trip, Atlanta exited Miami looking forward to the chance to move into its new home.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson entered his Atlanta area residence around 3 a.m. ET on Thursday and immediately spent 30 minutes playing with Bentley, the female border collie/pit bull mix he adopted near the end of last season. It's the little things.
"I just love being home," Swanson said. "It's as simple as that."
When the Braves were introduced to their new home during a March 31 exhibition game against the Yankees, they discovered the power alleys and wind patterns could make it a hitter-friendly environment, or at least much friendlier than Turner Field. At the same time, Atlanta's players immediately found comfort in the spacious home clubhouse, which includes sleeping areas, massage tables, a state-of-the-art weight room, batting cages, a video room, lounges, a made-to-order kitchen and entertainment options, including a pool table.
"It's like a family atmosphere and fun atmosphere and a spacious atmosphere to where you're not going to feel like you're cramped or be in people's way," Swanson said. "I'm just looking forward to being there for an extended period of time."
On Friday, that extended period of time officially begins.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.