Walking in flip flops in front of the GreenJackets dugout, Ryan Klesko tossed out welcoming conversation to strangers.
Good to see you, he said to a coach.
How you doing? he said as a player walked by.
Above his brown-haired goatee, Klesko flashed an authentic smile and joked as he warmed up for the first pitch before the Augusta-Greenville game.
I dont want to completely embarrass myself, he said with a laugh.
The retired Major Leaguer did nothing but impress, firing a fastball out of his left hand across the plate. His good start couldnt help the GreenJackets, who lost 10-4.
Klesko was the main attraction for many fans who remembered him from his eight seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He spent a portion of his evening signing Braves memorabilia, along with other balls and pictures.
Fans still remember his greatest moment in Atlanta, when he helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series. In that six-game series against Cleveland, Klesko hit home runs in three consecutive road games and recorded an eye-popping .875 slugging percentage.
Being able to contribute to a world championship, he said, is one of my favorite memories.
In 1999, Klesko was traded to San Diego, where he became an All-Star two years later. He played seven seasons for the Padres and another one for San Francisco, finishing his career in 2007.
Klesko said he has little time for baseball these days. Hes busy with his Blue Ryno Foundation, a non-profit corporation aimed toward supporting critically ill children and their families. Hes also involved in a text messaging business as well as real estate. Klesko also has an outdoors show on the Pursuit Channel and In Country Television.
He currently lives in the Macon area Klesko and John Smoltz purchased about 1,600 acres there a decade ago. Klesko and his wife, Kelly, have a 1-year-old son.
Though hes been to just a handful of games since retiring, Klesko still keeps up with baseball. He said he has little sympathy for players caught using performing-enhancing drugs. He added the Major League Baseball Players Association should release the entire list of 103 players who failed drug tests in 2003 instead of having names leaked out from time to time.
Its tough to feel bad for them because they knew what they were getting into, he said. They need to clean it up.