NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Braves fans will forever remember Sam Holbrook as the umpire who made the infamous infield fly ruling during the 2012 National League Wild Card Game. Many may also remember Pete Kozma was the Cardinals' shortstop, who Holbrook felt could make an ordinary effort to catch the Andrelton Simmons fly ball that fell in front of Matt Holliday in left field.
Kozma is in camp with the Braves this year as a non-roster invitee. So, what is the 31-year-old infielder’s perspective of what occurred that night, when fans reacted to the call by littering Turner Field with debris?
“That was the loudest stadium I’ve ever played in,” Kozma said. “It was just insane. It turned out to be Chipper [Jones’] final game. So, anytime he walked to the plate, you couldn’t even hear his walk-up music. It was that loud.”
Kozma believes the crowd noise influenced what occurred.
“As soon as the ball is hit in the air, I know that’s my ball,” Kozma said. “I know I’ve got to go back and do the best I can to catch that ball because I know where Matt’s playing -- he’s playing pretty deep. The thing about Matt is when he’s coming in, he’s coming in hard and he’s going to catch [the ball]. He’ll usually scream at the top of his lungs so everybody can hear him. There were 50,000 people screaming and yelling. I heard somebody who sounded just like him. I swore it was him. Obviously, it wasn’t.”
So were you surprised Holbrook made the infield fly ruling?
“I wasn’t surprised because I was going back and I knew I was going to catch it. I threw my hands out for a reason. I knew I was going to catch that ball. I wasn’t surprised. Obviously, everybody else was. I can see both sides of it. I can see it being called a hit and I can see it being called an infield fly.”
Live BP fun
When Mike Soroka told Freddie Freeman he was going to break his bat while throwing live batting practice to him on Wednesday, Freeman boldly took just one of his bats to the back fields.
It didn’t take long for him to regret this decision.
“First swing, second pitch, shattered,” Freeman said. “But he didn’t tell you about the line-drive double I hit, did he? He keeps saying it’s foul. But, nah.”
Live batting practice showdowns annually give teammates a chance to establish bragging rights in light-hearted fashion. This particular matchup gave Freeman a better idea of why Soroka’s sinker frequently frustrated opponents last year.
“The thing dropped like, 'Whoosh,'” Freeman emphatically said while making a sweeping motion. “I’m glad there’s Braves on his chest because that would be an 0-for-3 with three rollovers all day long for me.”
So does Soroka remind Freeman of anybody he’s ever faced?
“No one throws that [sinker] like that,” Freeman said. “Then he also has that changeup. I checked my swing on one. It was just so soft. It’s the same arm speed as his [fastballs]. I can understand why he was so good last year.”
New in-game reporter
Fox Sports South will replace Kelsey Wingert with Kelly Crull as an in-game reporter during this year’s broadcasts. Crull has recently served a similar role, covering the Cubs for NBC Sports Chicago.
Chip Caray and Jeff Francoeur will once again serve as Fox Sports South’s primary broadcast team. They will both be in the booth when the network airs Saturday’s game against the Orioles and Sunday’s game against the Tigers. Both of these games will begin at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Easing them in
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Marcell Ozuna, Nick Markakis and both of his primary catchers -- Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud -- will be among the veterans who will not see much playing time during the early portion of the Grapefruit League season.
“I’m not going to rush to get them in there,” Snitker said. “We’ve got a lot of time.”
Snitker previously said he plans to utilize third-base candidates Johan Camargo and Austin Riley on an every-other-day basis during the early portion of the exhibition season. He’ll also attempt to maximize the opportunities to see Adam Duvall, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win an Opening Day roster spot last year.
The Braves opted to wait until Friday to announce their starting pitchers for this weekend’s games. Snitker wanted to see how a couple guys responded to Thursday’s side sessions before revealing his plan.