Aug 2, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Jason Heyward (22) rounds third base on his way to scoring during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Chop: Atlanta Braves News 12/24


Cobb retailers expect to score from Braves move

The Atlanta Braves move to Cobb County won’t happen for another three years, but the area’s retailers are already anticipating a surge in business.

Business leaders in the Cumberland area, which will be home to a planned $672 million ballpark and adjacent $400 million mixed-use project of shops, bars and apartments, said they have experienced a boon in interest from retailers since the Braves relocation announcement in early November.

The news comes on the heels of increased interest in the area over the past eight years.

Cumberland Mall, one of the metro area’s oldest shopping centers, saw a dramatic increase in traffic after it underwent a restaurant facelift in 2006 with the addition of Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Stoney River Legendary Steaks. Akers Mill Square, a nearby shopping center, re-invented itself with major restaurant chains, such as Zoe’s Kitchen, Corner Bakery and an expanded LongHorn Steakhouse.

But taking advantage of the Braves move will take work. For every Akers Mill Square, there are dozens of dated strip malls up and down Cobb Parkway that haven’t been touched by the retail fairy. And Cobb Galleria Centre, one of the first shopping centers many conventioneers and tourists may encounter, is struggling at 55 percent vacancy.


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Atlanta Braves: The Best and Worst of 2013

The Best of 2013

2. Freddie Freeman Becomes True MVP-Caliber Player

October 6, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) scores a run past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (17) in the third inning in game three of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

When Chipper Jones retired, many wondered who would step up to be the new leader and face of the franchise. That question was emphatically answered by Freddie Freeman in 2013 as Atlanta’s first baseman produced one of the best seasons in recent history.

Freeman hit .319 with 23 home runs, and his 109 RBIS marked the first time in six seasons that a member of the Braves was able to eclipse the 100 RBI plateau. Freeman’s season was his third straight 20 home run campaign, but, even more exciting was his overall improvement at the plate. Freeman raised his batting average 60 points and hit an off-the-chart .443 with runners in scoring position.

1. Braves Capture First Division Title Since 2005

Despite the ignominious end to the Braves’ 2013 season, they did take the first step toward a new 14-consecutive-division-title streak by putting the first yellow banner atop Turner Field in eight years. While they have a long way to go to match the Braves of the 90s, Atlanta has built a solid group of young talent whose best is yet to be seen.

The Worst of 2013

2. Playoff Beat Down

Yes, the Braves won the NL East title to make it back to the postseason – and then that happened.

The Braves were made quick work of by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the pitching staff who ranked No. 1 in baseball gave up 27 runs in four games while the offense struck out 42 times to cap off a 3-games-to-1 quick exit from MLB’s after party

1. Saying Goodbye to Brian McCann

Everyone knew it was going to happen. McCann’s big contract and sudden wave of nagging injuries meant he was not likely to return to Atlanta after 2013, but fans still held out hope an 11th hour miracle would keep the Georgia native with the Braves for at least one more season. In the end, McCann signed a five-year, $85 million contract to shave his beard and join the New York Yankees.



Honoring Number 22

First Heyward asked to change his uniform number to 22. Then he visited Tammie Ruston, his high school British Lit teacher at Henry County High School in McDonough, Georgia, near Atlanta, and gave her one of his new jerseys.

Ruston burst into tears.

Ruston’s only child, Andrew “Willie” Wilmot, had worn No. 22 when he and Heyward had led Henry County to the 2005 Division AAAA Georgia State High School championship.

Wilmot, a catcher, and Heyward were best friends. “We looked up to each other,” Heyward told “He was fun to be around. Everybody around school loved him.”

Wilmot was a year older than Heyward, and he enrolled that fall at Walter State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee, to play collegiate ball. A year later he died in an auto accident.

Heyward didn’t want to forget him. It wasn’t enough, he decided, to visit Ruston every off-season. He sought a way to honor his friend. Most of all, he wanted to keep Wilmot’s memory alive for Ruston, and for the Henry County High baseball team. What better way than to adopt his friend’s jersey? “There are people who will get together with you when it’s easy to walk the other way,” he told”


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