Seven weeks have passed and Ken Griffey Jr. still hasn’t shown up. If you run into any of his friends, ask them to tell Jr. that the Braves are heading home tonight and that they’ve decided to ignore his decision to play in Atlanta.
Actually the Braves are heading home with reason to feel good about the fact that Griffey decided to play in Seattle. We haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of Garret Anderson. But while watching him race into left-center field to make a catch yesterday in Lakeland, I was officially convinced that the Braves are better off with Jr. in Seattle.
The modern-day version of Jr. wouldn’t have gotten to that ball. Nor can he display the kind of offensive consistency that Anderson has shown since he allowed his right calf to heal for more than three weeks. When he’s recorded outs over the past three days, they’ve been loud ones.
Did I mention that we’ve been down here seven weeks? I’m certainly not going to complain about having had the opportunity to spend the past 50 days watching baseball in the Florida sun. But I echo the sentiments of Bobby Cox and all of the Braves players when I say that it’s time to come home.
Because I’m fatigued and anxious to return to Atlanta, this Spring Training simply feels like it’s been long. But thanks to Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, it will also prove to be one of the most memorable.
Schafer and Hanson proved why many believe they could have a significant impact in Atlanta this year. As for Heyward and Freeman, they simply exceeded any expectations you’d place on a pair of 19-year-old kids who were experiencing their first big league camp.
Tom Glavine had already notched 19 wins and compiled 65 career starts before Heyward was born.
While utilizing baseballmusings.com and baseball-reference.com to research these numbers, I found that Glavine actually tossed his fourth career shutout two days before Heyward entered this world.
On that Aug. 7, 1989 night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Glavine surrendered four hits to a Dodgers lineup that included Willie Randolph, Eddie Murray and Mike Scioscia.
Now that we’re strolling down memory lane, I’m going to reminisce about some of the most humourous things I’ve heard and witnessed over the past seven weeks.
Jeff Francoeur’s catch: Francoeur caught a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass in the pond behind the visitor’s clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday night. Since then I’ve learned that the right fielder is certainly a novice fisherman, who simply found some luck after he grabbed one of the clubhouse attendant’s fishing pole and threw it into the water.
Braves assistant clubhouse and team travel manager Chris Van Zant, who supplied the picture of Francoeur’s catch, has since told me that the right fielder initially had trouble casting his line further than five feet.
“Just like he always does, he stayed persistent and then ends up catching a fish that guys spend hours trying to catch,” Van Zant said.
DOB’s furor: As I was walking toward my car in Bradenton on Feb. 28, I heard a guy across the street yelling and screaming in my direction. I began to laugh when I realized it was the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Dave O’Brien, whose car had been locked in a lot at a car repair shop.
This might have been one of those “you had to be there” moments. But I’ll attempt to explain the humor by saying that when agitated, O’Brien can make Archie Bunker seem like a lovable teddy bear.
Tiger’s line: For this final tidbit, I’ll simply pull these graphs from my March 13 story about Francoeur:
After Francoeur opened the back nine at Isleworth Country Club with consecutive birdies on March 4, (Tiger) Woods asked, “Who are you?”
Francoeur, quickly responded, “I just wanted to see how the world’s number one golfer reacts with his back up against the wall?”
This prompted Woods to reply, “Yeah, well I was wondering how much time you plan to spend playing in Mississippi this year?”
And with that, I’ll close by saying the dramatic improvement Francoeur has shown over the past seven weeks has provided the most signific reason for the Braves to be encouraged heading into the 2009 season.
The Florida sun has been fun. But it’s definitely time to bring this show home.