The first week of the Braves Caravan tour of select cities in the Southeast is complete, with one more week to go. The map above shows the sites and days for the remaining events, plus a nod to yesterday’s event in Huntsville, with I have a firsthand report on. The full schedule, with current list of Braves’ participants, locations, and times can be viewed at this link.
Reporting From Huntsville
Huntsville, Alabama is an interesting city – just north of the Tennessee River, it is home both to rich farm lands and some of the highest technology firms in the entire Southeast, thanks to the local US Army Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Huntsville and sister cities Madison and Decatur are the 4th, 8th, and 10th largest cities in the state, respectively.
But that’s really not why the Caravan stopped by the Madison Academy Sports location yesterday. It’s because Craig Kimbrel is a Huntsville native.
Easily 500 people were snaked around the store yesterday afternoon for several hours in hopes of getting Craig’s autograph. A number – probably close to 100+ – likely left without as the schedule didn’t permit enough time to get everyone through that line. Nonetheless, there were lots of opportunities for photographs … and I certainly took my share.
The local Sports Radio station – also a member of the far-flung Braves Radio Network – WUMP-730/103.9 was there with Thom Abraham (R) and Jason Marks (L) hosting a live show for the duration. They graciously allowed me to throw in my own two cents about the up-coming season as well. That was highly appreciated. Radio is definitely a different medium from this one!
There were several giveaway bit available: this table featured posters, schedules, and bumper stickers. Justin (at left) is one of the Braves’ ticket salesmen from Atlanta. I spoke with him for a while. He tells me that there are upwards of 250 full time employees that work in the Braves’ Atlanta offices – and that’s not even counting the seasonal/game-day employees. A lot of them spend their days doing just what these guys are doing: promoting the team.
As part of that, Justin and his team were selling season tickets – with several incentives to do so. At his table, a ton of people were signing up for a signed ball giveaway in addition to getting ticketing info. As you can see, Braves’ gear was in full display – even eclipsing the usual Alabama/Auburn gear that normally dominates the attire of this area!
Homer The Brave was also rolling about. I say “rolling” as he commandeered a piece of the store’s tyke-sized bikes for his own use: terrorizing autograph seekers as he roamed the aisles!
But of course, the draw of the event was the players. The ‘advance’ team arrived almost two hours early – having trekked the long way through Canton and Rome, Georgia, then over the mountains (“hills” to most people) via winding backroads east and southeast of Huntsville. The players’ bus arrived just after 4pm local time and they immediately set to work – not a lot of talking, but a lot of writing.
This photo was tweeted out from the official Braves twitter account. From left to right, the participants were C Christian Bethancourt, RHP Gus Schlosser, Kimbrel, and RHP Aaron Northcraft. The three minor leaguers were all members of the (pretty loaded) Mississippi Braves AA club that made the Southern League playoffs this year – despite losing J.R. Graham to injury, Cody Martin to promotion to AAA, and Alex Wood to promotion to Atlanta. I am currently projecting that all of these guys will begin 2014 in Gwinnett.
The PR Staff in attendance opted not to make the players available for interviews, particularly given the volume of fans waiting in line. Understandable. I did have a chance to quickly confirm with Aaron that once he got off the bus back in Atlanta, he was set to start ‘Camp Roger’ – the annual Braves pre-Spring pitching camp with Roger McDowell. As I write this, they are already underway.
Spring is coming soon. Hope you can find your way to a caravan stop this week!