Fort Walton Beach Braves fan soon to be a cardboard cutout face in the stands

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

He may not get to go to a baseball game this year in person, but he'll be there in cardboard.

Neyland Schmidt, 7, of Fort Walton Beach, will be sitting in the stands, via a cardboard cutout of his photo, at all the home Atlanta Braves baseball games at Truist Park starting Aug. 17. Neyland is the oldest of four sons to David and Shannon Schmidt. Bennett is 5, Malichi, 3 and Ramsey, 1.

With major league baseball getting a late start this year and playing games without visitors in the stands, Atlanta and other clubs are making up for the in-person fans with cardboard cutouts of fans placed throughout the stadium.

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After young Neyland, a big Braves fan like the rest of the Schmidt clan, saw the "fans in the stands" he asked his dad how he could do that.

Neyland Schmidt, 7, will soon be seen sitting in the stands at the Atlanta Braves home games.

"Let's ask Alexa," said his dad David Schmidt.

Alexa sent them to where they found out how to submit a photo for an Atlanta Braves Country Cutout.

"You had to submit a little bio and a little picture," David said.

Plus there was a cost of $50, which if your photo wasn't selected, the money was returned.

The Schmidt family got a notification this week that Neyland was selected and that his photo should be popping up in the stands just any day.

"I like seeing the cardboard cutouts," Neyland said.

And he's certainly excited about seeing his, so much so that he was willing to give up a dollar of his allowance.

David and Shannon give their sons an allowances of sorts in quarters -- money which they can save, live or give.

"Every once in a while we find things if they want to do it, we'll pay most of the cost but they'll contribute a little bit ... just to have skin in the game," David said.

When they found out the cost of the cutouts, David offered to pay $49 but the boys would have to put up the other dollar.

"Neyland was all about it ... there was no thinking about it," David said.

"But every kid has a different DNA," David said, noting that their 5-year-old, Bennett, is more of a saver.

An Atlanta Braves employee places cardboard cutouts of fans in the seating area behind home plate before a baseball game against the New York Mets Friday, July 31, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore).

"Daddy I don't want to spend that money on this ... I'd rather get a Ninjago LEGO set," David said were the words from Bennett.

The Schmidt family and Braves baseball go way back.

"We've been watching Braves baseball since Dale Murphy was playing," David said. 

"I grew up going to Fulton County Stadium ... watching Sid Bream slide in safe to home in 1992. I just always enjoyed watching the Braves.

"And just like anything else those behaviors sometimes pass down to generations ... and now my older son (Neyland) is a fired up Braves fan," he added.

Smith said with everything going on in the world today, it's been nice to sit and watch baseball with the family.

Going to an Atlanta Braves game is an annual event for the Schmidt clan. Here they are pictured at a game last year.

"It's been encouraging, getting our family together in the living room and having some time together," he said.

But Braves baseball for the Schmidt family is a "generational thing," David said.

"My old man, my mother and all my brothers, each year there's about 18 of us ... go and watch some Braves baseball," he said.

Although they're not sure if going to a game will be feasible or allowed this year, they're happy to watch from the living room and look for Neyland in the stands.

"It'll give us even more to do when we watch Braves baseball," he said.