By Jill Martin
ATLANTA (CNN) — The first pitch was thrown by Atlanta Braves starter Julio Teheran to Detroit Tigers leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler at 3:13 p.m ET, with the game-time temperature at 80 degrees.
And with that, it was the start of the final goodbye to Major League Baseball in downtown Atlanta.
On Sunday, the final day of the MLB regular season, the Braves and fans bid farewell to Turner Field, the team’s home since 1997, with a 1-0 win against the Tigers.
“There’s a sentimental significance behind it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “This place holds a lot of really good memories for a lot of people, and it’s great to go out like that.”
Teheran pitched one of his finest games, going seven innings and giving up three hits, one walk and no runs. He struck out 12, tying his career high. Freddie Freeman drove in Ender Inciarte on a first-inning sacrifice fly.
“Being the last game ever at Turner Field, it’s kind of an emotional thing,” Freeman said. “I’ve spent seven seasons here, my big league debut and everything. I’m always going to remember this place. It has a lot of special moments and memories for me. I’m just happy we won the last game.”
The stadium is named after CNN founder Ted Turner, who owned the Braves from 1976-1996.
The Braves never won a World Series at the stadium nicknamed “The Ted.” The lone title for the franchise in Atlanta was won next door at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1995. That stadium was imploded on August 2, 1997, and is now a parking lot.
In 2013, the Braves announced they were leaving Turner Field for a new stadium to be built in Cobb County, northwest of the city. At the time, Club President John Schuerholz said that Turner Field needed “hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades. Unfortunately, that massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience.”
Around the same time, city money was allocated for another stadium in downtown Atlanta, for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. That venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is scheduled to open next year.
In 2014, Turner showed his displeasure with the Braves’ move to the suburbs, making a point that the new ballpark isn’t in Atlanta.
“I never would have done it,” he said, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The Braves will vacate Turner Field in December, when their contract with the stadium expires. Their new home, SunTrust Park, is scheduled to open in 2017. After the Braves leave, work will start on converting Turner Field into a football stadium for Georgia State University, which bought the site from the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority for $30 million, with the hopes of it being ready for the 2017 season.
The proposal is pending review and approval from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
The plan also includes a baseball complex, retail, residential and student housing.
A packed house for the final game
The Braves, finishing last in the National League East Division, were one of the worst teams in baseball this season, although the team did play well down the stretch, winning 12 of their final 14 games.
Many games at The Ted were sparsely attended this year, but it was tough finding an empty seat Sunday. Turner Field was packed. The announced attendance was 51,220, the third sellout at the ballpark this season.
In the pregame ceremony, the Braves introduced the All Turner Field Team, with the likes of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones entering from center field to huge ovations.
Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux, all in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, threw out ceremonial first pitches. Another hall-of-famer, Bobby Cox, represented the All Turner Field Team as manager.
A huge flag was unfurled for the playing of “America the Beautiful.” Military jets flew over the stadium during the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Fans cheered Teheran as he struck out the side to open the first inning, an inning in which Teheran said he was feeling a lot of emotions of the crowd and the former players in the pregame ceremony.
“It was really special to see, the crowd looking for a win,” Teheran said. “That’s the way we all wanted to finish and close this book. I’m proud of myself and the job that I did.”
Up went a roar for Inciarte’s lead-off base hit. After Freeman drove him in, the Tomahawk Chop was in full force.
In the stands, former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn, longtime attendees at Braves games, were captured on the kiss cam in the fifth inning, sparking cheers.
Before the sixth inning, Cox peeled off the number “1” at the left-field wall, where the number of games left at The Ted had been posted. He revealed a sign for SunTrust Park, with the words “Opening Day April 14, 2017.” The fans cheered, though not quite as loudly as for the Carters on the kiss cam.
In the top of the ninth with two outs, the Tomahawk Chop broke out for a final time with Braves closer Jim Johnson on the hill and Justin Upton at the plate. It continued throughout the at-bat.
And on a 3-2 count, the final out at Turner Field was recorded: Johnson struck out Upton, cementing a win for Turner Field’s final Braves game. It was 6 p.m. ET.
Finally, at the postgame ceremony, the greatest former Brave of them all, Hank Aaron, threw out the final pitch. He held home plate in his 82-year-old hands, pushing it up into the air.
Then he boarded a bus on the field. He and the dish were off for SunTrust Park.
Home plate was heading to its new home.
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