When in Rome...

Michael Boylan's picture

It had been over two weeks since my trip to Greenville to take in a Greenville drive game at West End Field. I was itching to continue my small, minor league baseball stadium tour, so I checked the schedules and saw that the Rome Braves were hosting the Asheville Tourists at 1 p.m. last Wednesday.

The drive to Rome involves driving straight up I-75 until Exit 290 and then following Georgia Hwy 411 into Rome. Eventually, you can see the brick exterior of State Mutual Stadium in the distance with glimmers of the green outfield through the fences. Like many minor league ballparks, the stadium features some outfield lawn areas that quickly get filled by children, intent on running after foul balls and home runs and rolling down the hill when the ball isn’t out there. Like Turner Field, the stadium also has a “beach bungalow”-type area where the adults can enjoy the game.

There isn’t a bad seat in the house and fans are very close to the action. I was also impressed that Braves players were signing autographs with a little under 10 minutes before the first pitch. Rome definitely had a fan-friendly atmosphere with cheap ticket prices ($4-$10) and lots of fun, in-between-inning activity, although the concession prices were a tad higher than they were in Greenville.

The Rome Braves are obviously an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and their opponent last Wednesday, the Tourists, are a Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Tim Gustafson took the mound for Rome and struck out five batters on his way to a 4-2 victory. The highlight of the game was an inside-the-park home run that drove in two RBIs from Rome’s Concepcion Rodriguez.

All was not well at the stadium, though. Dark clouds continued to make their way over the field, and I watched the temperature on the scoreboard drop from 90 to 79 degrees before the rains came. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed as the tarp was brought out to cover the field. The rain did not stop, though, and close to 40 minutes later the game was called. Since the teams had already played into the bottom of the fifth inning, Rome was declared the victor.

Though they aren’t on top in the standings, it has been a very exciting year for the players and staff of the Rome Braves. They hosted the South Atlantic League All-Star festivities in June and will host an exhibition between Team USA and Team China tomorrow night.

Atlanta Braves fans should know that Rome is the place to go to see the stars of tomorrow. Numerous current Braves players made their way to “the bigs” through Rome, including Jeff Francouer, Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. At a signing at Sports Cards and Collectibles in Fayetteville on Saturday, ‘Salty’ recalled Rome with great fondness and added that he had just gone back up recently to visit people.

The Rome Braves return to State Mutual Stadium next Monday for an eight-game homestand. Visit www.romebraves.com for more information.

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muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Sun, 07/29/2007 - 9:44am.

Funny, I was in Rome that same night (and the next) visiting my son and his family. We almost went to that very game, but opted instead to hang around the indoor pool at the hotel.

My son's family loves that stadium and are regulars at the games. I've yet to make it to one.

Rome itself is a great town, I think. It has a thriving down town, with great places to eat and many interesting shops (like the new Blue Sky Outfitters). Try a basket of fried pickles and a burger at Jefferson's. Ideal for me would be a Victorian home in the historic district between the rivers. I'd become a "regular" at one of the cafes or restaurants, strolling there every morning for coffee and conversation.

(I've a daughter whose family lives in Asheville (of Tourists fame)--another great community with an awesome downtown and much to do.)

Too bad Fayetteville didn't prize their square more. It might have been nice.

Submitted by rollt1de on Sun, 07/29/2007 - 9:19am.

Thanks for the minor league updates! During one of the Sox games in ATL, some fans from SC told us about the Drive's faux Fenway. We need to get there and to a game in Rome. If you know of anywhere I can get 3 or more tix for this week's Sox/Orioles series for less than a mortgage payment, let me know. I really don't want to take two kids and a wad of cash on the green line. Tell S&C it was nice to see them amongst the sea of Sox fans in Turner field.

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