Friday, May 31, 2013

Give That Dawg A Bone!

This time last year Alex Wood was in Athens, packing up his stuff and heading home to Charlotte.  There he would wait.  He would wait for the major league draft and he would wait to see what lie in store for his baseball future.  On that drive north, I'm certain that Alex Wood had no idea that just over a year later, he would take the mound at Turner Field.

With his mom in tears and his dad hanging over the dugout and taking pictures, Alex ran out from the Braves bullpen at the top of the ninth inning.  I can't even imagine what his parents thought an inning earlier when they saw the sign in left field..."Warming Up In The Braves Bullpen #58 Alex Wood".  That's probably when mom started to lose it.

The pressure was low as the Braves were up 11-3.  Perfect situation for the rookie.  Wood gave up a single to Colby Rasmus but ended the inning by getting Maicer Izturius to ground into a double play.  He was so caught up in the moment that he didn't even think about the game ball.  Freddie Freeman, the bobblehead celebrant of the evening, tossed the trophy to his newest teammate.

Why now and why Alex Wood?  The Braves bullpen became one pitcher short when the team decided to carry three catchers.  Additionally, the Braves had suffered two huge lefty-reliever losses to Tommy John surgery.  Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty are gone until next year and the Braves were suddenly pitcher-thin.  Righty Jordan Walden came off the DL but the Braves still needed another left-handed arm.  Alex, with his unorthodox delivery style, had impressed the coaches and players this past spring.  The Braves had drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft and he was pitching well in Double-A Mississippi.  So, 24 hours after being called up, Alex Wood made his major league debut. 

His best friend, former teammate and inspiration, Chance Versey was there early and watched batting practice from the Braves dugout.  As he took the field in the ninth, Alex said he could here woofing coming from the stands, very possibly from friends and some Georgia football players who made the trip down from Athens.  And then there were the parents.  They were fun to watch!

Alex summed his night up best.  "There's nothing like it.  I wish everybody could experience the feeling I had tonight at some point in their lives."

Photo courtesy of Hometown Headlines

There is always a downside for one player when another makes his debut.  Third baseman Juan Francisco was designated for assingment in order to make room for Wood.

Alex Wood in a glance:

Career record at the University of Georgia:  13-10 with 3.57 ERA in 32 games.  He made 32 starts, pitched 204.1 innings, had 180 strike outs and
walked 47 batters.

85th overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft.

Redshirted the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009.

Spent the 2012 season pitching in Single-A Rome. 

Invited to Spring Training in Orlando this season, then pitching in Double-A Mississippi.

Dad is a lifelong Mets (yikes!) fan and as a child, Alex split his loyalties between the two.  Hopefully that is now rectified!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Saying "Thank You" Isn't Enough

As a child I never really understood the true meaning of Memorial Day.  In my circle of friends, it always marked the winding down of the school year and the countdown to the freedom that lie ahead in our wondrous summer.  Our freedom was just within sight. 


I'm not sure when it changed.  Was it was part of growing up and understanding the sacrifice of others?  Was it seeing the first Gulf War coming to life on an office television at my first 'real' job?  It doesn't really matter when it happened.  All that matters is that it did.

Thank you to all who have served and protected the United States of America.  You have provided us with a wonderful way of life.  Your sacrifices have given us so much.  We can never repay you for what you have given us.  We can only thank you.  And thank you just doesn't seem to be enough.

Here are some photos from Military Appreciation Night at Turner Field.



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bless Me Father...

...for I have sinned.  It has been four months and one day since my last post.

I've let quite a bit of baseball slip by.  Spring Training.  Opening Day.  First two months of the season.  I won't give you an excuse.  Just my apologies.  For those of you who asked where I was, thank you for missing me!  That warmed my heart all the way down to the tips of my spikes!

