(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).
RELATED: Batter up: 9 weird and wonderful things you don't know about the Braves
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.