get first win in new stadium
By Chris Lundy
A sellout crowd of 5,105 cheered in excitement as the Rome
Braves stepped onto the field for the first game at State Mutual Stadium
to battle the Savannah SandGnats, the Single A team for the Montreal Expos.
The SandGnats scored first when Larry Broadway, centerfielder, blasted
a 3rd inning solo homerun over the Applebee’s sign in right field.
Another run came later in the top of the 4th inning, to put the Braves
The bottom of the 4th looked promising for the Braves. Jeff Francoeur,
Rome’s centerfielder, hit a double, putting himself in scoring position.
After a foul out by first baseman Yaron Peters, third baseman Cole Barthel
hit a single to bring in Francoeur and boost the hopes of the crowd.
The SandGnats scored again in the 6th inning, bringing the crowd to a
restless, doubtful state.
By far the best inning for the Braves was the bottom of the 8th. With
back-to-back singles from the Braves to start off the inning, everyone
in the crowd did the famous “Tomahawk Chop” as the pitching
coach for the SandGnats came out to talk to his pitcher. Soon the bases
were full of Braves, waiting for someone to bring them home.
Carlos Guzman, the designated hitter, had been silent all night. With
a strikeout and two pop fly outs in his first three at bats, his situation
did not look promising. But Guzman came through with a two-run single,
scoring Francoeur and Peters to tie the game.
Another run was scored shortly after, giving the Braves a 4-3 lead. The
crowd loved every bit of it, chanting “YMCA” as reliever Nick
Long came in for the SangGnats. Long stopped the Braves’ scoring
streak, but the damage had been done.
Pitcher Brad David came out with confidence for the Braves in the 9th
with the huge crowd supporting him. David struck out one batter and forced
the other two to hit ground balls, ending the game.
Guzman, the game’s hero, said winning was a great feeling. “This
is the best feeling in the world. The crowd loves me and I love them.
The new stadium was a great feeling too,” he said.
“It’s important to get the first win under our belt for the
team,” said Ralph “Rocket” Wheeler, Braves manager.
“We have the second youngest team in the league, so it’s like
rookies going up against veterans. We’re still developing one game
at a time, but the kids will be ready when (Bobby) Cox calls them up.”
Wheeler went on to express his feelings about the crowd. “We had
a super turnout. The city of Rome and Floyd County put everything into
building this stadium. The first win was very big for the fans, for the
team and for the city of Rome,” he said.
The Braves played the SandGnats through the weekend at State Mutual Stadium.
Saturday, April 12, the Braves won 3-2. On Sunday they lost the first
of a doubleheader 5-0 but won the second 3-0.