The Richmond Braves were the AAA minor league baseball affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and played in the International League. Colloquially referred to as the R-Braves, they were based in Richmond, Virginia, where they played from 1966, when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta where their AAA team, the Crackers, had been playing for four years, until 2008. They played their home games at a stadium called The Diamond, which is currently home to the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team. The Diamond is located on Boulevard and features a sculpture of a gigantic Native American brave (named "Connecticut") on the outside walkway. The current stadium was established in 1985 at a site that had been used for minor league baseball since 1954. The former stadium was called Parker Field.
On January 14, 2008, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Richmond Braves will relocate to Gwinnett County, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, in 2009. The Gwinnett Braves will play in a new ballpark, Gwinnett County Ballpark.
Upon news of the move, a fan-run website started a petition to keep the Braves in Richmond. SavetheRbraves.com set up an online petition, hoping to convince Atlanta officials that Richmond would rally to support the Braves. The group hoped to spur enough support in order to make the Braves rethink their plans before it is too late to stop the construction process in Gwinnett. Multiple local radio stations, including ESPN Radio 950, as well as local television and print media reported on the groups efforts. The group collected more than 5,500 digital signatures, and amassing a more than 4,000 member Facebook group. Printed copies of the petition and Facebook group membership were mailed to Richmond Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin, Atlanta Braves Vice President Mike Plant, Richmond Mayer Doug Wilder, and Richmond City Council President Bill Pantele. However, only Pantele would respond to the group, thanking them for their efforts. Braves leadership and Wilder never publicly acknowledged the groups efforts.
The end of the franchise marked 43 years of affiliation or ownership of the R-Braves. It followed an ongoing dialogue between the MLB club and Richmond authorities over building a new stadium that never made any significant development. In 2004, a project was proposed to build a new stadium for the Braves in the Shockoe Bottom district of downtown Richmond. The aging Diamond is said to be in disrepair, including the fact that the field used to flood after heavy rains due to the clay soil under the playing surface. The field was rebuilt before the 2005 season. After Tropical Storm Gaston devastated Shockoe Bottom, the proposal lost some popular support but was still being heavily promoted by some city leaders. The deal with a Washington-based developer fell through late in 2005, but Shockoe is still being looked at as well as the former site of Fulton Gas Works, and Chesterfield County to some extent. There is also discussion of a plan to build a sports complex in the area near the current ballpark.
The Braves played their final game on September 1, 2008, against the Norfolk Tides. They won, 9-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 12,167. After the game players and alumni threw balls and other keepsakes to fans in the stands, and fans were able to walk onto the field.
The International League will not transfer an existing franchise there to replace the Braves. Reportedly, Richmond will remain represented in minor league baseball as a member of a lower-classification circuit, such as the AA Southern League or Eastern League, the High Class A Carolina League, or the Low Class A South Atlantic League.or Atlantic League (independent)