April 9, 2011 - You've gotta love Opening Day/Night at any baseball stadium. It's a time to celebrate the franchise's past, especially its most recent accomplishments. It's the start of a new baseball season and signifies new beginnings and opportunities for players, fans and teams.
And the atmosphere is electric as fans are so happy to be attending the first game of baseball in their home town.
Last night was no different in Atlanta. The ceremonies included the unveiling of their 2010 Pennant in center field for clinching a wild card playoff berth. It also featured former skipper, Bobby Cox, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to his successor, Fredi Gonzalez. Ol' number six got a huge (and very fitting) ovation at Turner Field when he was announced and walked onto the mound.
We also witnessed a piece of history. Chipper joins lined a base hit to left field for his 2,500th hit of his career. That was great to see for a player who has been around so long, made huge contributions, and has meant so much to this team. Here's a photo of the historic hit taken from our seats. (We like to throw those in for free on our MLB road trips whenever we can!!) Here's the Braves wrap-up
of the game.
The final game of the first of our baseball tours is this afternoon with the Phillies and Braves again.
April 8, 2011 - On the first of our baseball spring trips, we ventured up to Buckhead, a northern suburb of
Atlanta, to visit the original Flip Burger Boutique. Flip Burger is the creation of Richard Blais, the most recent winner of Bravo's Top Chef (see my earlier blog).
The first thing you notice when walking in is that the "flip" theme is carried throughout the restaurant. You can see this in the picture to the left where the booths have an upside down set of seats and tables above the booth as part of the fixtures.
While this location was described as the more family oriented of the two locations and the other location as more electric, more for a younger crowd, the original location was plenty electric with club style music playing and flat panel tv's playing music videos.
The food didn't disappoint us. The burgers lived up to the billing of a "boutique." They were inventive creations with on top of very tasty beef burgers. I personally had the mushroom and swiss burger with carmelized
onions, horseradish mayo, and swiss cheese foam (which elicited the question from one person of, "what the flip is that?!").
My daughter and I decided to split some of the sides so that we could try a few different things. We ordered the fried pickles with buttermilk sriracha (which were amazing) and a portion of the candycane beet salad. The beet salad had lots of interesting flavors combined with it including licorice and goat cheese. It was a light complement to our burgers and (fried) pickles.
If you watched Richard on Top Chef at all, you've probably seen him use liquid nitrogen when making milk shakes. They use that method at Flip and make some really interesting shakes. We had two, the Cap'n Crunch shake and the Applie Pie shake. Easily the Cap'n Crunch was the better of the two.
Tonight, our MLB road trip takes us to the Opening night game between the Braves and Phillies at Turner Field. We're excited to see the match up between Cliff Lee and Tim Hudson.
If you are interested in joining us on one of our small group tours and experience great baseball with a lot of fun extras like Flip Burger Boutique, check out our 2011 offerings and sign up today!
April 5, 2011 - What's better than getting the MLB team schedules for the coming year and working with our
baseball road trip planners to build the perfect travel packages? Going on the tours, of course!! And it's finally here! Yep, it's time to load up and head out for the first of our MLB road trips of the 2011 baseball season.
Today we're headed to Atlanta to kick off our Atlanta and Augusta tour that includes Masters events at Augusta National, golf in Atlanta, and the home opening series at Turner Field between the Phillies and the Braves. The next few days will be filled with many exciting elements but also provide the participants plenty of time to relax and unwind.
Let's do it. Let's get on the road!
March 26, 2011 - If you've browsed through our blogs over time, you'll know that we enjoy discovering new restaurants and trying new food items when we're visiting major league cities on our baseball tour vacations. For us, if it's not the MLB Network or ESPN on the tube, it's most likely going to be a cooking show on Food Network or Bravo. So we've started making our plans for our upcoming road trip to Atlanta and Augusta.
