Shelby Mays has attended every Danville Braves game she could since the team started playing here in 1993.
“I love baseball,” Mays, a Danville resident, said just after receiving an autograph from Danville Brave Griffin Benson at Legion Field on Saturday afternoon. “My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I love it.”
The Danville Braves is celebrating 25 years in the city, and the team held its FanFest at the field Saturday. Fans lined up to get autographs from the team and to meet Blooper, the team mascot.
The season starts with a home game at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Festivities included two autograph sessions, team practice, concessions and games and activities for children.
Leigh Doss, a Danville resident who has season tickets for Braves games, said she enjoys the familial atmosphere.
“We’re Atlanta Braves fans and interacting with the other fans is sort of like a family,” Doss said.
What does her daughter, Faith Doss, like about going to games?
“Not being at home,” she said. “Watching the boys [on the team].”
Ricky Phillips, of Danville, said he started coming to games after his son bought him season tickets as a Christmas gift eight years ago.
“Once we started coming, we couldn’t quit,” Phillips said.
Al Spina, who lives in Pittsylvania County, just had his baseball autographed by the team. He began attending Braves games last year.
“A friend of mine had season tickets,” Spina said.
A father of three, Spina said he likes the kid-friendly outings the games offer in the city.
“It’s a really family-oriented place,” he said. “My kids love coming.”
They always sit behind home plate, and Spina’s wife, brother and other relatives also attend, he said.
“It’s really nice,” he said.
Pittsylvania County resident Carlton Mitchell had his baseball bat autographed by the team. He’s been coming to games off and on since the Braves began playing in Danville 25 years ago.
“I try to go to at least one ball game every year,” Mitchell said.
Also, he orders baseball bats online and has them autographed by the Braves. He has done it every year since the team started competing here — except for the first year, he said.
He even has a bat that was cracked by Andrew Jones — Mitchell’s favorite Brave from the mid-1990s.
“I got a cracked bat of his and got him to sign it for me.” Mitchell said.
For Braves pitcher Luis Gamez, being on the team in its 25th year is meaningful.
“It’s definitely special,” Gamez said in between signing autographs for fans.
Gamez has been playing professional baseball for four years. An Arizona native, he played in 2015 but underwent surgery for an elbow injury he had during a game in Bristol.
A winning season would be the perfect way to mark the team’s quarter-century here, he said.
“No better way to celebrate than to win the championship,” Gamez said.