Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Around 500 people came out to the Atlanta Braves Country Caravan event at the Academy Sports + Outdoors in Snellville Friday. Atlanta Braves players Freddie Freeman, Kris Medlen, Tyler Pastornicky, coaches Fredi Gonzalez, Brian Snitker and broadcaster Don Sutton were on hand to sign autographs.
SNELLVILLE -- After she missed out on an Atlanta Braves Caravan stop last year in Cumming, which sold out on her way there, Jasmyn Davis made sure this time would be different.
The Snellville resident who attends the Connections Academy charter school put school aside on Friday to position herself to get autographs at a Braves Caravan stop at Academy Sports+Outdoors. Davis said she and her brother, Brenden, were the first people in the parking lot of the Snellville store at 6 a.m., well in advance of the 3:30 p.m. event.
"She is the Braves fan in the family," said her father, Kevin, who attended the event with the whole family. "It's something we do as a family a lot. It's important to them and important to me."
Kevin said his children would makeup school work later Friday night, and everyone agreed the tradeoff was worth it.
While Davis was disappointed she couldn't meet Braves catcher Brian McCann, or recently traded Martin Prado, her favorite pitcher Kris Medlen signed a softball and a game day bow she wears. Davis is a pitcher for the East Cobb Edge traveling softball team.
Davis called meeting Medlen "a big deal," especially because she said he would follow her on Twitter.
"Oh yeah, this is worth it," she said of her early arrival, wearing a McCann T-shirt jersey.
Medlen was among a group of Braves players and coaches on hand for the event. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, third base coach Brian Snitker, shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, first baseman Freddie Freeman and broadcaster Don Sutton signed autographs and took pictures with fans.
"I pulled up, and I was like, 'Umm, there's nobody here,'" said Davis, who arrived two hours before the store opened. "But at least I know that I'm going to be No. 1 (in line). That's what made getting here early OK."
It helped that Davis' mother brought lunch and a milkshake while she waited.
Academy team lead Joseph Vickers said store employees stopped counting fans at about 350, and he estimated about 500 fans came for the event in a line that wrapped around the inside of the store.
"You get to see the fan support they have for their team," Medlen told the Daily Post. "It's awesome to see people lining up out the doors to see you and get your autograph. It gives you that first day of school feeling because you're around the guys, and you haven't seen them all offseason."
"It's a lot of fun to be able to give back," he said. "The fans support us all year, for eight straight months. They come out to the field, so it's the least we can do is give a couple of our days, and see the fans."
While Freeman said he attended other Caravan stops on Thursday in Augusta and Columbia, S.C., Medlen, a Duluth resident, said his lone Caravan stop was in Snellville because his wife is due with the couple's first child on Feb. 5.
Because of the pregnancy, Medlen withdrew from playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic because he said he should be with his family.
Medlen said his wife, Nicki, allowed him to choose the baby's name, and it would be Max.
"Every name I picked, I tried to say through the P.A. system," he said. "Just in case he's an athlete."
Medlen said his wife is anxious for delivery and has had a car seat in place for at least a month. Medlen said the couple's doctor has planned for delivery to be no later than Feb. 7. After the baby's two-week checkup, Medlen said his family would join him at spring training in Orlando, Fla.
Despite being the Braves' best starting pitcher the second half of last season, Medlen said he would approach this season the same as he did last season.
"I was on cloud nine and not a lot of people expected that from me, but I expected that from myself," he said. "I'm coming into spring as ready as I was last year. I expect to be competitive and help my team win."
Medlen admitted that his autograph is in higher demand among fans after a season when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA. But he's the same person he was before last year's accolades.
"I'm not going to change because I had a better season," Medlen said. "I'm going to be the same person. I don't consider myself any better than the everyday person."
For Davis, Friday's experience was very memorable, and she said the autographed softball would sit on a dresser next to her softball trophies.
"He's my favorite," she said of Medlen.