It’s too early for spring fever, but not too early for the boys of summer to begin gathering at spring training sites in Florida and Arizona. And as usual, there’s one team I can’t escape.
A few miles away from me, a baseball stadium is under construction, to become the new home of the Atlanta Braves’ top minor-league team. The Gwinnett Braves, named after their home county, are scheduled to play their home opener April 17. They’ve moved to the Atlanta area after an eternity in Richmond, VA, and the parent club obviously likes the marketing appeal of having additional franchise exposure in the county, which has more people (775,000) than the state of Alaska. Also, the stadium is near I-85 and the huge Mall of Georgia. Location, location and location. For my video look on the construction progress, click here.
My ties with the Braves franchise go back before my birth, to the so-called “dead ball era.” My maternal grandfather, Lloyd “Lou” Christenbury, played for the then-Boston Braves from 1919-22. The thing I notice most about his statistics is that he had a .273 lifetime batting average, certainly respectable in that day.
A Mecklenburg County, NC, native, Christenbury also had a plate appearance in what is still the longest major league game by innings (26) in history, a 1-1 tie between the Braves and Brooklyn on May 1, 1920. (This info also per Boston Globe archives. I have a copy of the story.) And he also drew a mention in a graphic that accompanied a 1992 Sports Illustrated story on “short” players (he was 5-7). But I never got to hear any great baseball stories: He died before I was born.
Of course, the Braves wandered from Boston to Milwaukee, then moved to Atlanta the same year I did, 1966. And when I returned to Atlanta from many years in Southern California, the Braves expand their presence here. Well, they are in my blood, right?