Ready to put their September 2011 collapse behind them, several Atlanta Braves players showed up to Spring Training nearly a week early on Saturday.
Although pitchers and catchers report tomorrow and positiona players have until Friday to get to the Braves' Spring Training facility at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a large number of Braves position players had already begun taking batting practice in the indoor batting cages on Saturday morning.
Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Eric Hinske were among those who reported early. The only starters who were not there yet on Saturday were Michael Bourn and Tyler Pastornicky.
"This is the first time since I've been coming here that there have been this many position players here this early," third base coach Brian Snitker told braves.com,. "They're here before some of the pitchers. But to a man, I'll bet you they all would have come down here the day after we got beat [to end the 2011 season] to get back and start it up again."
It may have been a 13-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 162nd game of the season that officially eliminated them from the postseason and paved the way for the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, but it still took the Braves the entire month of September to blow an 8 1/2-game Wild Card lead. That fateful month has provided players with even more motivation that usual.
"We went into the offseason with a very bitter taste in our mouth," Uggla said. "Everybody has been doing everything they can to make sure they are prepared for this upcoming season. That's not to say everybody didn't prepare for last season. But we've got a little added motivation this year."
New hitting coach Greg Walker also took the opportunity to get more acquainted with his new team.
"We have an exciting team," McCann said. "Everybody is excited to get going and to redeem ourselves. It's a whole new year, and we need to be looking at it like that. We don't need to be worrying about what happened last year."
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