So, what has been going on in baseball and, more importantly, Braves Country?  So very, very much!  Here's the Reader's Digest version (the kid's won't get what that means)

The Braves got out the gate in fast and furious fashion. The team won three division series, versus the Phillies, Marlins and Nats (the latter two being sweeps) but were humbled at the end of the month by losing three of four to the Pirates and then getting pummeled in Detroit.  That series was painful to watch.  The Braves ended the month 15-8 and are 13-9 (so far) in May.  We've seen a tough series in San Fran (1-3) and sweeps of the Dodgers and Twins.

The Braves have played on the road more than any other team in the majors.  21 games at home and 29 on the road.  I really don't understand the rationale of the schedule makers.  In fact, it's really kind of bizarre.  In one April road trip, the team visited Pittsburgh, Detroit and Denver.  Game time temps were often in the 40s or lower and one of the games in Denver was actually snowed out.  Meanwhile, Atlantans were basking in an absolutely glorious spring.  Sunny, breezy days with highs in the 60s!  What the heck were the powers-that-be thinking!?!  Ask any team, do you want to visit Atlanta in April or August?  April wins hands down.  As for Pittsburgh, Detroit and Denver, an August game would be spectacular.  One word for the schedule makers.  Der.

The big story going into spring training was the Upton brothers and since then, the excitement they've created is beyond compare!  The energy on Opening Day was unbelievable!  The boys lived up to their billing the first week of the season.  Facing the Cubs in just the fifth game of the year, the Braves found themselves trailing in the bottom of the 9th.  B.J. tied the game with a home run, his first as a Brave.  Two batters later, Justin won the game with his own home run. With their parents in the stands, the Uptons became only the fourth pair of brothers to hit home runs as teammates in the same inning.  It's happened once before for the Braves.  Hank and Tommie Aaron did the same, 41 years earlier.

Tim Hudson won the 200th game of his career game on April 30th.  And the game he pitched was an absolute gem!  To ensure that the third attempt was the proverbial charm, Huddy helped himself out by hitting a double and then going yard!  Hudson was philosophical about waiting for the milestone and was thrilled to get the win at home.  His battery-mate said catching the game was an honor and privilege.  That's one step closer to Cooperstown for one of the game's most underrated players.

See, this is what happens when I don't write for awhile.  This post is getting waaay too long!  I'll cut to the chase on the rest of these.

Craig Kimbrel notched the 100th save of his career.  He's blown two saves so far, but true to form he's bounced back just fine from each.

It took until May 18th for the Braves to start their 'true' starting line-up.  The season began with Brian McCann on the DL from off-season shoulder surgery.  Just before B-Mac's return, Jason Heyward went out due to an appendectomy.  Overlapping those two was Freddie Freeman's stint on the DL.  It took little while but the roster looks great!

Evan Gattis is baseball's surprise star and the biggest story in the majors right now.  He's batting .256 with a .576 slugging percentage, an .883 on-base percentage and he leads the Braves in RBIs.  Evan bests all rookies with 10 home runs, including one grand slam.  He's playing two positions, catcher primarily and then left field.  He's knocked in eight runs on three pinch hit appearances.  El Oso Blanco's story is one of folkloric proportion and that has earned him is own post, coming very soon!

Chris Johnson has turned out to be the sneaky surprise of the Upton/Prado trade.  Chris is at the top of the league in batting with his .352 average and he's playing a great third base.  His bat could possible seal the deal in becoming the teams every day third baseman.

Justin Upton is leading the NL in home runs with 14.  In all of baseball, he's tied with Miguel Cabrera and only Chris Davis (16) has more.

Ramiro Pena is clutch!  The former Yankee is built to play in the National League and he comes through every time he hops off the bench.  He's a huge threat and the rest of the NL is taking notice.

On the injury front, the Braves have lost both Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to Tommy John surgery.  On a brighter note, Brandon Beachy should be back around the All-Star Break.

The Braves are carrying three catchers on the 25-man roster.

Two Braves pitchers have hit home runs this season, the afore mentioned Hudson homer and Mike Minor, who got the first of his career, a two-run dinger last night.

The biggest surprise of all to me?  Jordan Schafer may have actually grown up and gotten his act together.  Who da thunk it?  Not me!!

Gotta go!  It's almost game time!