06/23/2003 3:29 PM ET
Sheff's Chefs cook up wild support
Cheering section has expanded across the league
ATLANTA -- As the Braves continue their quest toward a 12th consecutive
division title, there are a few young individuals, otherwise known as
Sheff's Chefs, who are creating a sense of excitement at Turner Field
and seeing themselves cloned at other parks around the league.
By Erik Carlson / MLB.com
From the core group of nine Chefs who first dropped the oversized
homemade banner and home run counter on April 22, the Chefs have spread all
throughout Section 435 and the Braves front office has begun supplying
paper chef's hats for the group to pass out to other fans in their area.
"The popularity of this cheering section was not in the recipe," Josh
Chodnovsky said. "I really thought we were going to be on TV just
Chodnovsky said he began thinking about creating a cheering section
clad in aprons and chef's hats in honor of Braves right fielder Gary
Sheffield last season. While he was in between jobs this spring, he was
able to see his idea come to fruition.
While the group continues to grow, it is still the core members who
provide the most vocal support for the Braves. Their throats are sore and
voices haggard but they still cheer on during games, even those such as
Sunday's when Sheffield wasn't even in the lineup.
The original idea for this group came to Chodnovsky and co-founder
Chris Geihsler while they were regular inhabitants of the lively and
loud Georgia Tech student section during home football games.
"This is a good way to be weird and people like it," Chodnovsky said.
Chodnovsky said that while the Chefs are in honor of Sheffield, they
support every Braves player.
One of the Chefs' favorite newcomers is relief pitcher Jung Bong. The
rookie left-hander said he hears the Chefs every time he exits the
bullpen located in right-center field.
"It is pretty exciting hearing them chant my name," Bong said. "It
helps; it gets me pumped up."
During Sunday's game, the Chefs became bakers in support of reserve
outfielder Darren Bragg, who was playing right field in place of the
resting Sheffield. Instead of Sheffield's career home run count, the Chefs
hung the number 42, in reference to Bragg's career homer total.
The change in his honor did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by
Bragg, who motioned up to the Chefs during warmup throws before an inning.
"I just wish I could have made it 43 for them," Bragg said.
"The popularity of this cheering section was not in the recipe. I really thought we were going to be on TV just
-- Josh Chodnovsky, co-founder of Sheff's Chefs
Turner Field has not been the only kitchen for Sheff's Chefs as
there have been chef sightings in four cities in which the Braves have
played. Geihsler said that those sightings did not have to do with any
prior planning by the Atlanta chefs. Of those dressed as Sheff's Chefs in
Los Angeles, Houston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, only the LA chef had
any contact with the Atlanta group.
"I didn't do this to get popular," Chodnovsky said.
This has all turned out much better and bigger than Chodnovsky had
planned. The group toyed with a couple of names, players to support and
gimmicks including: Chipper's Skippers, in which the group would all wear
sailors outfits. They also proposed Castilla's Tortillas in which one
person would wear a tortilla costume and be joined in dance by others in
mariachi costumes each time Vinny would hit a homer.
After contemplating those ideas, Chodnovsky said the Chefs seemed to be
the logical choice.
"It all worked out," Chodnovsky said. "This is where the seats are
[right behind where Sheffield plays in the field]. His name is privy to a
rhyme and he is a good person who pays attention to his fans."
Before Saturday's game against the Orioles, the Chefs got to meet
Sheffield for the first time. Chodnovsky said Sheffield thanked them for
their support, offered them better seats in the stadium and talked about
the possibility of taking the show on the road for a few games.
Sheffield said as long as it means more to Braves fans no matter where
the game is played, he is all for having the Chefs around.
"It's what the game is all about," Sheffield said. "It keeps you
involved. You concentrate even more now."
Sheffield said this is not the first time he has had a cheering
section. During his time with the Marlins there was a section called Sheff's
Kitchen, but the Chefs differ from the Kitchen because it was
established by his foundation while the Chefs is a section initiated by fans.
While a group of young men and women barely out of college starting
their own fan section might sound like a combination for rowdiness and
improper behavior, Turner Field usher Ernie Ryan said if the Chefs are in
his section he knows he isn't going to have to worry about any trouble.
Ryan said he enjoys the Chefs so much that he even buys a ticket on
his days off from the park to come sit with the group which has given him
the nickname "Old Poppa Chef."
Chodnovsky and Geihsler have supplied the recipe for excitement and
the Braves have responded by going 21-5 at Turner Field since the white
hats made their first appearance.
"I hear them all the time out there," Sheffield said. "Anytime you
have people coming out there to support you like that, it motivates you
to do something special for them. I hope they're there all the way
through the World Series this year."
Erik Carlson is a student at Ohio University, and an intern at
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball
or its clubs.