The Braves home opener is just one game in a long season. But to the fans, it’s everything.

Fans turned out on a chilly Friday evening to reaffirm their loyalty to the team and to each other

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The Braves home opener is just one game in a long season. But to the fans, it’s everything.
Matt Olson rounds first base after hitting a solo homer in the third inning of the home opener against Arizona on April 5.

Photograph by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Friday, the Atlanta Braves opened up their Truist Park account with their first home game of the year. The game itself is just one of 162 and in the win-loss column, the result has little impact on the outcome of the season. But the experience for Braves’ fans matters more than any other regular season game in the year.

The winter after a disappointing postseason is hard and long for players and fans alike, especially with World Series expectations. For a 104-win Braves team with the National League MVP in Ronald Acuña Jr. and 8 total all-star selections, that division-series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies may have been the worst possible outcome. But much of the talent returns this year, and with promising additions in players like Chris Sale and Jarred Kelenic, the 2024 World Series is the Braves’ to lose.

Not dissimilar from October, fans wore blankets and filled Truist Park for a chilly home opener. It was a brief but special celebration with unabashed pomp and circumstance. The fans come for the reunion—to reaffirm their loyalty and bond to not only the team but also one another. Hours before the game, the team participated in the traditional Braves Walk, a stroll down Battery Avenue to greet thousands of fans lining the street.

For Caleb and Samantha King from Bryson City, North Carolina, the home opener is a way for Caleb to introduce his new wife to his childhood. “I have been a Braves fan since I was 5, and I want her to enjoy it too,” Caleb said. “Between the last day of last year and the first day of this year, it felt like I was twiddling my thumbs. Braves baseball is back, so I’m back. We’re back. Being here and seeing our team is just so exciting.” Samantha added, “I get it now too.”

Adrienne and Maria Roberts are season ticket holders and Atlanta natives. They return each year as a mother-daughter tradition. Adrienne has attended Braves games since the mid-80s, and she now goes to over 30 in the year with her daughter. “We’re loyal people, so we give everything to this team,” said Adrienne. “The anticipation is crazy this year; I’m already thinking about the postseason. This team just needs to get past the NLDS and beat the Phillies, and when we do, it’s a wrap.”

The Braves home opener is just one game in a long season. But to the fans, it’s everything.
Braves fans celebrate during the 2024 home opener

Photograph by Xavier Stevens

But first, a good test via the Arizona Diamondbacks, the National League representatives of the 2023 World Series. The nervous excitement that emanated through Truist before the first pitch was quickly muted. Spencer Strider, the Braves’ bonafide ace, gave up a leadoff home run to Ketel Marte. More hits piled up, leaving the Braves in a three-run hole by the end of the first inning.

Like a great team, the Braves chipped away at the deficit. Marcell Ozuna singled to score one in the bottom of the first. In the third inning, Matt Olson smacked a solo home run into the Braves bullpen. But Strider continued to struggle in the fourth, giving up three hits, walking two, and letting up two more runs for a score of 5–2. (On Sunday, the team performed an MRI on Strider and found an ulnar collateral ligament strain in the elbow of his throwing arm. Strider is now on the 15-day injured list.)

Jose Daniel Delgado and Ruben Rodriguez, from Costa Rica, planned their business trip to the U.S. to land on the same weekend as the home opener. “I became a fan in 1995,” Delgado said. “We used to only get the playoffs at home, so I loved that World Series team.”

Today, Delgado streams the games through MLB.tv to watch each game of the Braves season. Delgado and Rodriguez bought standing room tickets and watched the game from the outfield stands, where they made fast friends with other Braves fans through the ups and downs of the game. “Everyone is so invested in the moment with you,” Delgado said. “It made me never want to lose faith.” Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled to score another run in the bottom of the eighth inning, now a more plausible two-run game going into the ninth.

“I told Rod that we had [Austin] Riley, Olson, Ozuna up, so we have to believe in a comeback,” Delgado said.

“No one will believe this, but today, I had a weird dream that I was bitten by a snake on my foot,” Rodriguez said. “I woke up, took off my shoe, and there was a scorpion in my shoe. So it was fate to me that I had that dream and then didn’t get stung. When Jose said that, I told him, ‘The scorpion confirms it.’”

The Braves home opener is just one game in a long season. But to the fans, it’s everything.
Braves fans celebrate during the 2024 home opener

Photograph by Xavier Stevens

As if it was meant to come true, Riley reached first base on an error by Diamondbacks shortstop Blaze Alexander. Olson doubled to drive in Riley. 5–4. After Ozuna grounded out, Kelenic hit an improbable bloop double that landed perfectly between two Diamondbacks. 5–5. The Braves couldn’t win it in the night, so the game went to extra innings—bonus baseball for the home opener.

In the tenth inning, Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a towering single off the wall to walk it off. 6–5. Braves win. “Imagine our reaction,” Delgado said.

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