Among the former Braves greats in attendance was John Smoltz, the Hall of Fame righty who earned eight All-Star nods. He spoke with the media briefly after the ceremony to touch on the game's impact in Atlanta and his excitement as part of Fox's broadcast team for the midsummer classic.
On the game returning to Atlanta:
“There’s nobody happier than me. I get to call the All-Star game in my hometown and sleep in my bed. So for the town, the city, obviously in 2000 for Chipper (Jones) when he could play there. You dream of playing in an All-Star game, you don’t care where, but if you can play in an All-Star game in your home city, it’s icing on the cake. This facility and everything they’ve done – I get a chance to travel everywhere and see all the different venues. This is as good as it gets. It’s going to be awesome to watch. I don’t know if it’s going to be awesome to watch 7,000 balls leave the yard in the home run derby, but nonetheless it’s going to be great for this area to see – I don’t think the Angels have been through here, and Mike Trout and people like that – so it’s going to be great.”
On the possibility of multiple Braves being in the game:
“That’s the excitement whenever you’re building something big and you’re building towards it. (Ronald) Acuna will be three years (in), (Austin) Riley, (Ozzie) Albies, (Mike) Soroka – all the guys we think will be primed and ready, we’ll have a nice base here to vote for young players. For me personally, I’m thrilled to death. Every game I do is a road game. So being home is going to be awesome.”
On seeing the Braves rising back into national relevance:
“We got to live in a great era. Not that we ever took it for granted, but to see it come back and to see the Braves relevant again, and to see the excitement building with all that this place has built, and more importantly the young talent. Everything I do is national, and national people are talking about the Braves. That’s always a great thing. The opportunity exists now for them to be relevant for the next three-to-five years, which in these days, you just don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
On his memory of the 2000 All-Star game:
“I remember I was in a sling and doing Tommy John (elbow) surgery. I remember hanging around the ballpark and talking to people. Of course Chipper had the dream scenario where you can play in your own park. He homered. I remember watching it from my suite. I only watched like four games from my suite when I was a player because you don’t want to be watching from a suit because it means you’re hurt.”
On what it feels like on the field during the event:
“It felt like I checked in, when you’re in the big boys club. You want to do what you can as a teammate for your organization. When you’re able to mingle and be with the best of everyone else, it’s an unbelievable feeling. You just feel like you’ve gone to the next level. To make multiple ones, as a pitcher, you have to make one every year. It’s not what you did last year or the last five years. Just talking with the other guys you battle against, and to compete together is pretty cool.”
Gabriel Burns is a general assignment reporter and features writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After four years on the Braves beat, he's expanded his horizons and covers all sports. You'll find him writing about MLB, NFL, NBA, college football and other Atlanta-centric happenings.