The Atlanta Braves make 25 stops in five states throughout the Southeast during their Braves Country Caravan, but the highlighted stops for the players are those involving more than just fans.
Freddie Freeman, Tyler Pastornicky and J.R. Graham stopped at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center on Thursday to meet military veterans and sign autographs.
While fans have the honor of meeting players on regular stops, meeting servicemen and women is an honor for the players.
“It’s the little bit we can do,” Freeman said. “These guys give their lives to serve us and let us be free. It’s the least we can do to come back and put a little smile on their face. It’s a huge honor to be here and meet these guys. It’s something that I’ve always cherished doing.”
The three players began by answering questions regarding on-field performances and the upcoming season, followed by entering the active duty rehab unit to applause from wounded veterans seeking autographs and handshakes.
“It’s pretty cool to have them here,” said Timothy Woodard, following a handshake and autograph from Freeman. “It helps to feel they care.”
After meeting veterans, the players attempted a new experience by climbing the medical center’s 50-foot rock wall. Each player climbed to the top and rang the bell before rappeling down the side. Freeman and Pastornicky entertained the crowd by jabbing at each other on their athletic abilities.
Also on the trip were Homer, the Braves mascot, and Ricky Mast, the last remaining Braves backer in the MLB Fan Cave in 2012.
While all three players are 23 years old, Graham was the lone player from the group without major league experience, finishing his 2012 season at Double-A. Graham said he is cherishing the chance to attend the caravan even more as the lone prospect.
“For my first caravan, it means a lot,” he said. “I can’t think the services enough for what they do. They’d be doing it no matter what. It’s a great honor.”