A new MiLB club played its first game last night, and you've got to see its celly

April 6th, 2024

Fans of the Braves' High-A affiliate in Rome, Georgia, got to see a brand new franchise take the field at AdventHealth Stadium in Friday's 4-0 season-opening victory -- and with that, a brand new on-the-field celebration.

Previously known as the Rome Braves, the club unveiled its new identity as the Rome Emperors in November. Emperors' outfielder Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. took special note of the change and wanted to make sure the new franchise got the proper recognition it deserved right out of the gate. So, earlier in the week, he came up with a way to honor Rome's new look and told his teammate E.J. Exposito about it.

"When we found out we were all going to Rome, me and the boys got together and thought we all needed a way to get the crowd going and bring in our new attitude in the first home game -- bring the proper attention to the Emperors," Kilpatrick Jr. said. "So I told E.J. a day or two before the game that if I do something good, I'm going to do a waddle.

"He bet me I wouldn't do it, so when I saw the opportunity there I did it and it was perfect."

The opportunity did not come early for Kilpatrick Jr., who needed to wait until the eighth inning to premiere the move. But, with two outs and a runner at second in the frame, the center fielder found a hole right back up the middle with a bouncer that split the reaching tries of the shortstop and second baseman and found its way onto the grass. Hickory center fielder Anthony Gutierrez (Rangers No. 7 prospect) came up throwing to the plate, but not in time to get Jeremy Celedonio at home. Kilpatrick Jr. took off for second on the play and slid in just ahead of the tag at the bag. After confirming the safe call, he seized his opportunity as he turned to the Emperors' dugout and began to waddle.

The crowd certainly appreciated the celebration as it promptly erupted into cheers. In the following inning, the scoreboard showed "The Play of the Game," and to no one's surprise it was Kilpatrick's newly minted celebration.

"It was great. When I got to center field in the next inning and they played it on the big board, it got another big reaction from the crowd," Kilpatrick Jr. said. "It was money."

So far, no one else on Rome's team has used the celebration, but Kilpatrick Jr. has let it be known that he doesn't have exclusive rights to it and that he hopes it's something that sticks around for the entire season.

"Definitely not a one-time thing, I think it's something that can catch on," he said. "I want it to be something that we can do for the entire year."

Rome, Georgia, got its name because, like its Italian counterpart, the city was built within seven hills and the rivers that run between them. Rome’s Minor League Baseball team further solidified the connection between the two seemingly disparate locales on November 16, 2023 with the reveal of its Rome Emperors identity.

While Rome remained Atlanta’s High-A affiliate, the new Emperors era marked the first time in franchise history that the club has not been named the Braves. The South Atlantic League team, established in 1968, played its first season in Rome in 2003 after relocating from Macon, Ga.

The team didn’t want to focus the branding on “a Little Caesars-looking dude that walks around with a golden metal helmet.” Enter the Emperor Penguin, which enabled the club to build an identity that incorporates ancient Rome while also utilizing an animal that can be depicted in a light-hearted, kid-friendly fashion. The team notes in its brand book that while there are admittedly no penguins in Georgia, there are also “no Bengals in Cincinnati or Grizzlies in Memphis.”