Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Walter Banks Brings Message Of Service - The Dothan Progress

Walter Banks Brings Message Of Service - The Dothan Progress
Jan. 25, 2007

By Robby Smith
Progress Sports Editor
For the past 40 years, Walter Banks has been serving others within the Atlanta Braves organization in a unique way to baseball fans of all ages.

From the opening pitch in April to the final out in October, Banks has become an institution for Braves’ baseball fans.
Banks was a special guest during the morning worship service Sunday at First Baptist Church of Dothan on West Main Street.

Since 1966, Banks has been with the Atlanta Braves, serving as the executive usher for the Owner’s Box in Aisle 107 at Turner Field.

Banks serves presidents, business leaders, players and everyday fans.
He has also worked in the mail room of Rich’s (now Macy’s) for the last 48 years.
Banks also serves as the greeter for the Georgia Dome Press Box during Atlanta Falcons’ home football games and works the gate at Georgia Tech football, men’s and women’s basketball games.

In 2002, he was elected to Georgia Hospitality Hall of Fame.
The Braves Owner’s Suite (by the dugout) was renamed the Walter Banks Suite last year.
He is often called “the walking encyclopedia.” Banks can relate any number to baseball or life.
Banks said he always likes to travel and visit different types of people.
“I always enjoy going to new cities,” Banks said. “I try to arrange my vacations around sporting events.
“On Father’s Day, I’m going to Cleveland to see the Braves play the Cleveland Indians.
“I always like to know about the people in that community. The size isn’t important. It is the people that’s important. When you meet people as warm as The Meck (David Meckley), (FBC) Pastor (Dr. John) Fain, or someone else from Dothan, I can relate to the community and the hearts of the people.

“Most of the people I’ve seen so far have extended themselves.
“The Meck is a special person. He’s the same all of the time. The Meck is like an angel from heaven.
“Dothan is a place I wouldn’t mind coming back to. The first time I go to a new city, I like to see the community. The second time, I like to see the friends I’ve met.”

Among some of Banks’ favorite Atlanta players include former players Dusty Baker and Phil Niekro, along with current young stars Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann.

Banks said working for the Braves has been like a dream that never stops for him.
“It’s a dream,” Banks said. “The dream has been such a nice ride. I hope the dream doesn’t stop.
“I just wish everyone could enjoy the Braves experience.”
During his career, Banks has witnessed major events, such as the first Major League Baseball game played in the Deep South, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak ending, the Braves winning 14 straight division titles, Atlanta’s first World Series title in 1995 and countless other unbelievable moments at Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field.

Banks said it is still important to be a beacon of light for the Atlanta sports community.
“As long as the teams are winning, everyone has a good time,” Banks said. “But I feel like I’m an ambassador for the city of Atlanta. I’d like to be able to exchange the enjoyments of other fans and their teams.”

Despite being a huge sports fan, Banks said his duties at Georgia Tech don’t allow him to see all of the action on the field or the court.

“Being a ticket taker (at Georgia Tech), I usually don’t see the game until halftime,” Banks said. “But it is usually the last quarter when it is the most exciting.

“It’s very rewarding. There’s a richness you receive, no matter how cold or hot it is. You learn how to take care of yourself.

“You see the same people and the same faces.
“You want them to have the Braves’ experience like you’ve been taught or shared. When you enjoy yourself, the time goes by so fast.

“Every game is a trophy game. You can’t take it for granted.
“You have to appreciate what you have today, because it can be gone tomorrow.”
Banks said he has also become close friends with former president Jimmy Carter.
“President Carter is a visitor to Turner Field three times a year,” Banks said.
“Over the years, you get to know him. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the commercial about Georgia tourism and hospitality in Plains, Ga.

“I’ve also hosted people like Colin Powell, Frank Robinson, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, actor Jamie Foxx and Al Downing.

“For 40 years, it’s been off the charts with the people I’ve talked to.
“When you meet somebody, it’s like church, because you never forget the friendships.”