6/29/2013 5:12 P.M. ET
With alumni in town, Braves unveil Memorial Diamond
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- With over 50 former players in town for Alumni Weekend, the Braves unveiled a new Memorial Diamond outside the stadium before Saturday's game against the D-backs to honor deceased Atlanta alumni and Braves Hall of Fame members.
Flanked by six former Braves, including pitchers Steve Avery, Steve Bedrosian and Greg McMichael, Braves president John Schuerholz explained the decision to honor every Atlanta player, coach or manager who spent two or more years with the team with a brick installed in the diamond containing their name, position, years they played and the year they died.
"We'll get a chance for our fans to walk by, to see a name that they remember as a player and pay their respects however they like, or just remember the good times and the contributions that person has made to our organization," Schuerholz said. "We thought this was a most appropriate weekend to do this."
"We're excited about how it turned out," McMichael said. "It's beautiful, and I can't think of a better honor for the alumni to be able to have a place for some of our deceased alumni to be memorialized."
Double bricks were installed for deceased members of the Braves' Hall of Fame, including pitcher Lew Burdette, whose daughter Mary Lou Burdette-Wieloszynski was on hand for the ceremony.
"To be able to be here is very special, because whenever we come up every year, it's like an opportunity to feel closer to our dad and memories of seeing the family, the Braves, that he was a part of for so long," Burdette-Wieloszynski said. "Just the way that the Braves' organization treats us, we're very humbled by that and very grateful."
The unveiling ceremony took place in Monument Grove and was followed by the Legends softball game featuring former Braves players split into teams captained by John Smoltz and Sid Bream.
Braves feel good about Janish in infield
ATLANTA -- Paul Janish does not possess the offensive capabilities Ramiro Pena provided before he was forced to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week. But the Braves are more than comfortable with the defensive contributions Janish could provide now that he has filled Pena's role as a versatile utility infielder.
Each of the three appearances Janish has made since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett last week have called for him to serve as a defensive late-inning replacement for third baseman Chris Johnson. But he also now stands as the only legitimate backup option for starting shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Janish showed his tremendous defensive skills at shortstop as he filled in for an injured Simmons for most of the second half of the 2012 season. While he has not spent much time at third base, Janish seemed quite capable of handling the position when he lunged to his right to knock down Aaron Hill's sharp grounder before throwing to first base to record the first out in Friday night's 3-0 win over the D-backs.
"[Janish] might be the all-time best defender I've ever been around at multiple positions," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We saw it long term last year at shortstop. We asked him when we brought him up if he could play third base, and he said, 'Yeah I'll go over there.' He's played a little bit of it. But he's terrific."
Janish could soon make a spot start to provide Simmons a chance to rest. But it appears most of Janish's playing time will come as a late-inning substitution for Johnson, who has provided consistency at the plate and concerns with his defensive ability at third base.
"It's a luxury to have that kind of guy who understands his role, which he does, and Chris is good about it too," Gonzalez said. "Janish, you're comfortable with him and he knows the game. It really works out well."
Prado warmly embraced in return to Atlanta
ATLANTA -- If Martin Prado did not fully understand how beloved he was during his days with the Braves, he certainly got a sense on Friday night, when he played his first game back in Atlanta since being traded to the D-backs in January.
As Chipper Jones addressed a sold-out crowd moments after his No. 10 jersey was officially retired, he looked toward the D-backs' dugout and once again recognized Prado as one of the best teammates he ever had. Prado received a loud ovation when he stepped out of the visitors' dugout and tipped his cap in appreciation.
Prado and Jones shared a hug after the ceremony as Jones was being paraded around the field on the back of a car.
"The day he got traded, I told him if I'm ever a manager or a general manager, I'm coming after him, because he's the guy that helps you win 95 or 100 ballgames because of his versatility and because he plays [many positions] at an All-Star level," Jones said. "He's one of the best two-strike hitters in the game and he's intense. He has fire in his belly. He makes guys around him better."
Braves fans grew to love Prado as he displayed a blue collar and selfless approach while playing for Atlanta from 2006-12. They showed their appreciation by providing him a standing ovation before his first plate appearance on Friday night.
"I was a little concerned about how people were going to react," Prado said. "But it was great. It was something that was very special to me. They showed a lot of emotions and a lot of respect for me. I don't know how to explain it. I was just so emotional. ... I had a couple tears, but I got my eye black, so nobody could see that."
As Prado stepped out of the batter's box to acknowledge the fans, he tipped his batting helmet and then dropped it.
"That was part of the act," Prado said. "I already practiced that for three months."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.