“No, it’s a baseball game.”
That was Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton’s response when he was asked Monday afternoon if there would be a little more adrenaline flowing in the opener of a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
The D-backs made Upton the first overall selection of the 2005 MLB First Year Player Draft and he spent six seasons in Sedona Red, helping the team to two National League West titles. Monday marks his first game as an opponent of the Diamondbacks.
“All this leading up to it is a little bit more than the game will be. It’s not Game 7 of the World Series and there’s going to be a lot of games coming after this one so you take it in stride and play three games on the road and get back home.”
Arizona dealt the two-time All-Star and infielder Chris Johnson to the Braves in January in exchange for five players, including former All-Star Martin Prado. Since arriving in Atlanta, Upton has made his mark. The 25-year-old leads the National League in home runs with 12 and the Braves currently sit atop the NL East.
“Coming back with a different team is definitely a different feeling, but we’re here to play baseball,” Upton said. “It’s going to be cool to play in front of the fans again, play in the stadium again in familiar surroundings, but at the end of the day it’s just baseball.”
Despite being the first overall pick and a cornerstone of the franchise, Upton was never the fan favorite that you’d expect a player with his skill set to be. Upton isn’t sure about what kind of fan reaction he’ll get when he steps into the batter’s box for the first time.
“I don’t know, I’d like it to be good,” he said. “But I’m on the other team, I’m wearing different colors, so you never know what you’re going to get.”
Despite trade rumors that persisted for three offseasons, Upton has no regrets about his time in Arizona.
“Not at all,” he said. “I went out and played with the guys that I enjoyed playing with and had a good time with in the clubhouse.
“Those relationships that you gain when you’re playing in the clubhouse with guys, it doesn’t matter what team you’re on, those are the guys you battle with every night, so definitely no regrets.”