Braves infielder Charlie Culberson met with the media at Chop Fest on Jan. 19 at SunTrust Park. In the interview, he discussed his first season playing for the Braves, the addition of catcher Brian McCann and the importance of postseason experience. The interview was edited for brevity.
Q: How much fun was it putting on a Braves uniform and being able to play for the (home-state) team?
A: Pretty surreal for me, growing up a fan right up the road in Rome. Funny, people always asked me, “When are you going to play for the Braves?” And I’m like, “Well, not many people get the chance to pick where they are, unless they are a top free agent and they can decide from there.” I’ve had a different path, and you know luckily enough (Braves general manager) Alex Anthopoulos liked me enough to put me in that trade to come back home. You know sometimes it’s funny how it works, I think guys making decisions like that think of more of the baseball team. I think that he probably thought, I like Charlie, I know he’s from this area, maybe it will be good for his family, I don’t know. But I like to think that he had a little bit to do with that as well. It meant a whole lot to be able to come back home and put this uniform on.
Q: Being a guy from around here, what do you think it could mean to the team to bring (catcher Brian McCann) back and everything he brings?
A: I think everything. Seeing what he’s done in his career, I think one of the guys said it last night, how about at the Astros every one of them came out and said we’re getting one of the best guys in the game. Attitude, personality, “likeableness” with him, it’s huge. And it’s crazy the kind of career that he’s had and what he can bring to everybody, not just young guys. It can be guys of his age and the experience and talent that he says. The kind of person that he is, somewhat got to know a little bit here lately, and it’s not a whole lot, but you can tell it’s contagious.
Q: What are your childhood memories of McCann or the Braves?
A: Yeah I followed the Braves growing up. (When McCann was drafted in 2002) they had a pretty good draft class that year. I know the Braves always like to draft out of Georgia. I grew up in Rome and got to see those guys play in ’03 when they won the South Atlantic League for the first time and first year being in Rome. So you know McCann was a staple from the get-go. He was the second-round pick out of high school, got to the big leagues at 21, and for what he’s done in his career, I mean I’ll say it again it’s pretty easy to say when you think of Brian McCann you think of the Atlanta Braves and No. 16, and all that he’s done for this city. So yeah, when you think of McCann it’s pretty easy to link him to Atlanta.
Q: Have you noticed with like what the Nationals have done this offseason, what the Phillies have done this offseason and other teams in the division are obviously now trying to catch up to you guys?
A: Yeah it’s kind of tough, right? I just feel like we kind of stunned everybody by winning the division and beating up on everyone a little bit in our division. I think we might have the toughest division now in baseball from what I’ve seen and the moves that have been made. Everyone’s front-office ownerships are seeing that, so they are going out and getting guys. I think we as a team have kind of laid low a little bit, but I find that a good thing. I think Alex and his team do a great job with what they do, and there is a reason why they went and got Josh (Donaldson) and (McCann) and kind of laid low a little bit because I feel like they think we are pretty good right now and if we need to make the extra additions we need they would do that.
Q: You were in that Dodgers clubhouse. Obviously you saw them in the playoffs last year. Do you feel like this team is kind of closing the gap there? They are kind of a gold standard.
A: Yeah, the Dodgers. Unfortunately when they beat us, they knew they were supposed to win, and they were the better team at the time. You know we just weren’t clicking last year when it got to the postseason, myself included. I didn’t do my part, and unfortunately that’s just kind of how it works out sometimes. So a picture of them celebrating, they didn’t really celebrate afterwards because they knew that was the next step for them. So hopefully we can keep that in mind going into the year, let’s be that team. Let’s be that team that wins again and expects to go further and not just be OK with getting to the postseason.
Hopefully guys noticed that last year, I certainly did, especially knowing almost everyone on that team. But they have a great ballclub over there, but hopefully teams say that about us and hopefully they are feared when they play the Braves.
Q: How much does it help the young guys confidence to be there, you’ve been there before, but just how value is that postseason experience?
A: It’s awesome, I kind of snuck in there a couple years with the Dodgers, and it obviously helped me out a lot in my career being able to experience postseasons there. And there’s been guys that I’ve played with that have five times as many bats as I do, games played, but I been lucky enough to experience postseason. And it’s pretty special, postseason ball is exciting, the fans love it, we love it. Preparing for those games you give it all you got, but that’s when it really matters.
Sometimes it’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best that wins, and that’s a Ron Washington quote right there. We’re looking forward to it, I think everyone now is ready and hopefully we are not just complacent on getting to the postseason again, we got bigger goals in mind.
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