Well today is finally the day every Atlanta Braves fan can attempt to forget the debacle that was the Infield Fly Rule in 2012…
Yes folks, pitchers and catchers reported today to the Braves Complex at Disney’s Wide World of Sports with a clean slate ready to begin a run to the World Series in 2013.
There were even a few big surprises today as newly acquired Justin Upton and Chris Johnson joined Dan Uggla as early participants to camp this spring. Mark Bowman of MLB.com even said Upton and Uggla greeted each other with a big bear hug.
That’s a great sign to see a pair of stars and the new third-baseman there early ready to prove there is a lot of life left in this team after the heartbreaking loss in the one-game playoff and the retirement of the greatest Brave of all in Chipper Jones.
“It’s just kind of time to focus on some baseball, which is the fun part,” Upton said. “We’ve done all the talk about it. It becomes fun when you get here and get around the guys.”
Upton was traded to Atlanta along with Johnson in a deal that sent Mr. Atlanta Martin Prado to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few weeks ago. (Justin) Upton will suit up alongside his brother B.J. Upton who the Braves also signed this off-season. The Upton brothers, alongside Jason Heyward, will give Atlanta one of the elite outfields in baseball and one the Braves have not seen since some of their dominant runs in the 1990s. Heyward and Freddie Freeman actually arrived last week to camp ready to set the tone for 2013.
“You always dread the packing up and leaving home, especially now that I’m (living) in Atlanta,” Uggla said. “But once you get the car packed and you get out on the interstate, you get excited. It’s always nice seeing palm trees coming into Florida. Then once you get here, it is nice just seeing all the faces you’re familiar with seeing every day.”
But with the excitement there is still a lot of questions to be answered in what identity this now young and talented Braves team will embody without Jones. This is the first Spring Training since 1992 Atlanta will hit the field without Jones.
“It was odd looking over and not seeing the old wrinkled bag of bones over there,” senior team member and ace Tim Hudson said of Jones, joking. “But it is different. He’s been a fixture around here for years.”
And despite the jokes, the elder Hudson knows what Jones meant to this team, but feels the 2013 Braves can put together something special.
“It has been an exciting off season,” Hudson told Bowman. “We brought in a lot of talent. We felt like we had a really good team last year, and I feel like we’ve improved in a number of areas. I’m excited. This is reporting day and I don’t remember ever seeing this many guys on reporting day.”
And that folks is a great sign for the fortunes of the Braves in 2013.
M Shannon Smallwood is a baseball junkie and Atlanta Braves expert.
Follow him @woodysmalls.