NORTH PORT, Fla. — Hank Aaron was in attendance Sunday for the grand opening of the Braves’ new spring home, just 45 miles — and a world away — from where he reported to spring training as a young player in the 1950s.
“It was in Bradenton, Fla. There were two players to each locker,” Aaron said with a laugh. “There is space galore here.”
The Braves opened CoolToday Park — located in the southwest Florida city of North Port — for a 4-2 exhibition win Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The $125 million complex will be the Braves' spring-training site for the next 30 years under terms of their contract with Sarasota County.
After a pregame ribbon-cutting and a ceremonial first pitch by former National League MVP Terry Pendleton, former Braves manager Bobby Cox faced part of the crowd with microphone in hand and proclaimed: “It’s time for Braves baseball. Let’s play ball!”
The occasion was momentous enough that Aaron, 85, flew in from Atlanta at the invitation of Braves chairman Terry McGuirk.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a suite that bears his name — the Aaron Suite — the Braves icon marveled at the evolution of spring-training facilities through the decades.
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