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Culberson thrilled to join hometown team

Georgia native hopes to fill Braves' utility role
Special to MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Perhaps lost in the Braves' winter exchange of substantial contracts with the Dodgers was Atlanta's potential new utility man, Charlie Culberson.

Since his brief debut in 2012 with the Giants, Culberson, 28, has had short stints with the Rockies and Dodgers, batting .231 with a .272 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage in 443 regular-season plate appearances. But in the 2017 National League Championship Series and World Series, Culberson excelled while replacing injured Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager. Culberson went 8-for-16 with a home run, a triple and two doubles.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Perhaps lost in the Braves' winter exchange of substantial contracts with the Dodgers was Atlanta's potential new utility man, Charlie Culberson.

Since his brief debut in 2012 with the Giants, Culberson, 28, has had short stints with the Rockies and Dodgers, batting .231 with a .272 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage in 443 regular-season plate appearances. But in the 2017 National League Championship Series and World Series, Culberson excelled while replacing injured Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager. Culberson went 8-for-16 with a home run, a triple and two doubles.

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"I think it was a lot of things," Culberson said of his postseason success. "It was just preparation; obviously, consistency was there with everything. It's just a big moment and just being ready for it."

Georgia-born Braves players
Kyle Davies 2005-07 Decatur Stockbridge
Blaine Boyer 2005-09 Atlanta Walton
Jeff Francoeur 2005-09 Atlanta Parkview
Brian McCann 2005-13 Athens Duluth
Cory Rasmus 2013 Columbus Russell County, Ala.
David Hale 2013-14 Marietta The Walker School
Gordon Beckham* 2016 Atlanta Westminster
John Gant 2016 Savannah Wiregrass Ranch, Fla.
Madison Younginer 2016 Augusta Mauldin, S.C.
Tyler Flowers* 2016-present Roswell Blessed Trinity
Dansby Swanson 2016-present Kennesaw Marietta
Lucas Sims 2017-present Lawrenceville Brookwood
Charlie Culberson present Rome Calhoun
Name Years with Braves Born H.S.

*indicates player who did not debut with Atlanta

Culberson is more than ready to don a Braves jersey as a native of Rome, Ga., who graduated from Calhoun High and resides in Smyrna. Culberson relishes the opportunity to settle back into life at home in Georgia while playing for the team he grew up with.

"'At some point in my career,' I'd always think, 'Man, it would be nice to play for the Braves, to be able to come back home,'" Culberson said. "I'm married now for six years. My wife, Sarah, and I have three kids. To be able to live at home and keep them at one place will be really nice."

Especially given his positional diversity -- he has played left field and all four infield spots -- Culberson should have no problem earning a job if he can push his batting numbers closer to his postseason surge. But as a player on his fourth team in just his sixth Major League season, he prefers to live in the moment and take nothing for granted.

"Once you get somewhere, you kind of picture yourself there, hoping things will work out," Culberson said. "You can only stay in one spot for a while, but with me being from Georgia, this would be ideal, to put on a Braves uniform for a while. But it's so tough, you just don't know what's going to happen."

Having a manager's confidence should help, though. Brian Snitker said Culberson's diverse set of skills, work ethic and upbeat mentality have been immediately evident.

"I love Charlie," Snitker said. "A lot of people [here] have known Charlie for a while, his play, the versatility. It's really impressive what he did last year in the playoffs when Seager went down. He just comes with a lot of really good things -- it's just the kind of person he is. There's a lot to like."

Culberson said the familiarity with some of his Braves coaches and a few former teammates has helped him feel even more welcome from Day 1. He hopes to grow closer with his new teammates once he has assured himself a slot on the Opening Day roster, particularly the fellow Georgians.

"I think once we get a little further into camp, we're able to converse a little bit more with those guys, to see how it's been for them," Culberson said of teammates playing in their home state. "You can kind of come together and feed off each other, asking how it is to play at home, live at home, drive to the park -- all that stuff."

The cultivation of Braves born in Georgia has been a streak for this team for 15 years. Beyond current Braves Culberson, Tyler Flowers, Lucas Sims and Dansby Swanson, 10 other Georgians have played for Atlanta since 2004, according to Baseball Almanac. This also includes outfielder Nick Markakis, who was born in New York but moved to Georgia at a young age.

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Only four of these players debuted with a team other than Atlanta, including Flowers and Markakis, so the diversity of perspectives from his Georgia-born teammates should make Culberson feel right at home.

In the table in this story are the 13 active Georgia-born players who have taken the field for the Braves. The one inactive player during this 15-year streak of Georgians is outfielder J.D. Drew, who played for Atlanta in 2004, graduated from Lowndes High and was born in Valdosta, according to Baseball Almanac.

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Braves on Wednesday.

Atlanta Braves, Charlie Culberson