Nothing minor: seventh stop - making some major moves in Mississippi (AA baseball)
On Friday, August 16th, I'm making my way to Jackson, Mississippi, the home of the AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, the Mississippi Braves. Many would think that with a few weeks left in the regular season, it's more of a time to wind-down and look ahead to what happens on September 1st, as the Major League Baseball rosters expand to where teams can call up their top prospects for a late look. One figures it's more of a way to look ahead to 2020.
But don't tell that to this team.
At this level, there's a collection of players who are still locked in and focused on their individual and team growth. And there are a few players who are hitting their stride and focusing on finishing up the remaining games on as positive a note as possible.
And then there's the progress of a player who is just drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft for 2019 (no more than 2 months ago) in the 1st round, 23rd pick overall, who happens to be the first of any of this year's draft class to reach AA. And we caught his debut and then some.
August 16, 2019: Birmingham Barons vs Mississippi Braves (Pre-game)
Metro-Atlanta native and former Missouri Tiger Trey Harris is our pre-game interview. A member of the 2018 draft class (32nd round), his work ethic, focus, and passion for the game truly comes through with our conversation. And his ability to have fun and keep it all in perspective truly makes him a player to pay attention to.
When asked about a key part of his development and "to-do" list is working on his swing. He notes, "Just making my swing mine; until you make it your own, it's hard to make adjustments". Doing so allows him to reduce the times when you may run into a drought at the plate.
"I look at my at-bats in tens (and try to go 3 for 10 every single time). In looking at the game in smaller increments, it allows me to better compete at a high level", he adds when it comes to his progress at the plate.
And of course, keeping things balanced is key. He understands there's a time to be series (in between the lines/game action), but you have to have fun (which is a recurring theme with nearly all of our interviews).
As for insight for younger players, a central "nugget" of advice he has is as follows.
"Play hard every day. If you don't leave the field dirty, you aren't successful. And people do pay attention (whether or not you play hard)", he advises.
(View the full pre-game interview below)
August 16, 2019: Birmingham Barons vs Mississippi Braves (In-Game)
The game has an added air of excitement, as Brady Shewmake is making his AA debut.
Why such a buzz? Consider he is one of the Atlanta Braves' two first round draft picks in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft (23rd player overall), the Texas A&M product (who leaves after his junior year) is the first of any of this year's draft picks to reach the AA level.
This is big news.
Equally as big is the matchup between starting pitchers Nolan Kingham (Mississippi) and Blake Battenfield, as both pitchers get off to fast starts and keep both offenses at bay. In fact, the first hit of the game for either team comes in the bottom of the 3rd inning by Riley Unroe.
Then the bottom of the 6th inning comes.
Shewmake (who goes 1 for 4 in his AA debut) legs out an infield single off Battenfield (6 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts). With a solid approach in his at-bat, Harris (the next batter up) launches a 2-run rocket (home-run) into deep left field, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead.
With continued quality pitching by Kingham (who allows only 3 hits in 7 innings, striking out 8 batters), along with the bullpen (allowing 1 hit in the last 2 innings), Harris' home-run is the difference maker. Both teams combined to allow 8 hits, as pitching is clearly in control in this game.
However, the Braves find a way to win as they focus on the next game in the series.
August 16, 2019: Birmingham Barons vs Mississippi Braves (Post-game)
The post-game takes on a different feel, and in baseball, there's always some new stat or discovery.
Our first interview is with Brady Shewmake. Again, making his AA debut (essentially two months after getting drafted), he goes 1 for 4, but has a solid array of defensive plays to contribute to the team victory. In addition, his energy and focus falls in line with the rest of his teammates.
After getting over some initial nerves, he states, "Once that first ground ball is hit to me (as well as my first at-bat), it's still the same game. It's a great group of guys in the clubhouse, so it makes it easy to play".
A key areas of emphasis for his growth is being locked in every day as the level of competition is much greater, as well as the schedule (as there are games essentially every day). And is a common theme, being consistent and helping the team win.
As for insight, he advises, "Play every game like it's your last one. If you play that way, you won't leave anything to be desired". Essentially, come ready to play and clearly, given his progress, he's committed to making this happen.
Our second interview takes us back to speaking with Trey Harris.
His 2 for 3 effort at the plate (including the decisive 2-run home-run) propels the team to victory.
This is the first time we are able to conduct pre-game and post-game interviews with the same player.
"The last at-bat, I focused on seeing the ball deep (compared to his previous at-bats)", as he analyzes the key at-bat.
And yes, he has the dirt on his uniform, just part of his trademark when it comes to playing at a focused and high level. This focus carries over into his overall approach, including his review of the scouting reports, video, and other aspects of his in-game and plate discipline.
Again, it all comes down to consistency. With a batting average over .300, he's realizing his small-block approach is yielding positive results.
And there's more to come.
Additional notes: Make sure to visit the team's website (click HERE) for their remaining schedule and related game-day promotions. Readers may add them on Facebook (Mississippi Braves), as well as Twitter and Instagram (@mbraves) for breaking news and updates.