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I grew up a huge baseball fan, thanks to a father and two older brothers who were passionate about America’s pastime and passed it on to me on pitch (including a few curves) at a time. We were all Orioles fans back when the “Orioles Way” led to pennants and World Series championships. When my parents moved to Richmond, Virginia, and I followed after a far-flung stint in the Army, my dad and I bought season tickets to the Richmond Braves (then the long-time AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves). We enjoyed many great seasons and players in our seats behind the third base dugout, as the likes of Chipper Jones and many more passed through Richmond on their way to their winning ways in Atlanta.

With my father’s 80th birthday approaching, my family came up with the unique idea of getting him to Georgia to attend three Braves games in three days--the Rome Braves, the Atlanta Braves, and the Gwinnett Braves (who replaced the Richmond Braves as Atlanta’s AAA club this year). The trip evolved to include all three sons, a ton of grandchildren, and extended family members. To say that the trip was a hit would be underestimating the smiles, the laughs, the memories, the victories (the Braves won every game!), and even a few tears (of joy).

It started in Rome, where we enjoyed Yacht Club food, beer, and seating. An interview of my dad played on the huge outfield screen and we couldn’t have been treated better by the Rome Braves staff and locals. A downpour between the first and second games of a doubleheader couldn’t dampen our “opening night” enjoyment. I also really enjoyed my first visit to Rome, which has a number of attractions (and a great hilltop Hampton Inn).

After a day exploring busy downtown Atlanta, Saturday night’s game at Turner Field will certainly be an evening my dad and everyone else will remember. Great all-you-can-eat and -drink seats down the left field line, a gift bag from the Braves, an interview with “Mr. Double Talk,” and birthday greetings on the big screen all made for a special night for all involved (and another Braves win didn’t hurt).

A Sunday afternoon game at the new ballpark in Gwinnett County included a rehab start by Tim Hudson, a tour of the stadium (which is a serious improvement over Richmond’s Diamond), tasty food, and yet another Braves win. Area attractions include the huge Mall of Georgia and a great new prototype Courtyard by Marriott. The parking lot proved to be a place of sad goodbyes as we went our separate ways after a very special Brave(s) 80th birthday celebration. Happy Birthday, Dad!