Ten things to know about Braves home opener Friday

Fans will return to Truist Park for a game on Friday night for the first time since October 2019, when the ballpark was still named SunTrust Park. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Caption
Fans will return to Truist Park for a game on Friday night for the first time since October 2019, when the ballpark was still named SunTrust Park. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: TNS

The Braves will play their first home game of the season Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. It’ll be the first game at Truist Park with fans attending in exactly 18 months. Here are 10 things to know about the home opener, which is scheduled for 7:20 p.m.:

1. Reduced seating capacity

Although fans will be back at the ballpark for the first time since Oct. 9, 2019 – the day the Braves allowed 10 first-inning runs in losing Game 5 of a National League Division Series against St. Louis – they won’t be back in normal numbers.

The Braves have said attendance will be limited to 33% of Truist Park’s full capacity for the season’s first homestand, which continues through April 15. That amounts to about 13,500 fans in the 41,000-seat stadium, leaving space for social distancing between pods of occupied seats.

The Braves plan to increase the capacity to 50% (20,500 fans) for their second homestand April 23-29 and then re-evaluate on a homestand-by-homestand basis as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.

2. How to get tickets

Tickets for the home opener are sold out, according to the Braves’ tickets website as of Thursday, but the site also advised “check back soon.” Held-back tickets sometimes are released later.

In any case, resale tickets are available on the secondary market, as always. At last check, tickets were listed on StubHub at prices (including fees) ranging from $73 to $986.

3. Pitching matchup

Right-hander Charlie Morton, 37, signed as a free agent in November, will start the home opener for the Braves. He’s back with his original MLB organization after being traded by the Braves in 2009 and pitching for the Pirates, Phillies, Astros and Rays since then. In a start at Philadelphia last weekend, he pitched four scoreless innings before allowing three runs in the fifth.

Right-hander Zack Wheeler, 30, will start Friday night for the Phillies. A graduate of East Paulding High School, he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Braves last weekend in Philadelphia, allowing one hit and no walks and striking out 10.

4. Now a cashless stadium

You won’t be able to use cash to buy a hot dog or a beer at Truist Park. The stadium is joining a trend among sports venues by converting to a cashless operation.

The Braves said payments can be made by credit card, debit card, mobile barcodes, Braves gift cards and contactless services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Cash can be exchanged for gift cards at four kiosks around the stadium. The stadium’s parking operations also will be cashless.

5. Remembering and honoring

The iconic No. 44 of Braves legend Hank Aaron will be painted on the field for all home games this season. The Braves also have Aaron’s No. 44 and fellow Hall of Famer Phil Niekro’s No. 35 embroidered on the back of their caps.

A pregame ceremony, including a bagpipe tribute, will honor Aaron, Niekro, longtime Braves broadcaster Don Sutton and former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay at the home opener. Aaron died Jan. 22, Sutton on Jan. 18, Niekro on Dec. 26 and Bartholomay on March 25, 2020.

The numbers of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (44) and Phil Niekro (35) are embroidered on the caps the Braves are wearing this season. (Atlanta Braves)
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The numbers of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (44) and Phil Niekro (35) are embroidered on the caps the Braves are wearing this season. (Atlanta Braves)

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Credit: Atlanta Braves

6. Health and safety protocols

In addition to social distancing, fans will be required to wear masks except when eating or drinking in their ticketed seats, the Braves said.

Plexiglass and “sneeze guards” have been added at concession-stand points of sale and condiment stands eliminated. About 200 hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the stadium.

7. Mobile food ordering

Fans can place orders and make payments from their seats via the MLB Ballpark app for pickup of food and beverages at eight concession locations.

8. Clubs and indoor spaces

Truist Park’s premium clubs and other indoor spaces will be open, but the number of fans allowed in them at any given time will be reduced. Modifications will be made to how food is served.

9. New bag policy

Fans won’t be allowed to bring bags into the stadium with the exception of medical bags, diaper bags (if the ticket holder is accompanied by an infant), single-compartment clutches no larger than 5 x 9 inches and clear gallon-sized plastic bags that can contain food from outside the stadium.

For fans who arrive with oversized bags, storage will be available outside the third-base gate on a first-come, first-serve basis for a fee of $10 per bag.

10. 150th anniversary

The Braves plan to mark the franchise’s 150-year history with an on-field presentation at the home opener. The team this season is wearing a commemorative patch of its 150th-anniversary logo on one sleeve of its jerseys and a complementary patch on its caps.

The franchise was founded in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings, a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, the forerunner of the National League.