Found February 01, 2013 on
Fox Sports South:
Similar to many young baseball fans around the country in the 1990s, Gerald Laird was served a steady diet of Braves baseball and "America's team" promotions in sunny Southern California.
A benefactor of former team owner Ted Turner's national dissemination of the Braves from 1973 to 2007, Laird was sold on his favorite team from thousands of miles away. It was Atlanta. He watched the games every day, 4:05 p.m. Pacific time as long as he finished his homework. That was the one rule.
And he rarely ever missed a game.
"I can remember coming here a couple years ago and it was the old-time Braves game and I can remember seeing, like, Sid Bream and like, 'Jesus Christ, these are all the old guys I watched.' (Mark) Lemke and (Jeff) Blauser and all those guys," the 33-year-old catcher said. "I was always a Braves fan. Huge Braves fan. Huge. And now I get to play here."
Laird signed with Atlanta in the offseason after making the trip to the World Series for second-consecutive season in 2012, this time with the Detroit Tigers, losing in four games. He won a title with the Cardinals the season before. If his career is forming into a pattern, the Braves organization he grew up following can only hope it continues after locking him up for two years, 3 million back in November as a backup to (and insurance policy for) Brian McCann.
With the team's six-time All-Star behind the plate coming off shoulder surgery McCann said he expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day, but his return date is still up in the air Laird could very well become the Braves' first Opening Day catcher not nicknamed B-Mac since Johnny Estrada in 2005.
If it comes to that, the career .244 hitter says he'll be ready.
"Last year I had a couple stints with (Tigers starter Alex) Avila going down and I feel like I can play every day for any team. And that's why I think teams have looked to sign me early because I feel like I can bring a lot when their starter goes down," said Laird, who played in 63 games for the AL champs. "I feel like I can fill in for a couple weeks, a month, whatever it takes at a time. I knew the situation. When (McCann) comes back, it's gonna definitely help the ball club, but I'm just here to be ready to play."
To account for that necessary preparation, Laird turned down an invite to play for the Mexican national team during the World Baseball Classic despite Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reasoning that it was "the chance of a lifetime." Instead, Laird plans to arrive early to spring training, get to know his pitching staff, start studying film and develop a certain comfort zone before the season approaches.
There's a reason pitchers and catchers report before any other positions it's the quintessential symbiotic relationship on a baseball field. Talk to either party and they'll be quick to point out the necessary functions of the other.
Walking into game situations without developing a pitcher-catcher repertoire can disrupt the entire rhythm and flow of the game.
"That's the biggest thing between pitchers and catchers is developing that relationship," said spring training invitee Alex Wood, the team's 2012 second-round pick who participated in the team's early pitching program. "They know what you can do. They know when you like to do it. That relationship only grows with the more times you guys are throwing together in bullpens before the game and in the game. It's like dating somebody pretty much."
So Laird will show up early to start his homework for the Braves once more, only this time he'll be studying the tendencies of Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel as well as the inclinations and quirks of hitters around the National League instead of Maddux or Glavine pitch on his TV screen.
One thing he's learned over his 10 seasons: It's a time-consuming process.
"Sometimes I don't think people understand the importance of catching. I mean, it's tough, especially when you're with a new ball club and you don't know the staff," Laird said. "I mean, I don't want to go out there Opening Day and be catching Huddy (Tim Hudson) or whoever is pitching on Opening Day and only catch them twice in camp. Next thing you know there's a big situation and we're out there not on the same page.
"I just want to make sure I get these guys."
BEST OF MAXIM
With Chipper Jones' uniform No. 10 likely to join the former third baseman in retirement, Justin Upton will switch to No. 8 in Atlanta. However, the newest Brave likely will inherit the future Hall of Famer's one-time slot in the batting order. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has already penciled in the left fielder as his No. 3 hitter, and the Braves go into spring training excited...
ATLANTA -- Single-game tickets for the 2013 Atlanta Braves season will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday (Feb. 4) for select games, via braves.com.
The online-only process for this first on-sale date will feature 55 of the possible 81 home games.
The remaining Marquee- and Premier-tiered games will be available for purchase at 10 a.m. on Feb. 25, through the Braves' Web site, the...
Philadelphia has always been considered the City of Brotherly Love, but the Atlanta Braves are now the Uptown Boys with the Upton brothers. After the excellent signing of BJ Upton earlier this off-season they have finalized a deal last week with the Arizona Diamondbacks to pick up his brother Justin.
Teaming with the Upton brothers is Jason Heyward, giving the Braves the best outfield...
The crack of the bat, the thump of ball against leather, the Steeeee-rike call from the Umps. Ahhh……baseball is getting closer and closer to returning. With Spring Training just around the corner, in about two weeks actually, every baseball fan is trying to speculate about his or her favorite team’s line-up. Will the star Minor Leaguer make the squad, will we finally find our...
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will be experimenting with different lead-off hitters this spring
My article about Andrelton Simmons hitting lead-off got me thinking. Who is going to hit lead-off on Andrelton’s off days? What if he gets hurt or goes into a hitting slump? When you take a look at the Brave’s roster it is hard to imagine who that would be.
Reed Johnson seems like...
Michael Bourn rumors have been flying around all offseason, but he is still sitting there without a job for 2013. We were told how he'd be one of the most highly sought after free agents this offseason, but perhaps those people who said that need to rethink it. Bourn has had plenty of suitors, but talks with him have not even progressed to the stages where we were hearing constant...
The 2012 season was a banner campaign for Atlanta Braves pitchers, especially after the sixth inning.
Among National League clubs last year, the Braves claimed high honors in five major categories for Innings 7-9 (and beyond) -- ranking first in walks allowed (152), second in ERA (2.84), second in WHIP (1.18), third in opponents' batting average (.232) and sixth in strikeouts...
Recently, we pointed out how strong this Atlanta lineup has a chance to be. But how does the Braves lineup compare to that of the defending NL East Champion Washington Nationals?
Good question! Let’s have a look.
As with our most recent post, we’ll borrow Bill James’ projections. Again no one’s projections ever prove entirely accurate–or even close to it. But James’ prognostications...
The Red Sox may have filled the most obvious hole on their roster today by agreeing to a minor-league deal with Lyle Overbay, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.
I was all ready to line up joke after joke about Overbay being old (36) and always hurt, but really on a minor-league deal this is a solid move. He's a patient hitter (career OBP .353 vs. AVG of .270) with plenty of...
The Red Sox have signed Lyle Overbay to a
minor league contract and extended him an invitation to spring training. The
contract includes a clause that allows Overbay to opt out of his minor league
deal with the Sox if he does not make the team roster coming out of spring
Overbay signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 13, 2011 to replace the injured Xavier Nady...
Click the pic to go to the MLB Fan Cave site to log your vote for Lindsay!
BUT LAUREN, I hear you yelling, SHE HAS AN OLD ENGLISH D NEXT TO HER PROFILE. Well, technically yes, but we have some mutual friends and I promised to go to bat for her. After all, Atlanta is her second team and she's an Omar Infante fan! Here's what Lindsay had to say...
Hi everyone! My name...