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Braves caravan a hit
Team kicks off Southern tour
Braves WEB 1
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons signs a baseball bat for Cindy Moon of Dalton on Tuesday at Academy Sports + Outdoors. - photo by Jared Putnam

Nothing was going to stop Matt and Ethan Chisenhall from meeting the Atlanta Braves.

The Forsyth County father and son pitched a tent outside of Academy Sports + Outdoors on Peachtree Parkway about 9 p.m. Monday.

Some 18 hours later, they were the first of 488 fans to meet Braves players Tim Hudson, Paul Janish, Andrelton Simmons and Jonny Venters, as well as radio personality Don Sutton.

“We slept most of the time,” said Matt Chisenhall, 30. “We went across the street to Waffle House and got us a bite to eat around 2 [a.m.].

“I’ve been a Braves fan ever since I was his age, so I’m trying to instill the same culture with him.”

Ethan, 10, passed the time with his PlayStation Portable as he hoped to meet his favorite Braves player, Simmons. The wait paid off as the Chisenhalls got baseballs, baseball cards and a rare 2008 Braves lottery ticket signed.

The visit Tuesday marked the second consecutive year the Braves caravan has stopped in Forsyth County. This year, however, it served to launch the 15-stop tour of the Southeast.

Cindy Moon wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Moon, 58, came late in 2012 and was turned away. This year, the Dalton native was so excited she awoke at 4 a.m., well before her alarm clock, and started to get ready.

She arrived at 8:30 a.m. wearing a Braves jacket and a necklace with the words “I love baseball!” to find fans wrapped around the building.

“I was still a little bit nervous,” Moon said of the line. “But I thought I’d be OK.”

She was. Moon got Simmons and Janish to sign a bat, while the rest of the team signed balls.

Originally not a baseball fan, Moon became a Braves follower at age 21 when her aunt made her watch the team on TV.

“She watched them religiously, so she got me hooked on them,” Moon said. “We got season tickets and got a [skybox]. We ended up going to a lot of games.

“I was a Braves fan when they were pathetic. Now, this was before the World Series and the playoffs. I’ve been with them through thick and thin.”

Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters lives in Forsyth County, so the drive to Academy Sports was easy.

“It’s awesome,” Venters said. “Our house is 10 minutes from here, so it’s cool to get up here and see some of the guys at Academy [Sports] when I come in to get some hunting stuff. It’s cool to be right in my backyard.”

Although Venters made the All-Star team in 2011 and has a 2.23 career earned run average, he’s practically anonymous.

“I don’t really get recognized too much,” Venters said. “I come in here to Academy quite a bit, so some of the people who work here kind of recognize me. But [I don’t get recognized] too often just by random fans.”

Aidan Kanazawa may have been the happiest to see the Braves. The 4-year-old perfectly pronounced the name of his favorite player, Simmons, and let everyone know he played Little League baseball.

“He’s the best shortstop,” Kanazawa said of Simmons. “I play all the positions, [but my favorite is] shortstop.

“I’ve been to the Braves games a lot of times. I’m going to play for the Braves.”