Brian Kelley may have been raised in the Sunshine State – and represent it as one half of Florida Georgia Line – but he grew up a fan of the Atlanta Braves, coming of age during the franchise’s heyday in the Nineties. He translated that fandom into a standout career as a high school pitcher and a scholarship at perennial baseball powerhouse Florida State, and though country music ended up being his career of choice, he remains a fan first and foremost.
While FGL have blown up, it’s been a trying time for Braves fans everywhere (though always competitive, Atlanta hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001). But Kelley is convinced that another World Series title is just around the corner – in fact, he thinks it could come as early as this year. So while most are predicting a down season, he’s not buying the rebuilding business. Here’s Kelley’s take on the 2015 Atlanta Braves.
I was a huge Braves fan growing up. Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers, John Rocker. I was a huge fan. And lately, with Heyward and the Uptons, I’ve stayed that way. I used to love watching Glavine. I grew up playing baseball and I pitched all through college, and I molded my game after him. He was a very consistent pitcher and had a lot of movement on everything that he threw. Steve Avery was a favorite to watch too.
The Marlins came around in 1993, but I was already a Braves fan at that point. When we’d go to Nashville to visit family and friends, we’d stop in Atlanta to catch a game. I got to see Mark Wohlers warm up in the bullpen and then pitch. I remember walking up to the bullpen and you could hear the catcher’s glove. The ball hitting it sounded like a damn cannon going off. I’ll never forget walking up and seeing that with my dad. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
Now, they’re in a rebuilding mode, but I think that’s good. Youth is good, fresh faces are good. It’ll bring a new energy to the team. Fredi Gonzalez, he’s a younger guy and he’s going to lead a great team. Melvin Upton Jr., he’s extremely talented and still young [Upton will likely begin the year on the disabled list]. Freddie Freeman, I think he’ll be fine. They signed A.J. Pierzynski. He brings a lot of leadership to a young team. It’s going to be key for the Braves, he’s going to bring a lot of maturity and toughness and he won a ring with the White Sox – for the pitchers and catchers especially, he’s going to be a big leader.
Jason Heyward left, and I was a big Heyward fan. He reminded me of Ken Griffey Jr. back in the day. I hate to lose him, but that’s part of the game.
Their pitching last year was good and I think it’ll be good this year. They signed Chien-Ming Wang. And Craig Kimbrel, I’m a huge fan of his. He’s been to some shows and we’ve gotten to hang out with him. I think he’s going to have a really big year.
Famous Fan Fearless Forecast: 92-70. Nothing is ever written in stone. I think it’ll be rebuilding year, but that’s not a bad thing – it’ll be a great thing.