#TGW: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

This is the latest in a summer-long #TGW series featuring student-athletes participating in the 2018 Fifth Street Bridge Program, Georgia Tech athletics’ summer internship program.

There’s nothing like a summer day — or night, for that matter — at the ballpark.

Georgia Tech softball rising sophomore Lilly Hooper will attest to that.

Hooper, who played in 53 of the team’s 54 games her freshman season for the Yellow Jackets, is making SunTrust Park her field of dreams this summer, interning with the Atlanta Braves.

“I’m enjoying it so much,” said the Cataula, Ga., native, and avid Braves fan, who remembers going to her first game at Turner Field at around age 7. “There’s something about being at the park that I just love. Growing up I used to watch the Braves every night with my mom so I’m a huge Braves fan. Being at the park every day is awesome.”

Hooper knew she wanted to do some kind of internship in addition to taking her classes in accounting and linear algebra and knew Georgia Tech provided a great starting point.

“Georgia Tech is right here in Atlanta so there are just hundreds of Fortune 500 companies just waiting for Tech students to come apply for different positions, internships, summer jobs, things like that,” she said. “Near the end of the season I decided I was going to stay at Tech and take classes. I was doing that part time so I figured I might try to get some work experience because that always looks good to future employers. Being a huge Braves fan, I decided to apply and I got a job on the promotions team, which mainly deals with kids in The Sandlot. It’s lots of fun. It’s been a good time so far.”

The Sandlot is a kid-friendly zone located in centerfield, behind the scoreboard with activities for youngsters, including a climbing wall, a zipline, and lots of games of skill.

Hooper works Braves home game days, usually arriving at SunTrust two-to-2 ½ hours prior to first pitch. She’ll work in a variety of roles for the promotions team. Versatility is right up Hooper’s alley, as on the field for the Jackets, she made starts at second base, third base and shortstop and batted in six different spots — second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.

“It varies a little bit when we get to the park,” she said. “Prior to the game we’ll have a pregame meeting and then (The Sandlot) gates open anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half early so once the gates open we work the games, let the kids come over and check stuff out. Sometimes we’ll have to get there a little early to set up for bobblehead giveaways or something like that.”

Once the Braves game begins, Hooper keeps an eye on goings-on within The Sandlot, but there are giant video screens nearby, so she can check out a highlight or a particular at-bat — for obvious reasons, she’s a fan of Braves middle-infielders second baseman Ozzie Albies and shortstop Dansby Swanson. She’ll usually get to leave on final out, as The Sandlot closes after the seventh inning. Of course, occasionally, there are other perks, like getting to see some of the postgame events.

“Sometimes, like Friday night we had a fireworks night so we had to kind of block off the fireworks area — which was also another cool aspect of the job — that we got to watch a great fireworks show,” she said. “We get to work the (postgame concerts) as well.

“Fireworks and concerts. It’s terrible,” she joked.

The internship actually works perfectly with Hooper’s schedule. She admitted that being around SunTrust Park, the Braves and baseball makes for the perfect release following time spent dealing with her classes. It’s certainly a great way to gear back up for softball. She expects to work through June and July, concluding with the Braves’ nine-game homestand Aug. 10-19 — classes and softball activities commence around Aug. 20. Until then, she’ll continue to live her dream, as her team continues what is becoming a dream season.

“That’s another thing that’s so exciting about working for the Braves, they’re having such a great season,” she said. “It’s super-exciting to watch. I know the fans have loved it. It’s great.”

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