Two days before officials made the announcement that the Braves would be moving to Cobb County in 2017, Gonzalez knew. He also may have been the first person to see the Cumberland-area property where the new stadium is set to be constructed after the official announcement had been made.
“When it was announced, I was two blocks from the site,” he said Tuesday morning during a stop at Clarkdale Elementary School as part of the Braves’ preseason caravan tour. “I drove by it every day going to (Turner Field), and I never knew that piece of property existed.”
Gonzalez, who led the Braves to a 96-66 record and the National League East title in 2013, is a longtime east Cobb resident, and he said he’s looking forward to cutting his commute time in half.
At least, he’s tentatively looking forward to it.
“In my line of work, three years is a long time,” he joked, “but I was excited (about the announced move). It will be a great deal to open the stadium in Cobb County.”
Gonzalez turned 50 Tuesday and was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the Clarkdale fourth-graders. He was joined at the school by three former All-Stars — first baseman Freddie Freeman, right fielder Jason Heyward and left fielder Justin Upton — bench coach Carlos Tosca, Hall of Fame pitcher and Braves radio announcer Don Sutton and Homer, the team’s mascot.
The visit to Clarkdale came before Tuesday’s snow storm, and before the early release of the school’s students.
Freeman said he was given no hint of the pending move and found out about it when the news broke Nov. 11. He said was surprised the team would leave Turner Field.
“The team has only been there 17 years,” he said. “But, being a young player, I don’t have a lot of ties to Turner Field. It will be a little difficult to leave it behind, but we’re only going 17 minutes up the road.”
Heyward, another Cobb resident who also played for the East Cobb Baseball organization as a team, wasn’t privy to the news either. But after having to miss much of the final six weeks of the 2013 season with a broken jaw, he isn’t really concerned about how long of a drive he has to the park — or a move three years from now.
Heyward’s just ready for the new season to start.
“It may be weird moving out of Turner Field, but I’m not worried about that or my commute. I just want a place to play ball.”
The Braves have planned one more Cobb County stop on its caravan tour, Thursday at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta. That stop is set to feature Gonzalez, Sutton, pitcher David Hale — an east Cobb native and Walker School graduate — catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit and general manager Frank Wren.