NORTH PORT — City officials were subdued in their reaction to Venice’s welcoming festivities for the Atlanta Braves.
“I was there and I see it as a marketing event,” North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke said of the Saturday event put together by Venice Mainstreet along with the Braves. “The (Venice Area) chamber likes to welcome new businesses and I thought it was great that they were welcoming an incoming North Port business.”
Luke said “something big is planned” in North Port before the first pitch is thrown.
“I am not going to give it away,” she said. “I mean, none of the players are even here yet. We will announce something soon.”
On social media, there has been a continuing outcry from some residents feeling besmirched by the Saturday event. A “first pitch” thrown by a Venice official Saturday was mistaken to be the first pitch at the new stadium.
The Braves are playing their final month in Orlando at Wide World of Sports at Disney during Spring Training 2019 — but are finishing Spring Training with their first game at their new home in North Port.
CoolToday Park, in West Villages, is nearly complete. Its first game has its first pitch at 4:05 p.m. March 24. The game is sold out.
New North Port Commissioner Pete Emrich echoed Luke’s thoughts on the Braves.
“I think it’s great that all our communities are promoting the team,” Emrich said. “It’s our park and our team, but we want them to have a good fan base. We have this team here for years. We want them to be supported.”
And the Braves are coming out to support the North Port community.
Some of that support is for the North Port Little League. The Braves, according to Little League Vice President Matt Mitchell, is sponsoring the five major division teams for North Port Little League.
“It (the major division) will be called the Braves’ major division,” Mitchell said. “The teams will still have their basic mascot names.”
Each player in the Little League’s major division will wear a Braves insignia on their jersey sleeves, including the Blue Jays, Rays, Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees.
Commissioner Debbie McDowell, who has protested other towns claiming the Braves, said she did not attend the Venice festivities and could not comment.
Mayor Chris Hanks said it’s important that North Port not complain about other cities claiming the Braves.
“Hey, if you think someone is beating you, then plan to rise up higher than they are. Don’t try to pull them down to where you are. We have to keep that in mind.”