It’s a couple hours before the game, and Atlanta Braves fans are strolling through the plaza. They’re greeted by Walter Banks, the usher who has welcomed thousands of fans for the last five decades – from Fulton County Stadium, to Turner Field and now SunTrust Park.
“You can go to all the other stadiums, including football or basketball, and you remember the experience you received just because you showed a smile, a greeting, just a little tip of kindness,” Banks said.
This Friday is bobblehead night. Normally, the figurines feature an all-star player or a Hall of Famer. But this time, the Atlanta Braves are honoring their longtime usher.
“It’s pretty amazing. He has so much history with the team I grew up loving,” said Josiah Prince, a Nashville resident attending the Braves game Tuesday.
“Just talking to him, he’s bringing joy, and people are laughing,” added Gloria Chambers, who lives in the Macon area. “The conversation is so meaningful, very meaningful conversation.”
Banks was born in Atlanta 80 years ago this week. His love of baseball came from his father, who listened to games on the radio.
“Our minor league team was the Atlanta Crackers. And that was just my heart because it had Atlanta across [the front of the jersey]. Anything about Atlanta, I want them to come in first, I want them to win,” Banks said.
In his time with the Braves, he’s seen wins like the 1995 World Series title, and he’s seen losses. But one moment stands above the rest.
“April 8, 1974, the time was 9:07, it was the fourth inning, Al Downing was on the mound, and Hank Aaron was at bat,” Banks recalled.
It was the night Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.
“When Al Downing threw the pitch, he hit it over the left field fence … that was one of the loudest roars,” Banks continued.
For years, Banks has been a fixture in the stands at Braves games. On Friday, he moves into the spotlight as the Braves honor him with his very own bobblehead doll.