Atlanta Braves announce dates of Tomahawk Team, Heavy Hitter auditions

Do you have the right stuff to operate the T-shirt gun? Members of Atlanta Braves’ Tomahawk Team pass out free t-shirts to fans during a game at Turner Field in this file photo. With the Tomahawk Team imoving to SunTrust Field right along with the on-field squad, the Braves will host tryouts starting later this month. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

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Do you have the right stuff to operate the T-shirt gun? Members of Atlanta Braves’ Tomahawk Team pass out free t-shirts to fans during a game at Turner Field in this file photo. With the Tomahawk Team imoving to SunTrust Field right along with the on-field squad, the Braves will host tryouts starting later this month. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

The Atlanta Braves may be moving to Cobb County, but at least one thing’s staying comfortingly — if peppily — the same:

The Tomahawk Team.

The high-energy squad of young women who greet and engage fans before and during every home game; dance atop the dugout to “Thank God I’m A Country Boy;” make community appearances on behalf of the team, and, perhaps most important, shoot off the T-shirt gun with a big smile and the precision aim needed to reach the upper decks, will be front and center during the upcoming inaugural season at SunTrust Park.

First, though, the Braves are looking to fill out the roster.

Tomahawk Team auditions will take place the week of January 30, the Braves said Tuesday. So-called "Round 1" tryouts will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30 and Wednesday Feb. 1 (you can indicate your preference of date when you pre-register at www.Braves.com/tomahawkteam) at the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce. Callback auditions are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4.

(We know what you're wondering: What about the fan favorite Heavy Hitters? Not to worry! Tryouts for what the Braves quite accurately describe as "the most electrifying, exciting drumline in the southeast" will also take place that same week. First round auditions will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 2 and Friday, February 3, with callback auditions scheduled for Saturday, February 4. Interested "hitters" must register in advance at www.Braves.com/heavyhitters).

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What does it take to make the Tomahawk Team? In some ways, the answer is as mysterious and elusive as the flight of a screwball. Still, the AJC tried to figure it out by attending the team tryouts a few years back, when several hundred hopefuls showed up. Here’s some of that story:

Outside Turner Field on a recent Friday evening, dusk had descended on Hank Aaron Drive. Inside the stadium, meanwhile, the megawatt smiles had finally started to falter on the faces of some of the women waiting to hear if they’d made the Opening Day roster.

During three days of tryouts, these would-be members of the Atlanta Braves’ Tomahawk Team had danced to “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” enough times to summon the spirit of the late John Denver, rewritten the lyrics to popular songs on the fly (“Ice Ice Baby” became “Braves Braves Baby”), and undergone one-on-one interviews where their answers to questions like “Who’s your favorite Brave?” were scrutinized more closely than the results of Babe Ruth’s Rorschach test.

More than 200 women had turned out to compete for a place on this much-more-than-a-pep-squad, which over the past decade has become as closely identified with Braves games as foam rubber tomahawks, traffic jams on the Downtown Connector —- and unparalleled success. Ranging in age from 18 to their early 20s, most of these young ladies had come into the world right around the time the Braves had won the first of their 14 straight division titles and essentially never looked back.

From the moment the original 200-plus women had arrived at Turner Field, in fact, they’d been quietly observed by everyone from top-level Braves employees to staff trainees showing them how to put on their registration numbers.

Those who made it through to the interview portion were asked to rate their baseball knowledge on a scale of 1 to 10. A 10 response usually elicited a follow-up question like, “So what’s a 6-4-3 [double play]?”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t enough just to be able to name a favorite Brave. They also had to make a good case for why. Better, anyway, than “Because he’s hot, ” which pretty much doomed any chances of advancing.

“I said Chipper Jones because he’s the one player who’s been here my whole life, ” said Aria Thompson, a 19-year-old University of Georgia student from Fayetteville. “Whatever the time, whatever’s been going on, he’s always been there and played hard. He is the face of the Braves.”

Good answer: Thompson wound up making the Tomahawk Team that year.

For more information about the 2017 squad and to pre-register to audition (it's required), visit www.AtlantaBraves.com/tomahawkteam.