Dale’s Sideline View

“This is not a one-year wonder. We have built this team to last. I think you are going to see a team that continues to get better and better,” stated Atlanta Braves minor league scout Rod Gilbreath.

The Atlanta Braves are in year four of rebuilding that started with their last playoff appearance in 2014, and Gilbreath has high hopes for this year and the future.

Gilbreath was a three-sport star athlete at then R.H. Watkins High School in Laurel. He signed a football scholarship with the Ole Miss Rebels in December of 1969. Then baseball season came, and Gilbreath was the third round selection of the Braves (69thoverall).Two years later at the age of 19, Gilbreath was in the Majors with the Braves as he was rubbing elbows with the likes of Dusty Baker, Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans and Davie Johnson under the management of future hall of famer Eddie Matthews. He has been a scout with the Braves since 1985 and has been in pro baseball for 46 years with 44 of those years either as a player or working in the front office or scouting with the Braves.

2018 Team

“I really like our mix of youth and veterans, and I think the enthusiasm is very high for the remainder of the season. We have the capabilities to make a strong run this season. Getting off to a good start only helped fuel this team’s confidence. Our pitching depth has improved, and scoring runs is not a problem with this bunch. I know I am excited about our chances, and we are all anxious as we go into the final 60 games or so,” stated Gilbreath.

This year’s team has been nicknamed “Baby Braves” thanks to 20-year-old left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies. “They are both such great players. Ozzie is a five tool player and Acuna has power,” stated Gilbreath about the young duo. Acuna has 20 home runs at the all-star break. Other young players who are contributing are shortstop Dansby Swanson and pitchers Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran.  The Gwinnett triple A team has a Mississippian in former DeSoto Central third sacker Austin Riley whom the Braves are counting on to be a future star. “He was hurt early on, but he does have a lot of potential. He is solid with the glove and has a strong arm as well as power at the plate,” stated Gilbreath.

The veteran players in Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis were both named all-stars and are the solid leaders of this renaissance, according to Gilbreath.

Gilbreath’s main duties are checking in on the Braves’ AAA team at Gwinnett, their AA team at Pearl, their A team at Rome and their low A team at Orlando. “I love what I do. It has been a blessing from day one,” said Gilbreath.

Odds & Ends

Alabama is the pick by the SEC media to win the 2018 SEC championship. Mississippi State was picked to finish third in the West while Ole Miss came in at sixth just ahead of Arkansas. Only six times since 1992 has the predicted champion at SEC Media Days proceeded to win the Championship.

The Pittsburg Pirates have won nine straight games as they are led by former Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson. Dickerson went 4-for-5 Sunday against the Reds and has hit five home runs in the last four games. For the season he has 11 home runs and is batting .315.

Francesco Molinari became the first Italian to win the British Open. He shot a 69 Sunday to finish eight under for the tournament. Tiger Woods finished sixth as he shot a final day 71.

Dale has covered Mississippi sports for more than 45 years. You can contact Dale at ddmckee18@yahoo.com

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