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LEADOFF: Water feature, trees behind center field in SunTrust Park

Good morning. This is Leadoff, the early buzz in Atlanta sports.

A lot of landscaping work is being done around SunTrust Park — and not all of it is outside the stadium.

Inside the ballpark, in the “batter’s eye” area just beyond the center-field wall, three evergreen trees – green giant arborvitae, I’m told – have been planted. The area also includes boulders and a waterfall/water feature.

The Braves took inspiration from a similar setup in the same area of the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field, Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said as he looked toward the space from a deck off his SunTrust Park office this week.

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He said the Braves borrowed and adapted favorite elements from many MLB stadiums for their new ballpark and particularly liked that feature of Coors Field.

MLB teams have put increased focus on designing around and in front of the “batter’s eye”, which is the dark, solid-colored center-field background that helps batters see pitches.

(In the works: a full story that will appear before the Braves’ home opener on the various aspects of SunTrust Park’s playing field — the outfield dimensions, wall heights, foul territory, protective netting, batter’s eye, etc. Stay tuned.)

The sustainable stadium will be using less water and energy compared to other ball parks, including Turner Field, and is one of few parks in the U.S. to be LED certified. (www.accessatlanta.com)

Recent stories on SunTrust Park:

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Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay has received a five-year contract extension that runs through June 2022.

“He has been instrumental in the success of the Atlanta Falcons on and off the field and has played a very important role in making Mercedes-Benz Stadium a reality and in bringing Major League Soccer to Atlanta,” Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons parent company AMB Group, said.

McKay joined the Falcons as president and general manager in 2004 and moved into his current position with the team in 2011.

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Sports Illustrated’s MLS power rankings have Atlanta United in a position you wouldn’t expect to find any first-year expansion team: No. 3 out of the league’s 22 teams.

MLS Power Poll: Round 3

“The primary question facing Atlanta now is simple: can it keep this up, and can it do it against the league’s top teams?” Alexander Abnos writes. “It’s hard to think of another MLS expansion club that’s entered the league with so much momentum.”

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