Braves Fest provided teammates a time to reunite and grow excited about the upcoming season.
“Getting with [Matt] Olson was fun again,” Braves catcher
Travis d’Arnaud said. “I was going to come in and make fun of him right away, but he opened the conversation with, ‘I know you’re going to make fun of this, this, this and this.’ That caught me off guard. I was in silence.”
Told what d’Arnaud had remarked, Olson said: “It’s the same thing every time. He’s got a couple of things he goes to.”
But everything was new to left fielder
Jarred Kelenic, who was acquired from the Mariners in December.
“It was really fun to meet everybody,” Kelenic said. “Biggest thing I've noticed right away is just the people. Not only the guys on the team and the staff, but the fans too. They're so fun. We had [a Gala Friday night] and we were having such a great time. I’m so fired up to be here. I can't wait to go to work and play for these guys and this organization. You know, I've only been a Brave for like a month or so. And I'm proud to be a Brave. It's like the weirdest thing.”
An estimated 50,000 folks ignored rainy conditions as they converged upon Truist Park and The Battery to enjoy the Braves Fest activities on Saturday. This was just another opportunity for manager Brian Snitker to feel some of that same passion that has existed since he joined the organization in the late 1970s.
At that time, the Braves’ national reach was just starting to grow. TBS was beaming games nationwide. Consequently, broadcasters
Ernie Johnson Sr., Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren were recognized as they walked around San Diego, Houston and other towns on road trips. Dale Murphy and Bob Horner practically became reality TV stars to those who savored the chance to watch what the Braves were doing on a daily basis.
The success of the 1990s strengthened the reach of Braves Nation, which has remained strong courtesy of today’s star-studded team.
“Braves Country is real,” Snitker said. “To see how everybody came out with the weather and the elements is just a strong testament to our fans, who sell this place out throughout the season. It’s rocking every night. The players appreciate the energy the fans bring to this place.”
Braves pitchers and catchers are set to report to Spring Training on Feb. 14, but players will start arriving in North Port at various points over the next few weeks.
Chris Sale lives in Naples, a little more than an hour south of the Braves’ facility. So he’s already started to get acquainted with his new team’s Spring Training site.
Those fans who filled Truist Park on Saturday are prepared for another exciting summer. Last year’s Braves team was one of the best in franchise history. This team has the potential to be even better.
“I was excited before [general manager]
Alex [Anthopoulos] made a lot of these moves this winter,” Snitker said. “I think everybody is excited to get to Spring Training and get this thing rolling.”
There are two Braves in modern history to draw five walks in a game that lasted nine innings or less. The first was Fred Tenney in 1907. Who is the only other Brave to do this?
B) Hank Aaron
C) Chipper Jones
D) Dale Murphy
Saturday was a time to ask Snitker about his latest trip to Hawaii. It was also a good time to ask Michael Harris II about getting engaged and
Austin Riley about his plans to go hunting with Kelenic. Unfortunately, for Max Fried, it was also time for him to answer the question that will surround him as he prepares for what could be his final season in Atlanta.
“It’s out of my control right now,” Fried said. “But the Braves do things a certain way, and I know that privacy and doing things behind closed doors is the way things are done. I respect that. I know I love being here and I’m really excited to get started with this group.”
It's a question that needs to be asked as Fried prepares to possibly be one of the top two or three starting pitchers on next winter’s free-agent market. But as I wrote a couple weeks ago, I don’t think the time is right for Fried to set his price or for the Braves to make an offer.
Harris was put on the spot on Saturday when he was asked what the Atlanta Falcons should do with their first-round pick.
“This is why it’s so hard to be a GM,” Harris said. “I don’t even know which route to go. Should we go offense or defense? It depends on signings and if we get a free-agent quarterback. I would just say if I had to pick, I’d try to get Caleb Williams or Jayden Daniels.”
These two quarterbacks have accounted for the past two Heisman Trophy Awards.
Ronald Acuña Jr. made a brief appearance at Braves Fest and then flew to New York to receive his MVP Award during the annual New York Baseball Writers' Dinner.
There will be lots of chatter over the next few months about how Acuña could top last year’s 40-70 season. He highlighted Saturday night's speech by indicating his best has yet to come.
“I’m just getting started with what I can do in this sport,” Acuña said. “I’m feeling stronger, faster and healthier than ever.”
Mike Petriello actually has some thoughts on how Acuña could be even better this year.
Murphy drew a walk in each of his five plate appearances during a 5-4 win over the Mets on April 22, 1983. His ninth-inning walk positioned him to score on Chris Chambilss’ walk-off single. Aaron and Murphy are the only two Braves to draw five-plus walks in multiple games. Aaron did this in a 12-inning game against the Reds in 1960 and during a 15-inning game against the Cardinals in '72.
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