Aaron, Braves luminaries usher in new era

Hall of Famer, who played in Atlanta-Fulton County opener and was at Turner opener, throws 1st pitch

Aaron, Braves luminaries usher in new era

ATLANTA -- A half-century after manning right field during the first Major League game in Atlanta's history, Hank Aaron stood as one of the many Braves legends who came to SunTrust Park to help the city celebrate the opening of its new baseball home.

"Sometimes you take for granted the great history this organization has," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "When you see everybody come back, you just have to take a step back and realize what organization you are a part of and all of the rich history. Now we're going to start in a new ballpark and hopefully make some more memories here."

Before claiming a 5-2 win over the Padres in the first official game in SunTrust Park's history on Friday night, the Braves welcomed Aaron, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Bobby Cox, Dale Murphy and Phil Niekro to participate in the pregame celebration.

Braves legends introduced

"It was a wonderful night with all of the legends out here," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It was a well-orchestrated and cool evening."

Aaron was on the field for the Braves in the first game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 12, 1966. The iconic Hall of Famer delivered home plate before the first official pitch was thrown at Turner Field on April 4, 1997. And on Friday night, the 83-year-old Braves legend made an accurate underhand toss to Cox to complete the ceremonial first pitch.

Aaron throws first pitch

The Braves also honored their legends by unveiling each of the club's retired numbers -- 3 (Murphy), 6 (Cox), 10 (Jones), 21 (Warren Spahn), 29 (Smoltz), 31 (Greg Maddux), 35 (Niekro), 41 (Eddie Mathews), 44 (Aaron) and 47 (Glavine).

Braves' retired numbers unveiled

Smoltz, Glavine, Jones, Niekro and Murphy were among the club's former players assigned to lead the inaugural Braves Walk through The Battery Atlanta to the Braves' baseball sphere hanging in the Plaza for a Chop Rally.

"It's great to be a part of this group," Jones said. "The Braves are a storied franchise. They've been around forever and they've won 10,000-plus games. I shared the same uniform as arguably the greatest ballplayer who ever lived [Aaron]. So, there is an extreme sense of pride. This is another step in keeping the legacy going."

One day after being honored with a statue outside the new stadium, Cox was provided a chance to enhance the pregame excitement by leading fans to begin the chop while standing in the Coors Light Chop House just before the Braves come to bat in the bottom of the first inning.

Cox leads Tomahawk chop

Other scheduled pregame ceremonies included Georgia native Phillip Phillips performing the national anthem. The ceremonial flyover was assigned to the United States Navy, which supplied Four F/A-18A+ Hornets from VFC-12 out of Oceana, Va., to perform a flyover at the conclusion of the anthem.

Phillip Phillips sings anthem

"This is going to be well-documented and it will be one of the biggest nights in Atlanta history," Jones said. "To be a part of it is something special."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.