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Craig’s Bucket List – Final Thoughts

Here are a few pictures from the final day of camp when we played the Braves legends. There is a picture of me racing Otis Nixon before the game, a picture of Javy Lopez for all you ladies, and one of me pitching during the game. Plus some clubhouse photos of Dale Murphy talking to us, Sid Bream holding court, and others. I can’t post the video of me pitching against Javy Lopez, Sid Bream, Eddie Perez, Greg McMichael, and Greg Olson because the file is too large. So I plan to get Allison to help me post it on Facebook. Who knows, I may even finally put my picture on my Facebook account. Might get crazy.


When I watched the video of me pitching to Javy, I heard something that I didn’t know about at the time. I have a 3-2 count on him and he had just swung and fouled back a pitch. You can faintly hear him say to the catcher and umpire, “he’s going to strike me out”. Well, I walked him instead but it’s pretty cool that the thought was in his head. Actually, I think it would have been even cooler for him to hit one about 425 feet. That’s a ball I would have had to get signed.

Yesterday, it was back to work so I’m left with my memories, and all of the cool Braves stuff they gave us. One closing thought. I know almost every kid dreams of being a major league baseball player some day, and I am no exception. I use the present tense because I literally still do dream of playing for the Braves. It happens about every few months. The dreams vary but the one constant is that I am always missing something so I never get to bat and rarely get to play in the field. I’m usually missing my cleats or glove but sometimes I get lost and can’t find the field or once I was playing third and there was a brick wall in front of me so I couldn’t see the batter. One time I fielded a grounder but when I went to throw it, it was a Frisbee. Weird stuff that I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a lot of opinions about. So maybe now that I have actually experienced being a major leaguer, my dreams will be complete.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my amazing experience. I really appreciated and enjoyed reading all of your comments and apologize for not responding. But I was usually so dead tired, I could barely drag my butt to bed. I made some good friends on the trip and it will be great when we get together for our reunion at a Braves game in April.

Thanks so so much to Terrie for giving me this trip as a Christmas present. I ranks right up there with getting Tarbaby (my dog, for those of you who don’t know the legend) when I was 6. Thanks to Allison for setting up my blog and fixing my mess ups every night. Thanks to Bud Blide for teaching me how to hit. Even though I didn’t hit great, I would have been clueless if I had tried to use my softball swing. And special thanks to Preston Peavy for letting us use his hitting facility free of charge. If you know anyone who wants to learn to hit properly, this is a top notch program and I highly recommend it. Here is the link:
Most of all thanks to the Braves for putting on a first class major league camp. They promised on the first day that they would do everything possible to make us feel like major leaguers and they definitely succeeded. We had full access to the Braves clubhouse and training facilities and the Braves players treated us like teammates. It was amazing.

Will there be another bucket list item next year? I hope so. Stay tuned.



Craig’s Bucket List – Final Day

Well, today was the last day of camp.  When we showed up this morning there was more SWAG in our lockers, this time a duffel bag with the Braves logo.  It’s amazing all of the stuff they have given us.  So my team (the Pitch Slappers) was 4-0 and we thought we had wrapped up the competition because nobody else was better than 2-2.  But then one of my teammates posted on the white board in the clubhouse all of the teams we had “pitch slapped”.  Well that was brought up in Kangaroo Court and it was decided the rules would be revised to change the tie breaker rule.  That meant we had to win another game to clinch.  So we started slow today and were losing until the 5th inning when we took the lead and wound up winning it.

After lunch, we had a race against Otis Nixon.  I told him I was older than him so he said I could have a 5 foot head start.  But then I made the mistake of practicing a little bit and he saw I had a little speed so he moved me back a little bit.  Anyway, we had a photo finish the first time, I beat him the 2nd time, and he beat me the third time. 

Then each team got to play against the Braves.  All 9 of us batted then the Braves got 3 outs to try to beat us.  I led off and grounded out to Sid Bream at 1st.  But we scored 1 run which is more than most teams did.  So we go in the field and I’m the pitcher.  My first pitch to Javy Lopez is a ball.  The second one was a fastball right down the middle that he swung at and missed!  That pretty much made my whole camp experience.  The next pitch was a ball and the 4th he fouled back.  I couldn’t get him to chase any junk so I ended up walking him.  They scored a run and the inning ended with Greg Olson grounding out to shortstop so we tied.  Let’s face it, I’m sure the Braves legends could have crushed us if they went 100% but it was a pretty amazing experience anyway.

