Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 12, 2014

Braves’ B.J. Upton eager to start over

ATLANTA — B.J. Upton would like a do-over on his debut season with the Braves.

The subject came up when Upton, as part of the team’s winter promotional tour, made a recent visit to Redan High School in the Atlanta area. He was asked by a student if would change anything in his career.

Upton didn’t hesitate before answering, “Anything in baseball? Last year. The whole last season.”

It’s an understandable wish. After signing the biggest free-agent contract in Braves history — $75.25 million for five years — Upton endured a nightmarish 2013 season.

He hit only .184, struck out in more than one-third of his at-bats and was benched. The only highlights were playing beside his younger brother, Justin Upton, in the outfield and seeing the Braves advance to the playoffs.

“Definitely it was tough,” B.J. Upton told The Associated Press. “You know, baseball is going to throw you some curveballs, so to speak.”

After missing far too many curveballs — and fastballs and sliders — Upton is writing off the season as an aberration.

“Maybe not to that magnitude, but at some point I think every player goes through that type of season,” he said. “As long as you can learn from it so that some of the things that happened won’t happen again, that’s all you can ask.”

The new start begins with spring training. Braves pitchers and catchers report on Thursday. The full squad reports on Feb. 18, and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 19.

Upton impressed his teammates and manager Fredi Gonzalez by continuing to spend extra time on his swing through his disappointing season.

“He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” said third baseman Chris Johnson. “He’s always in the cage. Those two brothers are workhorses.”

Assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher said Upton never changed his demeanor, even after losing his starting job.

“He didn’t pout,” Fletcher said. “He just kept working. He was ready for anything that Fredi needed from him. That shows a lot of his character. I look for him to come back and do well. That’s just the type of competitor he is. He’s had a lot of great years and he’s going to continue to do that. I think he’s going to have some great years for us.”

Upton hit 28 homers and had 31 stolen bases in 2012 with Tampa Bay. He hit only nine homers with 12 steals last season.

The Braves need Upton, 29, to at least approach his career .248 batting average.

Upton worked on his swing at his offseason home in Tampa, Fla., where he had a visit from Braves hitting coach Greg Walker.

“My reports from Greg have been positive,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren. “I think he’s approached the offseason well. From what Greg has seen of his work, he thinks it’s steps in the right direction.”

After last season, Wren said Upton may have tried too hard to show he deserved the big contract.

“It’s a deep hole that gets deeper and deeper the harder you try,” Wren said. “We’ve seen dozens and dozens of players go through it.”

Upton said he didn’t expect such a difficult transition to the National League.

“It’s just the nature of the beast,” Upton said. “You come to a new organization and a new league and it’s just a whole bunch of variables that I don’t think you really think of affecting you as a player, and they might have the slightest bit. I don’t think a lot of guys see it really hitting them that hard. It was just a totally different situation.

“Obviously you don’t want it to go that way. I don’t regret it. Maybe it was something I needed to happen. It’s not something I’m going to dwell on. It’s a fresh start and I get to move on.”

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Ant Smith.JPG Anthony Smith ready for new test in college

    Smith was a three-year starter as a Wildcat and quickly worked his way up as a leader on both the defense and the team as a whole.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • Wildcats participate in national 7-on-7 tournament

    The Valdosta High Wildcats have been working extremely hard this summer to prepare for the football season. Summer workouts and a plethora of 7-on-7 tournaments and competitions have kept the Wildcats busy.

    July 20, 2014

  • Valwood.jpg A Different Look

    With football summer workouts in full swing, occasionally the intensity and competitive drive can wane going against teammates. But on Friday, Valwood, Brookwood, Lanier County and Tiftarea Academy broke up the monotony by meeting at Goddard Field for a four-team, 7-on-7 passing league.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • pilcher.jpg Berrien competes in 6-team passing camp

    If Ed Pilcher had his way, Berrien High would never throw the football.
    But that doesn't mean the veteran coach doesn't enjoy the opportunity that a passing league, or the six-team passing camp at Cairo on Thursday morning, can provide his Rebels.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bubba Walker promoted to defensive coordinator

    Valdosta State Linebacker Coach Bubba Walker has been promoted to fill the open posiiton of defensive coordinator for the Blazer football team according to an announcement made by VSU Head Coach David Dean Thursday.

    July 18, 2014

  • Albritton wins NCAA Elite 89

    Courtney Albritton's tremendous 2013-2014 season earned her one more award Thursday night when the Valdosta State softball star won the NCAA's Favorite Elite 89 Winner contest by securing the more votes than any other student-athlete.

    July 17, 2014

  • Justin Roper named Valdosta State quarterbacks coach

    Valdosta State’s hirin of Justin Roper as quarterbacks coach, previously reported by The Times, was officially announced by the school and Blazer head football coach David Dean on Wednesday.

    July 17, 2014

  • Lowndes_Tville 2.jpg Sneak Preview

    Fall practice doesn’t start for another eight days.
    Still, Lowndes High and Thomasville High got a sneak preview of what Friday nights will look like Wednesday morning at Martin Stadium.

    July 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Brooks_1.jpg Making progress

    Four weeks ago, the Brooks County Trojans took Highway 84 west to Thomas County for a 7-on-7 passing league and on Tuesday morning the Yellow Jackets returned the favor, traveling to Quitman for the second 7-on-7 of the summer between the two teams.
    At the first 7-on-7, Thomas County Central had not yet decided on a replacement at quarterback after the school's all-time leading rusher Adam Choice departed for Clemson, but junior Eli Taylor began to make strides towards being the Jackets’ starting signal caller. On Tuesday Taylor's competition got a chance to shine.

    July 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Albritton.JPG VSU’s Albritton advances to finals of Elite 89 contest

    Another round, another first-place finish for Valdosta State’s Courtney Albritton.
    Albritton, the Blazers’ junior softball standout, was the leading vote-getter in the semifinal round of the NCAA’s Favorite Elite 89 winner contest with 1,483 votes in the two-day semifinal round that included 30 athletes. In the week-long first round, Albritton racked up 1,971 votes to lead the 89-person field.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

Blazers Blog
More