Minor league Gwinnett Braves team honors Boston
They might not be in Boston, but one team paid tribute to Boston in a big way when the Pawtucket Red Sox came to town. In Georgia, the Gwinnett Braves held Boston Strong Night at their Coolray Field and helped raise money for One Fund Boston.
The team went the extra mile, adding some Boston touches to their park and routine. The background of the videoboard was turned green and players changed their walk-up songs to those of Boston bands like Aerosmith, the Dropkick Murphys and New Kids on the Block. And of course, Sweet Caroline was played.
With some former Boston athletes in the area, the night was made even more special. Former Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek threw out the opening first pitch, followed by former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, former Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown and former Boston College and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
“I have two homes in my heart, one here and one there,” Varitek said, via MiLB.com. “Boston will always be a big part of me. But I think everyone feels a connection to Boston now and wants to do what they can to show it. What happened was a hit to the whole country.”
Braves general manager North Johnson and his staff decided right after the bombings they wanted to do something to aid victims. Johnson wanted to wait until the Paw Sox were in town, but thought waiting might make them late to the party, expecting a lot of teams to do something to honor them.
But Johnson’s team ended up being the first, and they raised funds via ticket sales, with $5 of each ticket going to the One Fund. There was also a silent auction including items autographed by Varitek, Harrison, Brown, and Ryan. Varitek and Harrison also auctioned off the chance for golf outings with them, and Brown offered up a basketball training session.
“I’m thankful that we could do our little part,” Johnson said. “The bombing didn’t affect just Boston, it affected all of us.”