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Thoughts From Lake Buena Vista

A lot of people ask me to describe more about what goes on around the Braves clubhouse and the team that I see when I have press credentials. I've been very hesitant to say too much in the past because the clubhouse and dugout are the players' domain, and a reporter - especially one outside the mainstream like myself - could easily get banned for divulging too much or saying things he or she shouldn't. This is actually why MLB and most teams have really clamped down on who gets press access.

That being said, I think I'm at a point now where I have a good idea of what can be repeated in print and what cannot. There is a lot of funny stuff that goes on in the clubhouse, and many of the players that we idolize on the field are just as cool and down to earth as we'd hope they would be in person.

Chipper Jones is one of those guys who is really down to earth. He, like many baseball players, doesn't flout his wealth or stardom, and most of the time his is pretty much an open book. I've also seen Chipper be very standoffish with the press, especially the last two seasons during his injuries. He will duck the camera then because he doesn't want his frustration at what he seemingly can't control to spill over into the public spotlight. At these times he has intentionally avoided being interviewed (boy, does that really burn O'Brien).

In the clubhouse after last night's game, Blaine Boyer, who had a hit in that night's game, was talking to reporters and Chipper walks by and blurts out towards Boyer, "you're showin me up. I'm the only guy who didn't get a fxxxin hit." There was laughter from all on hand and Chipper had one of those Chipper-like eat-shit grins on his face. So far as I can tell, that is classic Chipper. And believe it or not he's considered a quiet leader.

Frenchy is a lot like Chipper, but like Chipper on Ritalin. He always has that full teeth smile working and a look about him like he's always up to no good. After last night's game in which the Braves scored nine runs off of Cleveland pitcher Aaron Fultz, Frenchy comes in the clubhouse and sees Braves strength coach Frank Fultz and yells across the clubhouse, "I hate to break it to you, but we rocked your brother." Fultz, who's a bit of a smart-alec himself, responds with, "he's not my brother." Frenchy comes back with, "then your cousin or your son, but we rocked him."

In a lot of ways the clubhouse is just like you'd imagine a frat-house or any group of guys who watch a lot of sports or play a lot of sports - there's a lot of good natured "talking shit" going on.

Getting back to Chipper, sometimes he is very chatty with the media, sometimes you can hardly shut him up. I caught up to him on the dugout bench the other day during batting practice right after Terrence Moore (who is really nice in person - makes me think twice about completely trashing everything he writes) got done talking with him. I sat there and interviewed Chipper for a good ten minutes - he just kept talking and talking. He's a guy like that who just gets in a mood to talk baseball, and when he's in it he can talk baseball all day long. I probably could have kept him talking another ten minutes, but I always feel bad if I keep players occupied too long.

Other guys will have moments like that, and a lot of it depends on when you catch them and what they're doing or about to do when you try to interview them. I got several short interviews this year because I was only down there two days and the clubhouse is just not open enough and some players are just not available enough to get to everyone in ideal circumstances.

Hopefully that gives you a bit of a look inside the Braves clubhouse. For the most part, the way players come across in interviews (especially TV interviews) is pretty much how they are in person. Oh, and Bobby Cox is about the most amazing person to ever step on a baseball diamond.

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