‘I love Atlanta’: Joc Pederson receives Braves World Series ring

Former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson holds his daughter, Poppy, as he is presented his World Series ring by Braves pitchers Luke Jackson and Ian Anderson, sporting pearls, before the Giants played the Braves on Monday in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

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Former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson holds his daughter, Poppy, as he is presented his World Series ring by Braves pitchers Luke Jackson and Ian Anderson, sporting pearls, before the Giants played the Braves on Monday in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Joc Pederson received the same greeting in his return to Truist Park as he did during his first appearance as a Brave: a standing ovation.

Pederson was the first of the Braves’ fate-altering outfield additions last July. He received the call that he’d been dealt from the Cubs to the Braves, who just lost Ronald Acuña to an ACL tear, before the second half began. His arrival was the beginning of one of the greatest stories in Atlanta sports history, with the Braves – who were one game under .500 when they acquired Pederson – surging through the summer and fall to earn their second World Series title.

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One of Pederson’s fonder memories from that era: his first appearance with the Braves. It was a late-game pinch-hit opportunity July 16 against the Rays. Pederson recalls that evening because Truist Park introduced him with a standing ovation.

“It just felt different,” Pederson said. “That was the first time I’d been traded midseason. They were so welcoming. I remember taking fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, and the ushers called me over. All they wanted to do was say hi, introduce themselves and tell me they were happy I’m here. To have that hospitality of people all around, the security guards, it was really special.”

Pederson returned to that place Monday. Despite playing only 79 games with the Braves, Pederson made his mark by injecting the team with a refreshed energy and enthusiasm. The community and fan base responded as Pederson became an adored figure during the Braves’ championship run.

The man who wore pearls as he tormented the Brewers in the National League Division Series, and famously declared that the Braves “just might be those …” felt the love from the moment he approached the stadium. The security guards and stadium workers gave him a warm reception.

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Some of Pederson’s Giants teammates entering with him remarked, “Gosh, you were here for two months. What’s the deal?”

“I don’t know,” Pederson said. “It’s a special spot.”

Pederson, who wasn’t in the starting lineup against lefty Max Fried, received his ring during an on-field ceremony before Monday’s game. Truist Park gave him another standing ovation as he was introduced and proudly showed his ring to the crowd. Pederson had input on the ring’s design, which features a single pearl on the side and a “We Are Those …” inscription on the inside. Pederson said he was pleasantly surprised by both additions – they weren’t his recommendation.

“I’ve seen pictures, and it’s pretty special,” Pederson said. “But to (receive) it in front of this fan base, how much they appreciated us throughout that run, it’s going to mean even more to celebrate with them and with the people who made it happen.”

“Joc did a heck of a job for us last year. When we got Joc, we got a guy with instant credibility. He'd been a playoff guy his whole major-league life. He got us some big hits to help us get there, too.

- manager Brian Snitker, on what Joc Pederson meant to 2021 Braves

On the ring design, Pederson added: “You see all these rings online of the NBA teams, and how creative and really cool they are. We’re in Atlanta. It just felt like it needed to be something super flashy and cool. I think they crushed it.”

The 30-year-old visited with his former teammates and coaches earlier in the afternoon. He maintains contact with several teammates, specifically naming Ian Anderson, Luke Jackson and Travis d’Arnaud. In between greeting friends, Pederson took pictures and signed autographs for fans. One young fan’s sign read “Forever clutching my pearls” with a picture and signature of the player.

And, yes, Pederson’s pearls resurfaced Monday (though they weren’t the set from the World Series, which are displayed at the Hall of Fame). He wore them the entire afternoon, including during the ring ceremony. Jackson and Anderson also wore pearls alongside him. Pederson said he hadn’t worn pearls since the Braves’ run, but the time “felt right” to bring them back.

“It goes with the whole story of why I started to wear them, it just felt right,” he said. “Atlanta embraced them and took it to another level, so I didn’t want to wear them again until we were here.”

Pederson made his greatest on-field impact in the NLDS last October. He went 3-for-7 (.429) with two homers and five RBIs against the Brewers. If there were a series MVP award, he would’ve won it. Pederson also homered against his former team, the Dodgers, in Game 2 of the ensuing NL Championship Series. He released his Players’ Tribune piece ahead of the World Series, which included his beloved vulgar rallying cry.

“Joc did a heck of a job for us last year,” manager Brian Snitker said. “When we got Joc, we got a guy with instant credibility. He’d been a playoff guy his whole major-league life. He got us some big hits to help us get there, too.

“Guys like that, he’s going to tell you what he thinks and not hold anything back. He’s a guy who brings an edge. No spot in the game was too big for him. Getting a guy with the playoff experience he had was really big for us. We got him when Ronnie went down. (President of baseball operations) Alex (Anthopoulos) didn’t waste any time getting a big piece. I think when (Pederson) showed up, it showed we weren’t going to sit around and lick our wounds. We were going to try to make ourselves better, and we did.”

After the Braves’ championship, Pederson declined his side of a mutual option – a stipulation in the contract he signed with the Cubs before the season – and entered free agency. He shares an agency with former Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, so he knew the team had “bigger fish to fry,” he said. Pederson landed with the Giants, a contending team close to his native Palo Alto, Calif.

Pederson has been part of the last two World Series winners, so he’s going for three in a row with San Francisco. The Giants entered Monday 37-28, the seventh-highest win total in the NL. They could even potentially meet the Braves in the postseason.

Whatever the future holds, Pederson is an iconic Brave, one who entrenched himself in franchise history with on- and off-field highlights that captured the city’s heart.

“I love Atlanta,” Pederson said. Atlanta will always love him, too.