In a one-on-one with MLB.com at Citi Field last weekend, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis answered questions on a wide range of topics, from his first All-Star appearance to the Braves' exciting season. MLB.com: Few expected the Braves to be in the race for the National League East title this season.
In a one-on-one with MLB.com at Citi Field last weekend, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis answered questions on a wide range of topics, from his first All-Star appearance to the Braves' exciting season.
MLB.com: Few expected the Braves to be in the race for the National League East title this season. Why do you think this club has surprised the baseball world?
Markakis: You look at it, people say that every year about everybody. They just expect the high-market teams to dominate every year. That's not the case. You have a lot of good ballclubs this year. There are a lot of tight races around the league. And with the exception of a few, nobody is running away with it completely, which is good to see for baseball. It's a little more balanced. It's fun to be a part of, and it's also fun to watch.
MLB.com: How far can the Braves go this year?
Markakis: We can go as far as we want to go. We can go as far as we believe in ourselves. I know believing and accomplishing are two different things. But we have to stay within ourselves, continue to have fun with each other and just stay on that one line that's going to get us to our goal. We'll have fun with it along the way. Enjoy it.
MLB.com: What makes this team go?
Markakis: We have a lot of diversity on this team. We have some good young guys. We have great veterans. We have a great balance throughout our roster. We get energy from the young guys, wisdom from the older guys, as you would say. We mesh well together. We are constantly learning as a team together.
MLB.com: The top of the order features Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. How amazing are they?
Markakis: They are 20 and 21 years old [respectively]. They are very energetic. They have all the talent in the world. To have them hitting ahead of me and Freddie [Freeman], it's pretty cool to watch them do what they do on a daily basis -- the way they run, the way they play the game. It's [rare to have] those two types of players in the top of the lineup.
MLB.com: How fundamentally sound are those two players?
Markakis: They've got work [to do]. This is my 13th year. I've got work [to do] every day. During the course of their career, they are going to work on stuff and get better every day. There is no one complete player. Everybody is striving to get better day in and day out. That's what it takes to be successful in this game.
MLB.com: You have been in this league for 13 years and you've only made one All-Star appearance, and that was this year. How were you bypassed all these years?
Markakis: It's out of my hands. I can only do what I can do. I'm kind of glad that it did happen this year. If I did it earlier in my career, I wouldn't have had my kids to share it with. I wouldn't have it any other way. My boys were old enough to understand and enjoy it. That meant more than anything to me.
MLB.com: Since you brought it up, what was it like to have your kids at the All-Star Game?
Markakis: It's what it is all about. Those kids are my world. To be able to give it to them was a pretty special time for me. My wife was just as excited. Being able to do that for them, that means more to me than anything.
MLB.com: What did you and the kids enjoy the most at the All-Star Game?
Markakis: I enjoyed watching them the whole time. They were constantly talking baseball. They know baseball. It was awesome for them to get around and be around the best players in the world. They liked the Home Run Derby.
MLB.com: You are from the Georgia area. What is it like to win in your hometown?
Markakis: Winning is winning, no matter where you are.
MLB.com: But you are doing it at home.
Markakis: It is. But home is Baltimore for me right now. I'm technically playing at home right now in New York. I'm from New York. No matter where you are, winning is winning. As competitive as we are, winning is our main goal.
MLB.com: What was it like growing up in Georgia and then playing for the Braves?
Markakis: I was 10 when I moved to Georgia. I grew up watching the Braves. I grew up a Red Sox fan. I watched both teams -- the Braves and the Red Sox. I went to as many games my parents could take us to. To watch the caliber of players that I got to watch in my younger days and to be able to share the field in a Braves uniform, it means a lot. As a kid, you dream about playing in the big leagues. Now, here you are, at times, playing against some of those guys you grew up [watching] and playing in the same places as those guys. It's pretty special.
MLB.com: Do you like playing in SunTrust Park?
Markakis: Yeah. It's probably one of the nicest stadiums in the big leagues. To get to play on it -- 81 games a year -- it's pretty fun. I'm speechless when I talk about it because of how nice it turned out, what the Braves did. It's not only for the players; [the park] is fan friendly and a fun place to go and take the family.
MLB.com: How much do you have left in the tank? I know you are a free agent after this year.
Markakis: As long as my body allows me to and I'm still producing and the team wants me, I'll go as long as I can. I don't want to cut myself short, look back on it and say, "I wish I woulda, coulda." As long as I'm healthy, as long as I can go and the team wants me, I'll give it a whirl.
MLB.com: It sounds like you want to stay with the Braves.
Markakis: Yeah. I like the guys here. I like the team. I'd like to stay here. I'm comfortable here. They treated me and my family well. We'll see what happens.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.