My daughter has clued me in that Chef Richard Blais, a finalist in this year's season of Top Chef, has a restaurant called FLIP Burger Boutique
with a couple of locations in Atlanta. I'm always up for a burger, especially when you take a gourmet approach to it and bring something new to the table. And looking at the menu, there appears to be some fantastic selections.
The lead off their menu with a local burger: local organic grass-fed beef, tomme cheese, beef bacon, lettuce, yellow tomato, red onion, coca cola ketchup (it is Atlanta, after all), pickled peach & pecans. Or how about this combination for a mushroom and swiss burger: caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, horseradish mayo, swiss cheese foam? Okay, I'm hungry just thinking about it!
We're definitely going to have to save room for the shakes, too. An apple pie milkshake? Or how about the Krispy Kreme shake? Yep, I'll be diving into one of those for sure.
We'll definitely be heading over to FLIP when we're in Atlanta but we'll have plenty of time to make some other stops. For you locals, where would you recommend that we go? Or for those of you who have been through Atlanta on sports travel and tours, what have you found that's worthy of a visit? We'd love to hear your suggestions!
February 2, 2011 - The first of our baseball road trips in 2011 will begin with two days at Augusta National, taking in a practice round and a competitive round of The Masters Tournament. Our guests will be able
to walk the hallowed grounds with their favorite pro-golfers in search of the illusive green jacket.
After a free day in Atlanta (can you say golf anyone?), we'll enjoy a couple of baseball games including the Opening Day ceremonies for the Braves as they kick off their first weekend homestand of the year against their Eastern Division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Friday's game is an evening game and Saturday's game is in the afternoon. That's a great way to see Turner Field at different times of the day. We'll have the evening free in Atlanta with plenty of time for dining or entertainment in this great southern city.
By now, you've come to know Big League Tours as the premier provider of baseball vacation packages. Check out all our 2011 tour vacations to see which one suits you the best.
November 27, 2010 - Big League Tours' sixth season of offering one-of-a-kind baseball tours will begin in April with a sports travel package that is making its first appearance on our roster - a tour that includes two days of the Masters tournament in Augusta and a pair of Braves games in Atlanta. This is just one of the unique additions that we've incorporated into our baseball tours this year.
In addition to seeing lots of big league baseball around the country, we've included some other sites into our tours like the Masters tournament, Niagara Falls, and Disneyland. Our tour vacations also provide free days in MLB cities, like San Francisco or Washington D.C., where you'll have time to visit monuments and museums in the nation's capitol making these great family tours.
Here's the schedule of our 2011 baseball tours:
- Augusta & Atlanta - April 5-10
- Cubs at Fenway - May 20-22
- Boston, Cooperstown & New York - May 21-25
- Southern Cal - June 10-14
- East Coast - June 11-19
- New York, Cooperstown & Boston - June 15-19
- Northwest - July 1-5
- Midwest Plus - July 20-26
- Chicago & Milwaukee - August 2-6
- Big Apple - August 10-14
Take a peak at the schedules, find which of the sports travel tours best fits your schedule, and join us next year for some exciting big league baseball and much more!
May 28, 2010 - As much as we fancy ourselves on being great trip planners and including really cool features on our trips, there's always the opportunity for the unexpected to happen, too. And in this case, I'm talking about the unexpected in a really good way.
We always plan to be at the baseball stadiums early so that we can explore the ballparks, take in batting practice, and have the chance of getting a baseball or autograph in the process. Our
recent road trip to Atlanta was no different - except for the unexpected.
The event occured during the Reds' batting practice. Several of the players had stopped by to sign autographs for fans around their dugout. One of the local kids in a Braves t-shirt asked Jonny Gomes if he could have his batting gloves. Jonny's off-handed response was, "yeah, right."
Jonny hit the batting cage, took the obligatory jog around the bases, and then headed back towards the dugout and where we were sitting. We're assuming that since my son was wearing a Reds jersey (or it could have been that he just hadn't hounded Jonny or the other players), Jonny walked back over to our section and handed his batting gloves to him. He was thrilled to say the least.
