ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves return to Turner Field on Friday for their home opener. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET on FOX Sports South against the New York Mets. Starting at 5:30 p.m. FOX Sports South will broadcast a special two-hour edition of “Braves Live” leading all the way up to first pitch.
On “Braves Live” fans be re-introduced to Braves reporter Kristina Fitzpatrick, who returned to FOX Sports South in March. Prior to her big night Friday, she sat down to answer a number of questions:
What’s it like to be back at FOX Sports South?
I was with FOX Sports South back in 2010 doing SEC Gridiron Live in its second and third seasons of existence. I was [also] doing SEC football sidelines. It’s actually great to be back because I’ve been in baseball, and the Braves were a position that I eyed back when I was with FOX Sports South [previously], and would have loved the opportunity to cover the Braves here in Atlanta. After a few years of going elsewhere and doing the many opportunities that have come my way, I’m getting that opportunity to come back home to Atlanta — which has been home for five years now, since I started in 2010 — and cover the hometown team and live here full time and be a part of Braves country.
Give us a rundown of what you’ve been doing since you were with FOX Sports South last?
I left after the 2011 football season and took a job covering the Washington Nationals. It was my first opportunity to cover a team on a regional sports broadcast (MASN — Mid-Atlantic Sports Network), and it was an unbelievable opportunity. It gave me a lot of insight into the game itself. I was a fan and knew baseball going in, but you learn so much more when you spend day in and day out with one team, traveling with the team, just trying to cover it from every angle. It was a great opportunity. I worked with some unbelievable people and made some great relationships. But D.C. was not home at the time, Atlanta still was.
From there I took a job with MLB Network. I was part of a show that launched for the 2013 season called “MLB Now” which was old school meets new school. Brian Kenny represented the new school, sabermetrics side of the game, and Harold Reynolds was the old-school player bringing what happens on the field and in the clubhouse too. It was a debate-style show and I was the moderator. It was a great time and these were some unbelievable guys to work with. I was living in New York at the time to do that and I was able to go on the road and cover the postseason in 2013; the ALDS and ALCS.
During Year 2 at MLB Network — [there was also] a quick stint of getting married in March and then back to New York — I was on a show with Christopher Russo called “High Heat” where we worked out of the SiriusXM Satellite studios in Manhattan. He was an unbelievable guy to work with. He has so much knowledge about the game and its history. It was a total history lesson every day with him from Christopher just having years of experience covering baseball. He’s an avid, avid fan that cares so much about this sport. It was very eventful every day going to work with Chris Russo and being a part of “High Heat.” From there I covered the postseason in 2014; the NLDS and NLCS.
During the offseason I put some feelers to what was going on in Atlanta, and I came across an opportunity to come back to where it all started for me.
As a new Braves reporter, one of the things that jumps out is your season spent covering the Nationals. What’s the Braves-Nats rivalry like from their point of view?
In 2012 the Nats were on their way to the top and the Braves always had their number, even last year. It’s a great rivalry and it’s been building over the last few years. They certainly know that Atlanta is a force to be reckoned with, no matter the situation. And any time you get two division rivals like that in the situation where it’s been built and it’s become an actual rivalry I think, especially with the way the seasons have progressed the last two years, it’s been great. [It’s] great for the division and it’s great for the game. I’ll certainly be looking forward to those matchups this season.
After your gig covering the Nationals, you spent two years with MLB Network. What was that experience like and how has spending two seasons looking at MLB in a broad, 30-team point of view changed the way you’ll approach covering one team … the Braves.
I’ll still keep an eye on the rest of the league because I think it’s important to know who’s doing what, obviously when it comes to the teams the Braves are playing. This is just a different situation in the sense that your day in day out doing every-day coverage of one team you kind of have to really dig and find those intricate stories that are going on within the clubhouse or on the field, whatever the case may be.
From a broadcast perspective you can touch on a team one given week and then you won’t have to talk about them until a few days later, instead of doing one team every single day. There’s no such thing as manufacturing news. So you really have to be on top of it and build those relationships and understand what’s going on. I think your biggest focus is the fan base here because it’s an unbelievable fan base. The Braves fans, just being around them the last five years, their focus is great. The idea is to bring to them what they need to know every day about the Braves.
What have been your biggest impressions on the team thus far and what are you looking forward to digging into once you start?
I’m excited about the fact that it’s a new season, it’s kind of a new age, a new face of Braves baseball as far as the team is concerned … new faces. For me, from my perspective that’s good because it gives me things to work with as far as totally letting the fans know who these guys are and where they came from and what their stories are. That’s important to a fan base when they’re trying to follow a team and really get into what’s going on, regardless of their record or how the season prevails. You want to get to know your hometown team.
Part of my job is to portray that and find out what it is the fans want to know and what they would find interesting about the team itself. We’re also getting in on the ground floor of what looks like a new direction for a bright future for Atlanta. That’s exciting to me just to be a part of that. Everyone calls it a rebuilding year, I understand that. But it seems to be set up to go in the right direction. I’m excited to be on the ground floor and able to get in John Hart’s elevator to the top.
What are you going to be doing this season for FOX Sports South?
I will be part of a wonderful broadcast team with Chip Caray and Joe Simpson. Jenn Hildreth and I, along with Paul Byrd, will be doing a rotation of the reporting and also the desk on the pregame and wrap-up show, “Braves Live.”
It’s a great rotation, it’s a great setup and the opportunity to be on the field during the game and on the road — my first road trip will be Toronto and New York [April 17-23] — just to bring the stories from road trips and to host the shows before and after games, it’s great. I’ll be wearing a couple of hats here.