Earlier this year a friend asked me to come up with a list of my top 50 nicest ballplayers. My brain immediately exploded. I’ve been going to anywhere from 70 to 100 games every year since the mid-90s and in any given season I interact with several thousand players; the vast majority of those interactions are unbelievably positive. To try to whittle the list of great people I’ve met who play the game down to 50 was simply an impossible task.
So while my brain didn’t explode when gondeee asked me to come up with my Top 10 Good Guys In The Braves Minor Leagues, I did get an immediate headache. More than any other organization in baseball the Braves care about the character of the people they employ and nearly every player they have is worth a mention on this list. But, I was forced to limit myself to 10 guys, and even more forced to limit myself to the players currently in the Minor Leagues for the Braves, so unfortunately guys like Jonny Venters or Brian McCann, or the recently released Randy Gress, aren’t eligible. The Braves have over 150 players in their organization and I feel awful that I’m only able to list a handful.
The list, in alphabetical order, after the break:
Paul Clemens, Myrtle Beach – Clem is just a nice guy. There’s really no other way to put it. He lives in Northern Virginia, an area known for developing stuck-up, self-important people, and when I asked how he managed to escape with such a good personality he simply answered, "I was born and raised in Florida." Rather than say something bad about one thing he’ll say something good about another. He’s one of the most genuine guys in the organization.
Scott Diamond, Gwinnett - The most soft-spoken of all the players on this list, probably due to his Canadian upbringing, Scott is also the most polite. Easy-going with a quick smile, he’s one of those people who doesn’t do any one particular thing that makes him stick out in your mind, but you always have a great time talking to him. He’s an intelligent guy with a real passion for baseball, and life in general, and he’s also one of the most quietly funny players I’ve ever met.
Cory Gearrin, Gwinnett – Cory’s smile is so constant, so persistent, that it borders on goofy. The guy is just really in a good mood all the time. He’s genuinely interesting in pretty much any topic you could bring up and always has something intelligent to say about it. A huge fan of stand-up comedy, something we definitely bonded over, his favorite comedian is Aziz Ansari. Maybe I’ve always had a soft spot for sidearmers, since the first baseball player I was really good friends with threw that way, but Cory is up there as one of my all-time favorites.
Ty’Relle Harris, Myrtle Beach – Remember that little kid in the neighborhood that always wanted to tag along and play with the big kids? Imagine that kid grew up to be a hulking 6’4" with a high 90s fastball, then you’ve got Ty’Relle. He’s really just a big, sweet kid and he’s done one of the better jobs of retaining his sense of childhood of any adult I’ve met. He goes out of his way to introduce himself to every fan he can and while he takes some ribbing from teammates for being so nice, he simply shrugs it off with a smile.
Myke Jones, Myrtle Beach – Ok, Scott Diamond has a little competition for the quietest player on the list, since Myke is one of the more soft spoken guys in the system. But, you know that when he says something he’s given it a lot of thought and means what he says. As quiet as he is, he loves to have a good time and is always smiling. He’s very open and easy to talk to, and one of those guys who always makes you feel like an equal, something all too rare in the world of pro baseball.
Matt Kennelly, Myrtle Beach – The best thing about Mate, which is what everyone calls him, is that after you see him you get to retell all his stories in a butchered Australian accent. Most catchers are very serious, necessarily so, particularly right before a game, but he’s so laid back that you can sit and talk with him while he’s warming up the pitcher before a game. And he gets as excited about a good pitch as anyone. He’s one of the most honest players you’ll ever meet, he’ll tell you anything, about anything, and also one of the funniest.
Chris Masters, Rome – I hate to sound repetitive, but Chris is just a good guy. He’s down to earth, with a complete lack of pretension, and treats everyone the way he’d like to be treated. I’d be shocked if anyone could ever find a bad thing to say about Chris; out of all the guys on this list I feel like he goes the most out of his way to be a good guy. Plus, he’s a little chubbier than most ballplayers, which automatically ingratiates him to you.
Adam Milligan, Myrtle Beach – If you’d only seen pictures of Adam you’d imagine him as this big, angry slugger, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. From the instant he meets you, Adam treats you like you’ve been best friends for years. He’s a soft-spoken, happy guy who is quick with a joke and, like many of the other players on this list, he’s as interested in what you’re doing as you are in what’s he’s doing.
Scott Proctor, Gwinnett – Being a big time prospect for the Yankees can cause a lot of guys to get a big head, so I was pleasantly surprised the first time I met Scott, back in 2004 when he was playing AAA for Columbus, and he was one of the nicest guys I’d met the whole season. So I wasn’t surprised at all when the next time I ran into him, last year during Spring Training when he was playing with the Marlins, he hadn’t changed at all. He’s a genuinely great guy and he’s loved by everyone. The Pelicans players couldn’t stop talking about how great he was after his rehab stint with the team.
Julio Teheran, Myrtle Beach – As their prospect fortunes have risen, plenty of players have gone from good guys to complete jerks, but July has managed to remain the same nice, quiet kid he was when he first came to the US. His English improves by leaps and bounds every time I see him and that’s only helping him to make even more of a connection with the fans. He’s a great person who makes everyone around him better and as talented as he is on the field he’s even better off it.
LV Ware, Myrtle Beach – The best thing about going to all these games and meeting all these players is that I get to become friends with truly great people that I wouldn’t get to meet if it wasn’t for baseball. LV is one of those guys. He’s an incredible, complex person, he can be serious and he can party, he can be intelligent and he can be goofy, and he can do it all with an amazing sense of humor and a smile on his face. If you haven’t checked out his blog you really should because he’s one of the more thoughtful players I’ve met. I talk with LV regularly throughout the year, and while I do hate to pick favorites, LV is my boy.
CB Wilkins is the author of the baseball novel Four-A.