For anyone who thinks that professional athletes are spoiled, bitter, jaded and not fun...you should spend some time at the Walt Disney Sports Complex with the Atlanta Braves.
I realize that some people...including Brother Jon and Brother J-Dub, bristle at the mention of the Braves, but I grew up a Braves fan...and now I get to cover them.
It’s a Mindset...
Maybe it is...and who knows, maybe it’s the reason the Braves got the reputation for not being able to win the "Big One." But, for selfish reasons, it makes things a whole lot easier when you are dealing with a "Laid-Back group of guys..in town to practice baseball...and to have a little fun."
Most successful teams...or for that matter businesses tend to take on the personality of their leaders. Good, bad, uptight or laid-back...look closely at the place you work...or think about the teams that you love...its true...you know that it is.
The Braves take on the personality of Bobby Cox. Cox treats his players very simply. If you are in camp you are expected to take care of your business. Be ready to play when asked and stay out of trouble when you aren’t playing. Those are pretty much his only rules.
Braves Spring Training is a simple ritual. Arrive around 9. Some players will already be there working out on their own. A little before 10, the team will make its way to the dugout...shortly thereafter they’ll hit the field. They run a lap...stretch, throw, take infield, the pitchers go and pitch...the fielders all take turns hitting, they run in the outfield after hitting and the day is done.
Maybe its just me, but I don’t think so. The Braves locker room is a good group of guys. Most hang out together, play golf, fish or do something else outdoorsy during the afternoon and generally go to dinner afterwards. You can tell when around these guys that they like each other.
From John Smoltz’ continuous ripping on Jeff Francouer to Chipper and Andruw Jones messing with every and anyone who walks by...everyone is laughing most all the time.
On Wednesday evening...we had a Local Atlanta TV Media Dinner at a Cuban Restaurant near Disney World. While we were all sitting there cutting up, we hear a familiar “What the hell? You guys actually like each other?” It’s Francoeur eating dinner with Brian McCann and Pitcher Mike Hampton.
Not Like it Used to Be...
It used to be that TV Crews and Newspaper guys would spend Spring Training with the teams for the whole time they were there. Not any more...now they do it like us: Come in for 2 and a half days, get as many stories as you can and get out. Strangely, that makes sense to me. No, you aren’t there if someone gets hurt...but chances are there is a camera of some sorts there. It’s harder to build relationships, but at the same time, you see most of the guys over the course of the year...so its not a total loss.
Spring Training now is nothing like Spring Training used to be. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing...the ideological pining for the youth of a forgotten time isn’t there, but there still is the fun of being around a group of people playing a kids game...and still acting like kids themselves.
“The time has come, my song is over, thought I’d something more to say” Time (Pink Floyd)