Braves trucks head to Florida

Braves trucks head to Florida

ATLANTA -- Braves pitchers and catchers aren't required to report to Spring Training until next week. But by Friday morning, most of the equipment and accessories that they and the rest of their teammates will be using over the course of the next seven weeks will have arrived at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

Early Thursday morning, employees of Atlanta Peach Movers arrived at Turner Field to begin loading more than 1,000 boxes on a 53-foot tractor-trailer that was bound for the Spring Training haven known as Florida.

As the loading process progressed, it was determined a second smaller truck would be necessary to carry the team's exercise equipment. Both of the trucks left Atlanta around 3 p.m. ET.

By Friday at 8 a.m. ET, the trucks, full of baseball-related products and other accessories, will arrive at the newly named Champion Stadium. From there, the Disney property will once again be the Spring Training home of the Braves.

"Basically, you pack everything but the kitchen sink," Braves assistant clubhouse and team travel manager Chris Van Zant said before the trucks began their seven-hour trek from Atlanta to the Orlando area. "But the thing is, you don't have to pack 15 boxes of every single thing."

In early January, Braves clubhouse personnel began packing. Along with bats, balls, gloves and other baseball accessories, they had to plan to pack countless medical supplies, coolers, pieces of exercise equipment and even the golf carts that transport coaches, players and management around the spacious Disney complex.

Because players worked out at Turner Field over the past couple of weeks, much of the packing process had to be accelerated this week. Still, by Tuesday, they had palletized a mountainous array of boxes that stretched across seven lockers, standing nearly eight feet tall and wide.

"I think every year, we pack more efficiently," Van Zant said. "We know how many boxes of [drinking] cups we used last year and how many boxes of socks we needed. The next year, you pack accordingly based on what you used the year before."

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Much has certainly been learned since 1975, when visiting clubhouse manager John Holland got his first experience of essentially moving clubhouses at the start and finish of Spring Training. That year, he had to return from West Palm Beach, Fla., to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to unpack and organize all of the supplies himself.

Holland will have help on Friday afternoon, once the movers have taken all of the boxes off the truck. Assisting him will be Fred Stone; Van Zant; Ben Acree, the club's assistant clubhouse and equipment manager; and assistant visiting clubhouse manager Josh Hall.

This group also teamed to do most of the packing. Head athletic trainer Jeff Porter and assistant trainer Jim Lovell packed the club's medical supplies.

"We'll more or less just be playing traffic cop when the [movers] are unloading," Van Zant said. "We also try to do some organizing as the boxes are coming in so that when we're unpacking, we know what's where."

Over the past few years, Braves clubhouse personnel have been color-coding the boxes to make things easier during the unloading process. Boxes coded with blue go to the trainer's room, and those coded with green go to the storage room. The orange boxes contain items that remain in the clubhouse.

Braves general manager Frank Wren and his staff will also send some boxes that contain player files and other information that they may need.

"You order things in a certain order, you pack things in a certain order and you unload things in a certain order," Holland said. "Once you've been doing it for a few years, you know how it should be done."

While the Braves aren't transporting as many personal items as they did in the past, they are now moving more exercise equipment. Because they don't own any of the Disney property, they aren't able to leave things like treadmills, weights and exercise bikes in storage areas.

Thus strength and conditioning coach Frank Fultz needs to send much of his Turner Field equipment to Disney on an annual basis. Needless to say, these items, which are often disassembled during the moving process, provide more packing problems than symmetrical boxes.

But not until Thursday had the pieces of equipment forced the utilization of a second truck.

Approximately a decade ago, the Braves were using a 45-foot trailer, partly because it was the only size that would fit in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium's tunnel. As Holland and Stone will attest, they always sent those trucks to Florida as full as possible.

While the contents changed and obviously expanded, the ritual basically remained the same yet again for the Braves on Thursday, when they sent the trucks toward Florida for the start of another baseball season.

"This whole week, we've been champin' at the bit," Holland said. "We're all excited to get to down there."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.