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All-PG outfield for Braves in '13

Jeff Dahn

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

When the Atlanta Braves take the field for their 2013 season-opener against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on April 1, their starting outfield will have a distinctive Perfect Game flavor.

The Braves on Thursday acquired two-time MLB All-Star and 2004 Aflac (now Perfect Game) All-American Classic alumnus Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and will insert him in leftfield with his brother B.J. Upton patrolling center and Jason Heyward in right.

The Braves also acquired third baseman Chris Johnson in the trade; he is a four-year MLB veteran who played in two PG events in 2002, including the PG National Top Prospect Showcase. The Diamondbacks received seven-year big-league veteran Martin Prado; right-hander Randall Delgado, a two-year MLB vet; and right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and middle-infielder Brandon Drury in return.

Spruill, Ahmed and Drury combined to participate in six PG events in 2007 and 2008, and Spruill attended the 2007 PG National Showcase. All were considered top prospects within the Braves' organization.

Justin Upton, 25, participated in eight PG events while attending high school in Chesapeake, Va. He performed at both the 2003 and 2004 Perfect Game National Showcase and the 2004 World Showcase before playing in the 2004 Aflac All-American Game in Aberdeen, Md.

“It was definitely an honor getting selected to it,” Upton said of the All-American Classic experience during an interview with PG last March.“Those all-star games are always fun to play in, and that was the biggest stage you could play on in high school.

"It was definitely a cool experience and you got to hang out for a few days with the guys who were playing at the highest level of high school baseball, so it was a cool experience and I definitely enjoyed it.”

Justin Upton was the No. 1 overall selection by the Diamondbacks in the 2005 MLB amateur draft and made his big-league debut on Aug. 2, 2007 at the age of 19. The 2013 season will be his seventh in the big-leagues.

B.J. Upton, 28, signed a five-year free agent contract with the Braves in November after playing eight seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. B.J. Upton played in three PG events during his high school years, including the 2001 PG National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla. B.J.'s PG career ended before there was an All-American Classic.

The Devil Rays made him the No. 2 overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft, and he made his big-league debut on Aug. 2, 2004, at age 19, three years to the day before younger brother Justin made his MLB debut.

Upon first learning that the Braves were working on a deal for Justin, B.J. tweeted on his Twitter account: ''Wow these (at)JUS10UP10 rumors have me excited. Please don't tease me like this... Would be a dream come true if it happens.''

Heyward, 23, is already a Perfect Game legend, having participated in 17 events between 2004 and 2007. He appeared at six PG showcases -- including the 2006 PG National Showcase and the 2006 Aflac All-American Game -- and played in 11 PG WWBA tournaments with the East Cobb Baseball organization.

Heyward was the 14th overall selection by the Braves in the 2007 amateur draft and made his big-league debut on April 5, 2010 at age 20. He finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2010.

Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Heyward aren't the only prominent Braves with strong PG ties. First baseman Freddie Freeman played in the 2006 Aflac All-American Game and at the 2006 PG National Showcase, and catcher Brian McCann performed at the 2002 Perfect Game Pre-Draft Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Other Braves also performed on big PG stages, particularly at the PG National Showcase. Tyler Pastornicky (2007). Mike Minor (2005), Cory Rasmus (2005) and Johnny Venters (2002) all attended the PG National, and Jordan Walden started the 2005 Aflac All-American Game for the West squad.

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