Spring Training Report: Braves B.J. Upton Ready To Put Past Behind

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton
- photo by Tim Evearitt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The dawn of a new season has allowed B.J. Upton to come to Spring Training with renewed confidence and a chance to find the comfort that eluded him last year, as he spent his first season attempting to live up to the expectations that came with the five-year, $75.25 million contract the Braves had just given him.

Along with dealing with the pressure that came with the lucrative deal, Upton also found it difficult to get acclimated to a new organization for the first time since the Rays took him with the second overall selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

While it was nice to go through this acclimation process with his younger brother at his side, the pressure that surrounded Upton mounted as he got off to a slow start while his sibling, Justin Upton, introduced himself to Atlanta with a torrid stretch that earned him the National League Player of the Month honor in April.

By the time last season concluded, Upton found himself with a .184 batting average, nine home runs and a .557 OPS -- the fourth-lowest mark in Atlanta Braves history, which dates back to 1966. Instead of sulking as he spent most of September in a reserve role, Upton spent the stretch run focusing on making those adjustments that proved too difficult to make in the midst of playing on an everyday basis.

As the season progressed, Upton realized that a mechanical flaw was creating too much inefficiency with the lower half of his body. But regardless of how many times his father, Manny Upton, or Walker made suggestions to create more efficiency with his legs, the 29-year-old outfielder was not able to fix the flaw that led him to strike out once every 2.95 plate appearances -- nearly one plate appearance fewer than his previous career low mark (3.75) the year before.

Recognizing that fathers often have a solid feel for their son's swing, Walker talked to Manny Upton multiple times last summer and kept in touch with him throughout this past winter, when the elder Upton made multiple visits to Tampa to help his son. The fatherly advice helped create the adjustments that led the Braves center fielder to come to Spring Training with a stance that is much less upright than the one that was seen last year.

While Upton has stressed that he did not make too many adjustments to his swing, he has continued to provide the Braves encouragement as he has spent the first week of Spring Training looking much more comfortable and athletic while using a more crouched batting stance.

As he batted .347 with a .849 OPS in the 75 at-bats he compiled during last year's Grapefruit League season, Upton did not provide any indication of what was to come. But a year later, he admits that he exited Spring Training feeling uncomfortable at the plate.

Instead of dwelling on what transpired last year, Upton is determined to follow the advice of Rays first-base coach George Hendrick, who often told him and many others, "Once it happens, it might as well have happened a hundred years ago."

---- Source: MLB.com


SEC Network Debuts Aug. 14 On EPB Fiber Optics

The premier of ESPN’s newest addition, the SEC Network, will debut Aug. 14 on EPB Fiber Optics. Officials said, "The SEC Network is the all-access pass to the Southeastern Conference. It will be available to Fi TV Silver and Gold subscribers at no additional cost on channel 32, and channel 332 HD for Fi TV Gold subscribers with high definition service. "The SEC Network will ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Football Club Off To National Championship Game

The Chattanooga Football Club men's soccer team began their trek to Red Bull Arena on Friday. The team is playing in the NPSL National Championship game which is scheduled to kick off Saturday night after the 7 p.m. MLS game.  Chattanooga takes on undefeated Red Bulls u23 team.    Chattanooga FC supporters pushed for the game to be in Chattanooga after drawing ... (click for more)

Federal Judge Stops Erlanger Foreclosure Of Hutcheson Hospital

In a ruling Friday, a Federal Court Judge in Rome agreed with Hutcheson Medical Center and Regions Bank to grant the request for an injunction, effectively stopping the foreclosure efforts of Erlanger Health System against Hutcheson. In stopping the foreclosure set for next Tuesday, the judge held that the public interest in keeping the hospital doors open was “insurmountable.”  ... (click for more)

Mediated Resolution Reached In TVA Kingston Lawsuits

A mediated global resolution has been achieved in 63 lawsuits pending in U.S. District Court involving more than 850 plaintiffs asserting claims against the Tennessee Valley Authority arising from the 2008 ash spill at Kingston Fossil Plant. The resolution, outlined in documents submitted Friday to the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, comes after nearly two years of ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Orchids And Onions

With record low temperatures being recorded around the South, I didn’t know what I’d find in my garden on the first day of August but – sure enough -- there is a profusion of orchids and onions. The start of college football will be later this month and, with the chilly mornings, fall practice is a far cry from what it will be when the sweltering heat comes back next week. Here’s ... (click for more)