I just got back from our banquet at Maggiano’s where everyone on our team got a signed Martin Prado baseball for winning the championship.  They said we will get something else at the reunion game in April.

Once again, I am tired and sore so I’m going to bed.  I will add some closing comments and photos tomorrow (unless I’m too tired and sore again).

Craig’s Bucket List – Day 4


Okay, it’s after 11:00 and I’m exhausted and so sore I can hardly walk.  So this will be short.  My arm was pretty swollen this morning but it didn’t affect me playing.  I was the starting pitcher again and went 4 scoreless innings.  The Nick pitched the fifth and Tom Glavine came by to the pitch the 6th for both teams.  We won in a shutout so I got the win and Glavine got the save.  You know, just another game.  Having a Hall of Famer help you get a shutout.  Ho hum. The Pitch Slappers are 4-0 now so I think we have locked up the championship.

Every morning when we come in, there is something new in our lockers.  The first day it was a Braves pullover, the second day was a T-shirt, and today some Braves logo golf balls and golf shirt. They really spoil us.  They also give out awards every morning and today I won the MVP award for the morning game yesterday so got some batting gloves.

After the game, we grabbed a box lunch and headed to the golf course.  I was paired up when two other guys and Charlie Liebrandt who pitched for the Braves in the World Series and now lives in Alpharetta.  He’s a 3 handicap so he can really play as can all of the Braves.

Tomorrow, we have a morning game then play the Braves legends in the afternoon.  After that, we have a banquet at night to wrap things up.  It’s kind of sad it’s almost over but I need some rest.  Everyone is  worn out.

Craig’s Bucket List – Day 3 (Better Than Best Day Ever)

Wow, too many highlights today so I’ll try to keep it short.  We started with batting practice and after I hit the first time, Dale Murphy called me aside to give me some tips.  What a great guy.  He spent about 5 minutes with me.  Again, I hit well in the cage but that doesn’t win you any ballgames.

Then we went back to the clubhouse for Kangaroo Court with the Honorable Greg Olson presiding (complete with grey wig and cape).  People got fines for smoking on the field, setting up a shrine in their locker, wearing white socks instead of blue, having their hat on during court, and many other things.  It was hilarious.  I wrote up Mike Bielecki (former Braves pitcher) today for disrespecting the court by having his top buttons undone to show off his chest hair and gold chain.  My case will be presented tomorrow and if he’s found guilty, it will cost him at least a dollar.

So I made a casual comment to my coach, Greg Olson, at dinner last night that I could maybe pitch an inning today if needed (even though I haven’t pitched since I was 8).  So we get to the park and he says, Stew, you’re starting.  I got a quick lesson from Zane Smith, our pitching coach who told me to just throw strikes.  I would up pitching 3 innings and gave up a run with 4 strikeouts.  So that was cool.  I also drove in a run, got a double and a single, and scored twice.  Also, at dinner, we had to come up with a team name.  We settled on the Pitch Slappers.  When we score, we do a chest bump then a backhanded slap.  Okay, not really politically correct but kind of funny.  The name beat out Scared Hitless, the Master Batters, and the Olson Twins (named after our coach) among others.

The Pitch Slappers

After lunch, we had an afternoon game against the other undefeated team.  They were out of pitchers so their coach, Brad Clontz, pitched.  He was a Braves reliever that threw submarine pitches.  That means he drops down real low and almost throws it underhand, which is kind of weird.  We jumped on him early and I got on base and scored my first two times up.  The third time he had me 0-2 so I pretty much knew I would have to swing at the next pitch.  He came inside on me and nailed me on the forearm.  Hurt like crazy but I heard Javy Lopez yelling, “don’t rub it” so I didn’t.  You can see from the picture that It swelled up in a hurry and I lost feeling in my hand so I had to sit out the last three innings.  We got the W so I think we are the only undefeated team left. 

battle wound

I don’t want to jinx myself but I was really worried about pulling muscles but my legs have held out so far.  I scored from first on a single to right and my legs felt fine.  My back is killing me and the knot on my arm is pretty sore but I’m not going on the DL.  Got another game tomorrow morning then golf in the afternoon.

All of the Braves staff is pretty amazing and will do anything for you.  There’s a lot of joking around and you better have a thick skin because they will give you more crap if you don’t.  It’s all in fun, though.

I said I would try to keep it short but I didn’t.  I wish all of you Braves fans could get an opportunity to do this someday.  It’s pretty great.

