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Excitement begins as Braves' equipment heads south

Truck embarks on 447-mile drive from Turner Field to Champion Stadium at Disney

ATLANTA -- As Chris Johnson has spent the past month hitting and working out at Turner Field, he has watched the Braves' clubhouse staff stack boxes filled with equipment, medical supplies and the many other items that will be utilized during Spring Training.

When Johnson arrived at the stadium Friday morning and saw those boxes being carried toward a truck destined for the club's Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., he grew even more excited about the arrival of the new season.

"It got real," Johnson said. "I'm excited. I'm actually going to go home right now, start packing and get ready to get down there."

When the movers arrived early Friday morning, they began filling the truck with a variety of items that ranged from bats and balls to golf carts and the small bikes that will be utilized by the children of some of the staff members who will call Florida home for the next six weeks.

While the drive from Atlanta to the Orlando area is just a little more than six hours, workload restrictions will force the movers to wait until Saturday morning to reach their destination.

When the truck arrives at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex, the club's Spring Training home since 1998, the Braves' clubhouse staff will be present to begin unloading the boxes and preparing the clubhouse for the players, some of whom will begin arriving early next week.

Braves pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Thursday and then hold their first workout the following day. While the first full-squad workout is not scheduled until Feb. 19, Johnson, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are expected to be among the position players who will make early arrivals next week.

Braves visiting clubhouse manager John Holland has been going to Spring Training with the club since 1975. As he prepared to leave Turner Field to catch an early Friday afternoon flight, he admitted he is every bit as excited to experience his 40th Spring Training as he was his first.

"How many people have a job where you can go spend two months in Florida every year?" Holland said. "The two best times of the year are going to Spring Training and going to the playoffs."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Chris Johnson