Like many baseball players from the Southeast, Rich Poythress grew up watching the Atlanta Braves. The big first baseman is taking it one step further by playing with the tomahawk on his chest.
The Braves signed Poythress to a minor league contract and assigned him to Double-A Mississippi on Thursday.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Poythress said. “We’ve always been Braves fans growing up. We would follow them as a family. It’s kind of weird, but it’s a cool feeling.”
Poythress took a roller coaster route to the Braves system, but he could have a chance to play on Georgia soil for the first time since his days in Athens, Ga., as a Georgia Bulldogs slugger.
Triple-A Gwinnett has a similar depth first baseman in Mark Hamilton. A roster move or injury would be required for Poythress to play at Gwinnett, but Poythress said he’s just happy for the opportunity to be in the Braves system.
“I’ve learned in my minor league travels just to have fun and help the team win,” he said. “When that happens, the individual numbers can take care of themselves.”
Poythress’ deal with the Braves marks his third team since getting drafted in the second round in 2009 by the Seattle Mariners. He spent five seasons in their system, reaching Triple-A in 2013.
Poythress was released from the Mariners system and signed with the Miami Marlins at the beginning of this year. He played 46 games for Double-A Jacksonville, hitting .244.
He said he played around a nagging right wrist injury with Jacksonville. An MRI revealed some damage in the wrist, and he sat on the disabled list from May 18-25.
Poythress said he started to gain a better feel at the plate in June, but his numbers failed to catch up in time. He was released from the Marlins system June 27.
“I’m just happy to be here and ready to get going with the Braves,” he said.
Poythress starred at Georgia from 2007-09, hitting .376 with 25 home runs for the Bulldogs as a junior in 2009. Before that, the big first baseman anchored a strong Greenbrier lineup and was a member of the 2006 Class AAAA state title team.
MINOR LEAGUE LAWSUIT: A former Giants minor leaguer is heading a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, alleging violations of federal wage and overtime laws.
Attorney Garrett Broshuis, who played six seasons in the Giants system before retiring in 2009, has recruited 32 plaintiffs from each of the 30 major league organizations to allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They claim minor leaguers aren’t paid enough to live properly, many struggling in rough apartments and eating cheap, unhealthy meals.
Despite baseball being a billion-dollar industry, most minor league salaries fall far below the federal poverty level of $11,670 for a single person.
Major League Baseball responded by noting an exemption under the federal wage law for “seasonal, amusement or recreational” workers.