I was fortunate on Monday morning to visit the Wild World of Sports facility in Orlando, Florida for Atlanta Braves spring training practice.
On a day that reached the upper 70’s, I saw some great things from the practice. But I also didn’t see somethings…
Upton and Schafer may have been given the day off or I may have just overlooked them but B.J. was a guy I was looking out for. Simmons arrived to the states on Sunday but flew into Atlanta and was traveling to Florida yesterday.
“Simmons texted me last night and told me he’d be here in a couple of days” Fredi Gonzalez said. “He just got back into the country, flew to Atlanta. He was apologizing for not being here; I said don’t worry about it, you’re not late or anything.”
Now that it’s Tuesday, I saw actions happening on Twitter that says Andrelton has now arrived – dang, a day late for me.
#Braves Simmons reported to camp I’m his usual upbeat mood. Said he’ll be spoiled by all his new rich friends (the long-term deals guys)
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) February 18, 2014
One thing I noticed and something all Braves fans should be happy about and the rest of the MLB a little scared, Freddie Freeman looked like a complete beast during field BP. He was driving the ball to all sides of the field, hitting massive bombs and just looked very comfortable at the plate.
Dan Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky and Mark Hamilton showed up to the cages for extra time about 15 minutes early. Uggla and Pastornicky had many eyes on them in the cages and hitting off tees. For a good five minutes, Uggla worked with a hitting coach on his swing. From what I could hear and see, it sounded like he was working on keeping his hands back, not lunging at the ball and his hand movements before his swing.
Speaking of Hamilton, I noticed him in the cages taking great cuts and hitting everything to the backdrop but then when he was out on the field, it was hard not to notice him. His guy can swing the bat with power. He was hitting the ball further than Freeman. And his swing is really smooth. Meanwhile, doing this all right in front of Frank Wren as he showed his face for only Hamilton’s group. If this guy can stay healthy and continue from what he was doing yesterday, I expect him to be a significant bat off the bench.
Another hitter that stood out to me was Matt Kennelly. He was in the final group being a non-roster invitee and a catcher but he was impressive. Another Braves player that wears no batting gloves, Kennelly was hitting the ball well from the right side. Power and control of the ball spraying it to all fields.
The only guy I noticed that I thought he was struggling at the plate was Ramiro Pena. I don’t think he had the day he wanted but I realized he’s coming off an injury and may not have been pushing it to far early on in the spring.
Jose Constanza stayed after the practice to take some extra fly balls and grounders in the outfield.
Guys who signed for the fans for the longest times, Craig Kimbrel, Uggla, Justin Upton, Freeman and Jason Heyward. Heyward signed before on field BP and then after and was very polite to the fans saying “good morning” and continued to say “thank you”.
If you have the chance to catch a practice, it’s worth the drive. I had a great time and the facility is wonderful and very fan appreciative. Tickets for adults are $16 and for kids nine or younger it’s $11.