Inside the reporter’s notebook: St. George and the Dragon

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Editor’s note: The following, a new weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find it informative, insightful and fun.

His protector

Atlanta United striker Giorgos Giakoumakis keeps a small version of the famous painting, “St. George and the Dragon,” in his locker at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The painting, by Raphel, is from 1506.

Giakoumakis said he’s an Orthodox Christian.

“I felt in my life that it has helped me a lot,” he said. “And one of my biggest protectors, I can tell is St. George. There is a monastery close to my house. I feel a different energy when I step in. I can go to any church for example and light a candle, but I don’t feel this energy. In there I feel something different.”

Credit: Public domain

Credit: Public domain

Broken toe

Atlanta United midfielder Amar Sejdic won’t say how it happened, but the reason he missed time in the preseason was because he suffered a broken toe. He revealed the injury Tuesday.

Let’s sing

Kennesaw State men’s basketball coach Amir Abdur-Rahim ended his time at the podium celebrating Sunday’s ASUN championship by quoting the lyrics from the song “You don’t want to go to war” with a twist.

Instead of ending the lyric with “You don’t want to go to war with the Rebirth,” referencing the song’s composers, Rebirth Brass Band, Abdur-Rahim sang, “You don’t want to go to war with the Owls.”

Kennesaw State’s band and some of the students in the supporters sections sang that constantly during the team’s 67-66 victory over Liberty at the Convocation Center to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Many colleges substitute their name or mascot at the end of the lyric.

Technically, it’s not a name change

For years, the baseball world has known him as Mike Soroka. Now he’s Michael Soroka.

“I was always Michael to family and everybody who really knew me,” Soroka said. “I only really went with Mike because I’m not a huge fan of Mikey – that’s kind of what it was in baseball. So I went with Mike. It just sounded more, you know, sports. But yeah, for a bunch of years, honestly, I’ve been kind of telling people. I’d get my name plate, try and get Michael on my nameplate and stuff like that.”

So before the season, Jared Burleyson, the Braves’ public relations man, asked Soroka if he’d want to make it official and become “Michael.”

“I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big deal because it’s not, like, a change, right? I didn’t change my name. It’s just kind of what’s on my birth certificate, and it’s kind of who and what I am.”

Snitker’s trip to Hawaii

When Braves manager Brian Snitker sat down in the chair in the press conference room at Braves Fest, the first question soon came: Well, how was Hawaii?

“Oh my God, we don’t have enough time (to talk about that),” Snitker said. “When I checked out, I told them, ‘I’ll see you next year.’”

Snitker and his wife, Ronnie, will be married 40 years this year, but this is the first non-baseball related trip they’ve taken. They went for a week. Brian, who is 67, said he told Ronnie that if he continues working, they need to take more trips.

“I’m going for longer next time,” Snitker said.


For their first off day in the Grapefruit League schedule, the Braves went golfing.

The highlight: Travis d’Arnaud’s hole-in-one.

Kevin Pillar, who was in d’Arnaud’s group, had seen some close calls, but never an actual hole-in-one – that is, until d’Arnaud put it in. This was the talk of the clubhouse.

“Short box” bullpen

Asked about Soroka’s progress, Snitker said Soroka threw a “short box” – “which is a new term,” the manager added, before laughing.

A “short box” bullpen session is one in which the pitcher throws off the mound, as usual, but the catcher moves up toward the pitcher.

Baseball’s lingo would confuse outsiders. There are always new terms and new ways of describing things.

“That’s a new one to me,” Snitker said of a short box bullpen session. “Every year, they come up with new teams and things and all that.”

Chipper wishes they shifted him

During his first day at camp, Braves Hall of Famer Chipper Jones said he’s OK with the shift. He believes in, as he called it, “free enterprise.”

Then he added this: “I would’ve loved the shift, to be honest with you, but I don’t know that teams would’ve necessarily shifted me.”

He’s probably right: Jones, the Braves legend, could spray the ball all around the yard. Had teams shifted him, he probably would’ve, as the baseball adage goes, “hit it where they ain’t.”

Not exactly a lopsided loss

The Braves faced the World Baseball Classic’s Dominican Republic team Wednesday in an exhibition game. While the Braves used only a couple of regulars, the opposing team featured an All-Star roster that included Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, Teoscar Hernandez, Jeremy Pena, Wander Franco, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Gary Sanchez, among others. The Braves lost 9-0.

After leaving the field, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer looked at reporters and remarked, “That was fun.” Manager Brian Snitker said he’s keeping the lineup sheet, laughing while saying, “I’d like to have (the players) sign it. A couple of them maybe after they go into the Hall of Fame.”

Have to be best to play

Former Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett, asked how he’ll handle going from college football star to backup quarterback in the NFL: “My obligation to the team that I’m drafted to is to be the best player for that (team), to learn to play football. Whatever is asked of me, my job when I get there – regardless, I mean, you have to be the best player to play. And I know there’s probably more to that here, but at the end of the day, that’s all you can control.”

Gotta cover

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, asked about the Volunteers’ quarterback-friendly system, said: “I can’t help that my defenders can’t cover my receivers.” It drew laughter from the audience at the combine. Hooker is commonly projected as a Day 2 selection.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Did he say Cam Jackson?

Quarterbacks are often asked to whom they compare themselves. Former Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson said he sees himself as a blend of Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson. “I started calling myself Cam Jackson in the 11th grade,” he said. Ohio State product CJ Stroud, meanwhile, said he’s always been inspired by Deshaun Watson, who Stroud says has a similar playing style, and Michael Vick, who was why Stroud wore No. 7. Richardson and Stroud will almost certainly be top-10 picks in April’s draft.

Speed could kill

New Hawks coach Quin Snyder has encouraged Trae Young to use his speed as a defensive weapon.

Young’s speed on defense was on full display in Monday’s loss to the Heat. The guard carried it over against the Wizards on Wednesday with Young leveraging his speed to make things uncomfortable.

The Hawks guard has 1.1 steals per game this season and has credited his aggressiveness on defense to the team’s acquisition of Dejounte Murray.

“Like I said, (from) the beginning here, bringing DJ in, it allows me to be a little bit more aggressive and be a little bit more aggressive on defense,” Young said. “And I’m gonna try and do that all year just for my teammates.”

Falcons’ scores on NFLPA report card

The NFL Player Team Reports were released last week during the scouting combine, and the Falcons did well in some areas and not so well in others in a survey of their players.

The report state: “1,300 of our players provided information to share with one another about their current club, to not only help them make important career decisions, but also help raise standards across the league.”

Overall the Falcons ranked in the bottom half of the league, 23 of 32.

Here’s the breakdown:

*Treatment of families - B (12th)

*Food/Nutrition - C-minus (tied 16th)

*Weight room - C-minus (tied 27th)

*Strength coaches - D-minus (31st)

*Training room - B-minus (tied 12th)

*Training staff - A (tied 9th)

*Locker room D (tied 25, too small)

*Travel - A-minus (tied 9)

They Falcons offer a family room and daycare. Meals are free unlike in Arizona. The problem with the strength coaches is that only 58% of the players feel like they receive an individualized plan.

They said it

“We want him back. We understand that living in a world without a quarterback is a bad world to live in. I think there’s a lot of GMs and coaches who would probably say that, who are living in that world right now. We’re aware of that.” – Ravens GM Eric DeCosta on QB Lamar Jackson

Staff writers Justin Toscano, Doug Roberson, Lauren Williams, D. Orlando Ledbetter and Gabriel Burns contributed to this article.

countdown background
Home Opener