While the Atlanta Braves are keeping their player core intact heading into 2024, the coaching staff will have a different look to it for the 2024 season. Long-time third base and infield coach Ron Washington left to take over as the new skipper for the Angels, while first base coach Eric Young Sr. left to join Washington’s staff. Additionally, bullpen coach Drew French left to take over as pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles.
Washington was a beloved figure in Atlanta’s clubhouse and could be seen before every game going through infield drills with his infielders. He was also somewhat of a father figure to many of the Braves’ young players, including Ozzie Albies.
“It was tough. Me and him, we hopped on a phone call for like an hour. That was very hard,” Albies said of Washington. “He’s amazing on and off the field. Mentally, on the field, he gets your mind ready for the game. He’s the most special guy or coach I’ve had in my life. It’s a big loss for us. It’s great that I can see him do what he wants to do before he retires from the game of baseball.”
From a metrics standpoint, Austin Riley had the best year of his career defensively in 2023 and credits Washington for making him better.
“Obviously, losing Wash and EY, those were my dudes. I love them,” Riley said. “They mean so much to me, where they got to me with my game. They’re going to be missed.”
Matt Olson, meanwhile, has actually seen Washington leave a couple of his organizations, as he crossed paths with Washington when he made his major league debut late in the 2016 season. He echoed Riley’s sentiments:
“I think when you think of Wash, number one is just being around him. Obviously, we know what kind of infield guy that he is and all the knowledge that he has there,” Olson said. “Just a great baseball presence, somebody who’s been around. He’s got all the stories. I was talking to somebody the other day and one of my favorite moments with Wash was a rain delay in Detroit where he just sat in the dugout and he was telling stories for an hour and a half, two hours. That’s just, kind of like the guy he is. A guy who’s been around baseball, seen every type of player, every type of scenario. We’d still love to have him here, but I know it’s something that he wanted to do, go manage again. So, we’re all stoked for him to have that opportunity, too.”
Albies said that Washington’s final message to him was to keep it going and that he would be there for him and any of his teammates if they needed him.
“He told me to keep being me and anything I need, he’ll call for sure,” Albies said. “He’s always going to be here for anybody that needs him. There was a lot of emotional stuff, but obviously good baseball talks too.”
To replace Washington and Young, the Braves elected to promote a pair of coaches from within. Former Gwinnett manager Matt Tuiasosopo will serve as the team’s new third base coach and will assist bench coach Walt Weiss in working with the infield. Tom Goodwin will take over as the team’s first base coach after previously serving as a roving instructor within the organization. Erick Abreu will take over as the team’s new bullpen coach. Abreu spent the past three seasons as the Houston Astros’ Triple-A pitching coach.
Brian Snitker said that he was happy that they were able to stay in-house for two of the three jobs and is excited for the new additions heading into the season.
“I I love that we stayed in for two of the three jobs that were available. I think that’s great for your organization when you can do that,” Snitker said. “I spent a lot of years not getting that call. The guys are very deserving. They’re great. I’m just as excited about the new staff members as I am about the players. I think it’s awesome when you can do that.”
Braves players are familiar with Tuiasosopo as a minor league manager. He also filled in for Washington during a three-game series last summer when the latter was away from the club while being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Some have also crossed paths with him as a teammate.
“I played with Matt in Triple-A. I think it was ‘16, ‘17,” Albies said. “When I did my rehab, he was there. Tui’s going to step up and be great. I know that for sure. Wash taught him really well and he showed it already.”
“I think from the defensive side, Matt has worked behind Wash enough,” Riley added. “To me, he can do those drills with the best of everyone, even Wash. He does them really well. I think the core group that we have going, the routines that we have, I don’t see anything changing. I think we’re just kind of rolling right into it.”