A few years ago, before the boom in ballpark construction at both the major and minor league level, Macon's ancient Luther Williams Field would not have been much more than your typical diamond in the rough. But as the older, historic stadiums are swept aside for more modern versions, it can now be appreciated as one of the few remaining gems from a bygone area.
As with all ballparks that have spanned many decades, Luther Williams Field has a sense of pride and history that such a place can only assume with age. For example, baseball's first commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, threw out the stadium's first pitch in 1929, when the Macon Peaches played here as an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Although professional baseball abandoned Macon for a period of three years from 1988-90, it would return with a more appropriate affiliation. After years of hosting farm clubs for the Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, and Pirates, Macon became a Class-A Atlanta Brave franchise when baseball returned in 1991.
Located just 80 miles from Atlanta, many current Braves first made their impact in Macon. Chipper Jones was part of the inaugural Braves team in '91 and 2000 N.L. Rookie of the Year Rafael Furcal made the jump to the majors directly from Macon.
As for the ballpark itself, highest among the fond memories I took with me is the stadium's beautiful exterior. Walking up to the unique entrance gate of the picturesque brick ballyard, you quickly note the classic inscription "Macon Base Ball Park" on the stadium's facade. The all-brick entrance gate is flanked on either side by a ticket booth and when you walk straight through you will come upon a wall that lists all of the former Macon Braves that have since gone on to play in the major leagues.
A unique stadium treat from the concession stand features a twist on the classic ice cream in a mini-batting helmet. In Macon, they instead fill a larger-sized batting helmet with chili and cheese nachos, which I would highly recommend if you go. Another nice perk to the easily accessible stadium is the abundance of complimentary parking.
About the only drawback I could find was the thick screen that protects fans from foul balls. Almost stretching from end to end of the main grandstand, the netting made it hard to pick up fly balls. After a few innings I moved to the right field bleacher seats, where I was able to witness some of the Braves bullpen relievers egg on some younger fans in a between-innings screaming contest. The interior of the ballpark, by the way, lacks the frills you find on the outside, and with the exception of the team's Web site address emblazoned upon the steel beams it probably looks the same as it did 50 years ago.
My final, lasting impression of Macon was when the game concluded and the two-man umpiring crew walked off the field, through the exiting crowd, and headed straight toward the right-field concession stand, where they stopped and loaded up on free lemonade and hot dogs before disappearing into the clubhouse. Up close sights such as these are what makes Class A baseball so special.