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Smoltz creates buzz at Coolray with book signing

Photo: Melinda Pease/Gwinnett Braves Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz signs books for fans at the Gwinnett Braves game Friday night at Coolray Field.

Photo: Melinda Pease/Gwinnett Braves Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz signs books for fans at the Gwinnett Braves game Friday night at Coolray Field.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- When Jennifer Smith read about John Smoltz's book signing while using the Internet at the library, the Dacula resident immediately emailed her cousin, Ken Smith.

"She said, 'We have to go," Ken Smith said. "We got the most expensive seats in the house."

The Smiths bought three copies of Smoltz's book "Starting and Closing," described as a chronicle of the pitcher's final season in the major leagues that looks back as his two decades in baseball, including his Cy Young and World Series winning seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

"We are of the age of the big three (Braves pitchers)," Jennifer Smith said, noting the trio of Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. "That was the best team."

This was the second game of the season for Ken Smith, who said he attends about "a half dozen games a season," and lives a few miles from the stadium in Lawrenceville. For his cousin, Jennifer, Friday was her second game ever.

The line for Smoltz snaked around the right field pavilion and down toward the concourse and kept coming through the third inning. He did take a break to throw out the first pitch, to a big applause.

"This is by far, hands down, double anything I have done in any of my little cities," Smoltz said of the size of the crowd at this signing, his eighth so far stretching as far as New York and Nashville.

The trip was also Smoltz's first trip to Coolray Field and he spent time watching Friday's game and touring the stadium.

"It was something I'm embarrassed to say because of my schedule," Smoltz said of failing to visit the stadium sooner. "I knew coming here was going to be great to see this place and hopefully, days down the road, get to watch games here."

Smoltz signed more than 450 books in the few hours he signed and talked with fans who waited more than an hour.

Jeremiah Perez of Flowery Branch came wearing an authentic 1995 Smoltz jersey and quickly bought a copy of the book and took a picture with Smoltz.

"He was my favorite of the bunch from the '90s," said Perez, whose only other brush with a baseball star came when he met Brian McCann's mother at Turner Field. "He was very nice and friendly and took my picture."

Perez is a partial-season ticket holder for the G-Braves and made sure he made it out Friday.

"I definitely didn't sell them or give them away," he said.

And for that, Smoltz was grateful.

"This city has been unbelievable for me personally," Smoltz said. "The sentiments have been all the same, they could appreciate my grit. They appreciate the way I went after it."