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Fans swarm Hiram store to meet Braves stars
by Adam Elrod
aelrod@neighbornewspapers.com
February 06, 2013 02:30 PM | 1888 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Mike Minor, Jason Heyward, Eric O’Flaherty and B.J. Upton prepare to sign autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Hiram.
From left, Mike Minor, Jason Heyward, Eric O’Flaherty and B.J. Upton prepare to sign autographs for fans at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Hiram.
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Atlanta Braves fans swarmed to a Paulding County sporting goods store last week for the chance to get autographs and meet their favorite players during the Atlanta Braves Country Caravan.

The Academy Sports + Outdoors store in Hiram was filled with about 500 people in line for autographs and more walking through the store to get a glimpse of outfielders Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton, pitchers Mike Minor and Eric O’Flaherty, General Manager Frank Wren and Coach Carlos Tosca.

Wren said his favorite part of the caravan is the interaction with the young fans.

“The goal of the caravan is to go to where our fans live,” Wren said.

O’Flaherty said it is a great time of year when they are not playing to meet the fans and interact with them.

The annual event travels around 3,000 miles of “Braves country,” which is considered to be Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, from Jan. 22 through Feb. 2. It is held right before the team gets ready to head to spring training.

“It energizes us leading into spring training,” Wren said.

O’Flaherty has participated in eight days of the caravan during his four years with the team, he said.

“There is no better way to get ready for the season than the caravan,” O’Flaherty said.

Bill and Jinger Hudalla of Dallas and their sons Cade, 9, and Tyler, 7, arrived at Academy at 5:45 a.m. to stand in line until the event started at 3:30 p.m. They were number 35 in line, Bill Hudalla said.

“We are pretty regular with doing the autograph signing with the Braves caravan,” he said.

They have been coming to the event for the past three years, and Hudalla has been collecting autographs for the past 20 years, he said.

“This one has the bigger names with Heyward and Upton, so it is a little bit more intense,” Hudalla said.

The players were able to sign autographs and meet 387 fans while at the store. Their record is 445 in Greenville, S.C.
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