When the Braves play, some of their best ‘hitters’ swing drumsticks

Baseball teams revere “five-tool” players, those once-in-a-generation superstars who come along and can do it all on the field.

Over on the Heavy Hitters squad, meanwhile, everyone’s a five-tool player.

Maybe the most high-profile of the Atlanta Braves’ entertainment teams, the Heavy Hitters are one of the most elite drum lines in a city where you needn’t look farther than a movie screen to know just how much that means (both “Drumline” movies were set and filmed here). Their high-energy, higher-decibel routines on The Battery — not to mention the laugh-out-loud nicknames on their Braves jerseys — have made snare drums and cymbals nearly as big a draw as bats and balls during home games at SunTrust Park.

“Drums speak to people,” said Anthony Aiken, aka “Bowzer,” the Heavy Hitters’ captain and a nine-year veteran of the squad. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

Beautiful, but not exactly a walk in the ballpark for anyone looking to join the line. In early February, dozens of accomplished drummers from metro Atlanta and beyond began auditioning for the few open slots on a “team” that plays all 81 home games, plus as many as 100 off-site events during the off-season. The Heavy Hitters’ routines use four different types of drums, plus cymbals, and every member must be proficient in all five.

 accessAtlanta: Things to do in Atlanta by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Apple Podcasts 

 RELATED: Spending Atlanta Braves opening day - and night - in the new hotel next to SunTrust Park

“We like to call people ‘all-rounders,’” Aiken said as auditions were about to get underway inside the Chop House at SunTrust Park. All around him, hopefuls milled about, chatting and nervously drumming their fingers on tables. “We always like to make sure people have the nice wheelhouse of skills because we may use you for anything.”

But a winning personality counts for as much as being good with the sticks.

Actually, it may count for more, says the man in charge of the Heavy Hitters, mascot “Blooper” and the new break dance team, among other fan favorite performers at Braves games.

>> Listen on Google Play or Stitcher

“I would rather find a good drummer who could perform and entertain you really well,” said Braves Entertainment Manager Geoffrey Schmidt, “versus a fantastic drummer who can only stand there and play.”

That wasn’t really an option at the February auditions, where two nights of preliminary rounds winnowed the group down to those called back to show their stuff alongside the veteran Heavy Hitters.

“I’m going to ask you to do that again and really move around this time,” Aiken told one aspirant who’d barely budged while expertly playing two different types of drums for the judging panel.

“You have a great smile,” Schmidt chimed in. “Let’s see it while you play.”

Others needed no prompting.

“What do you bring to the team?” Schmidt asked “Legend,” as another would-be Heavy Hitter introduced himself.

“I like to interact with crowds, I’m a real energy person!” Legend responded, then proved it with a snazzy snare drum routine that had him high-stepping around the Chop House while calling out a series of high-pitched  “Woohs!”

Spoiler alert: Legend was one of nine newcomers, including two women, who ended up making the squad. There are 24 Heavy Hitters this year, although they don’t all play at every game (see box). That’s four more than last season, when SunTrust Park and The Battery were brand-new and, Schmidt says, they discovered what a “great canvas” it was for performing.

And how. After the Braves’ thrilling opening day comeback win over the Phillies last Thursday, the Heavy Hitters team performed on The Battery’s so-called “Spanish Steps.” As the Tomahawk Team clapped along and break dancers spun, tumbled and even walked on their hands down the steps, the Hitters’ rhythmic pounding lit up their drum rims in different colors that flashed against the dusky night sky.

As Legend might say:


Starting April 5, you can listen here to a new AccessAtlanta podcast about the Heavy Hitters, including sound from the auditions.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Utah clinches series with win over Washington State
Utah clinches series with win over Washington State

BREAKING: Reserve QB Stetson Bennett IV has decided on his football future
BREAKING: Reserve QB Stetson Bennett IV has decided on his football future

The “Mailman” has decided where he will be delivering spirals this fall. The preferred walk-on will be doing so at a new address. The No. 3 quarterback on the Georgia depth chart will head to a junior college to play this fall. He’ll play there and look to parlay that experience into another opportunity in college football...
5 things to know about the Braves’ third consecutive loss
5 things to know about the Braves’ third consecutive loss

BOSTON – Five things to know about the Braves’ 8-6 loss to the Red Sox on a muggy, sunny Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 36,510 at Fenway Park. 1. The Red Sox have won eight of 10 and improved to a season-best 20 games over .500 (36-16), becoming the sixth team to win at least 36 of their first 52 games this century. The others...
Oklahoma softball: Sooners dispatch Arkansas to reach WCWS once again
Oklahoma softball: Sooners dispatch Arkansas to reach WCWS once again

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma pitcher Paige Parker didn’t know when the tradition started, but the senior couldn’t wait to continue it. When the Sooners achieve a Women’s College World Series berth, the team goes to the outfield at Marita Hynes Field, dislodges the panel that displays the most recent trips...
Braves quotes after Saturday’s 8-6 loss to Red Sox
Braves quotes after Saturday’s 8-6 loss to Red Sox

BOSTON -- Braves quotes after Saturday’s 8-6 loss to the Red Sox, their fourth defeat in five games on a six-game trip that ends Sunday. “Just wasn’t clicking. I don’t know, he’s bound to have one of those. He just had to work so hard over the (three) innings. Just didn’t have it.” “Yeah, but even with...
More Stories