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
  • 0728-Lowndes practice4.jpg Vikings working out with padded practice, scrimmage on the horizon

    The look was familiar Monday at Martin Stadium.
    The Lowndes High football team’s conditioning practice was essentially a duplicate of the workouts the Vikings have completed throughout the summer.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thomasville_Ryals.jpg South Georgia special for high school coaches

    Phillip Johnson remembers when he had a “Wizard of Oz” moment.
    The North Carolina native moved to Georgia when he was 26 and Johnson, now Lanier County’s second-year head coach, recalls a 7-on-7 tournament leading to the realization that he wasn’t in Kansas — or in his case, North Carolina — anymore.
     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nolin settling in as new VSU soccer coach

    Meet Rebecca Nolin, VSU's new soccer coach.

    July 28, 2014

  • Induction Crowd: Honorees were genuine, down to earth

    More than 48,000 people gathered under the scorching sun at The Clark Sports Center for the 75th National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Sunday, including one woman who carpooled to the event with more than 40 other people.

    July 28, 2014

  • Braves trio all business at inductions

    The Braves seemed almost businesslike in their approach -- something you might expect from a trio that won so consistently.
    Managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa also remained calm and collected throughout their addresses.
    Frank Thomas took care of the emotional side, his voice breaking and his eyes moist during a heartfelt speech Sunday at the Clark Sports Center.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • Cooperstown Merchants: Weekend was a success

    Cooperstown merchants are elated about the exceptionally prosperous Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, several storekeepers said Sunday.

    During an afternoon lull in business, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame's induction ceremony was taking place, area shop and restaurant owners took a quick breath, reflected and expressed satisfaction with their sales for the weekend.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • Hall of Famers thank fathers for stepping up to the plate

    Great ballplayers thanking their dads at a Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is about as original as oil and vinegar are to an Italian restaurant.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hall_Maddux.jpg Hall of Braves

    The weird part was that Jeff Idelson didn't take a lot of time to answer.
    "Is there any word or description that unifies this class?" was the query posed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame's president.
    "The common thread among the six is profound humility," Idelson said of former managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, and former players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, all of whom will be inducted into the Hall today. "I don't think I realized that fully until I spent time with them in December. It was uncanny to me, for the cumulative star power in that group, the humility among them. I think that's felt really strongly with baseball fans."

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • Hall_Cox.jpg Cox’s willingness to defend players stands out to local coaches

    Bobby Cox will be able to add Hall of Famer to his resume when he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today in Cooperstown, N.Y.
    But the former Atlanta Braves manager’s legacy will remain the same to area baseball coaches: his willingness to defend his players.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Valwood_Henderson.jpg Area teams hoping to get over the hump

    Past successes lead to present and future expectations.
    That’s the task faced by pretty much all 12 area high school football coaches present Saturday at In The Game Magazine’s South Georgia Football media day at the Holiday Inn conference center.
    It’s a task that also has the elite group searching for answers as to how to get past the state championship road block in recent years, aside from Valwood’s GISA Class AA crown in 2012.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

Blazers Blog
More