Craig’s Bucket List..Best Day Ever

So we get to the Braves clubhouse at about 6:45 and our uniforms are hanging in our lockers,  and there’s a huge spread of food waiting for us.  They really do treat us like major leaguers.  We had a round of batting practice and, of course, I hit pretty well because it’s just batting practice, right?.  Then we divided into groups where the coaches evaluated our skills at pitching, catching, infield, outfield, and batting practice.  I did the best at infield which was Greg Olson’s station.  My group also had Natasha Watley who was the shortstop for the US Women’s Olympic gold medal team at Beijing.  She could really pick it but it was fun watching her get frustrated at trying to throw a small ball.

Then we came in for an awesome lunch while the coaches picked teams.  I was picked for Greg Olson’s team which is cool because he’s hilarious and his team won the championship last year. Our pitching coach is Zane Smith.  We had our game today in the Braves stadium.  I was pretty shocked when Greg announced the lineup and I was leading off and playing shortstop.  Which was pretty cool because there is another shortstop on the team and he’s about 20 years younger than me. 

I didn’t really have a chance to get nervous because the first batter of the game grounded to me and  threw him out at first.  It is waaaay different throwing a baseball 120 feet to first than it is a softball 90 feet.

The pitcher we faced was pretty fast so I was looking to walk.  But he got me to a full count so I had to swing and miraculously beat out a grounder to third.  The next batter hit a fly to right and the outfielder was backpedaling so I tagged and tried to go to second but was thrown out (just barely, I’d try it again).  Again, 90 feet is waaaay different then 60 feet.

In all, I had one hit, walked, scored a run and struck out twice.  But I fielded all of my 5 chances cleanly and would have turned a DP but the first baseman dropped the ball.  So that is still on my list of things to do.

Tomorrow morning is kangaroo court where Sid Bream is the judge and fines us for doing stupid things.  One guy already got fined for putting on Ben Gay before we even started.

Tonight, my team is going to dinner with Greg and Zane then it’s back to the hotel for some ibuprofen to get ready for two games tomorrow.

Oh, by the way, tonight the clubhouse guys are washing our uniforms and cleaning our cleats.  How cool is that?

Craig’s Bucket List – Day 1

Well  I met my fellow campers and the Braves players tonight at a happy hour event.  Looks like most of the guys are in their 30s to 40s so I’m definitely one of the oldest.  The Braves players mostly look they like they could still be playing, particularly Javy Lopez.

Tomorrow we catch the shuttle at 6:30 a.m. so it will be just like going to work…except it won’t suck.  We eat breakfast in the Braves clubhouse then get fitted for our uniforms.  The Braves players then put us through some drills to evaluate our talent then pick teams.  There will be 6 teams with 10 players on a team so we’ll basically get to play the whole game every day.  We have batting practice and skills clinics in the morning then play our first game in the afternoon.

So I have to revise one of my goals for the week.  The rules state no base stealing.  Boooo.  No bunting either.  There goes my game.  I guess we’ll see if Bud’s batting training paid off.  The weather is supposed to be partly sunny and 82 so it should be pretty nice. Can’t wait.  I should have some pictures tomorrow.  I would have taken some tonight but I was trying to be cool.

Craig’s Bucket List

I’m all packed up and ready to head down to Orlando tomorrow morning.  It’s amazing how much extra stuff you have to pack like gloves, bats, cleats, etc.  Almost as much as Terrie takes on a cruise.

 I played one season of baseball in my late twenties but haven’t played regularly since I was 17.  Back when I could see the ball.  And could judge a fly ball.  And didn’t pull muscles.  And before I ruptured a disk in my back.  And didn’t have to be selective about when I threw the ball hard from shortstop.  The problem, as most of you know, is I tend to forget about these limitations when I play sports, so I usually wind up doing something stupid.  Go hard or go home, I say.  But I’m going to try to take everyone’s advice and not overdue it the first day.   But if I had a dollar for every time someone told me not to get hurt …  You think you know me.

So these are my goals for this week.

1. Stay healthy so I can enjoy the entire camp. 

2. Get on base.

3. Steal a base. 

4.Turn a double play.

5. Break no more than 2 bats. 

We play at least one game a day and sometimes two.  The last day, we play against the former Braves players like Dale Murphy, Tom Glavine, Sid Bream, Steve Avery, Marquis Grissom, and one of my favorites, Otis Nixon.  I think Javy Lopez and Fredi Gonzalez are supposed to be there too.

I’ll meet the Braves players and my fellow campers at a dinner tomorrow night.  Check back Wednesday for another posting.   

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