Our hope is always to provide an experience that you'll never forget, gifts for baseball fans, if you will, so we package a lot of fun stuff into our group travel tours. But like Woody Allen said, "95% of life is showing up." Being at the games early gives you a greater chance to get closer to the game that we all love so much. So the next time you head out on one of your baseball road trips, allow time for the unexpected and maybe you'll be given a gift of your own!
May 22, 2010 - We've had a chance to see most of the stadiums in the major leagues either on our family tours and on the baseball vacation packages that we offer. This trip was to Atlanta and Turner Field (or "The Ted") for a two-game stand. It was great to get to see the stadium for a night game and a day game. Sometimes the stadiums have two completely different personalities based on the time of the game.
We stayed in downtown Atlanta so the stadium was only a 1.5 - 2 miles from our hotel. The
concourses were really wide and made getting around the stadium very easy. Here's a photo taken from right inside the centerfield gates. As you can see, there is a ton of room for getting people in and out of the stadium.
The Ted also has plenty for kids to do at the park. The Cartoon Network Fun House offers a break for the kids as does the many different batting cages and pitching booths that they have all along the third base side. They also offered face painting which seemed apprapos given the team's mascot.
The concourses around the outside of the stadium reminded us of Jacob's Field in Cleveland. (I'm sure that should be said the other way around based on when the stadiums were built but we were at the Jake first...) They were easily maneuverable but, they do cutoff your sight lines to the field.
We weren't knocked out by the food, either. We were sitting in the premium seats so we were able to order and have it delivered to us. The menu was your basic ballpark food but nothing that really stood out. We've grown accustomed to local restaurants or foods being incorporated into the ballparks like the Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh or the Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati. Or the other thing parks have done is include former players into the mix like Boog's Barbeque in Baltimore, El Tiante's Cuban Sandwiches in Boston, or Bull's Barbeque in Philadelphia. All great features that represent the team well. We didn't find this at The Ted.
All in all, we had a great experience. It would be hard to beat the southern hospitality that everyone working at Turner Field displayed. So if you are looking for a place for one of your baseball road trips, I would definitely recommend Turner Field.
May 22, 2010 - I just returned home from our Atlanta Tour - a three-day, two-night trip that featured two baseball games at Turner Field. We had fantastic weather, the hotel was great, our seats were even better (pictured on the left),
and both games ended with walk-off hits or homers. They don't get much more exciting!
But as I reflect on the tour, I'm reminded of the things that caused me to want to start Big League Tours in the first place.
I really love the game of baseball and want to experience it in a unique way every time I take a trip. That's why we get to the park early, sit in great seats, and arrange for meet and greets with MLB players.
I also really enjoy getting to spend quality time with my family. On this tour, I was accompanied by my dad and son, the two folks who inspired me the most to start this business. Our small group tours provide you with the advantage of having things included that I mentioned before and also giving you the flexibility to do things on your own. And when taking family tours, we think it's important that you get that time so we make it available to you.
And finally, traveling can be difficult or at least a challenge, especially if the mode of transportation isn't great or the locations of your stay are suspect. We make sure that all of the logistics are top notch and take care of all the details so that you can just show up and enjoy a premier sports travel tour.
Those things sound simple but they are what make us different from the other guys. It's what got me in this business and it's what we love to do.
May 20, 2010 - On August 24, 2008, I posted a video of Zack Hample, the man who was featured on CBS for his ability to snag foul balls and batting practice balls at MLB games.
I loved the story then and it gets even better now.
After the game was over at Turner Field, we were hanging out talking to some fans who we had met during the game. Who appeared next to us? None other than Zack himself.
At the time of my first post, Zack had successfully snagged at least one baseball in over 450 consecutive games. When we talked last night, the string was still alive at 644 consecutive games. Not only that, but he snagged 14 baseballs at yesterday's game!
If you want to learn more about Zack, click here
to check out his website. Hopefully we'll bump into him again on one of our MLB road trips. Watch for him. He'll be the one who just caught the foul ball...