Former Lookouts back in town playing for the Mississippi Braves

Former Lookouts back in town playing for the Mississippi Braves

June 6th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - Professional

Mississippi Braves player Kyle Russell bats against the Chattanooga Lookouts Wednesday at AT&T Field.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

There is the third-base dugout at AT&T Field, and there is Kyle Russell's dugout.

After playing the past three seasons with the Chattanooga Lookouts, when they occupied the dugout on the first-base side, Russell is now the left fielder for the Mississippi Braves, who are occupying AT&T's first-base dugout this week. The Lookouts switched their home from the first- to third-base side this past offseason.

"Being in the same dugout with a different team has been really weird, but otherwise it hasn't been that bad," Russell said Wednesday afternoon. "I'm part of a good organization right now and a good team. I'm excited that we're winning baseball games, and that makes it a lot easier."

Rain delayed Wednesday night's first pitch by more than an hour, and the outcome of the extra-inning game was not available at press time.

Russell is among three Mississippi Braves who have played at least 100 career games for the Lookouts, with infielders Jaime Pedroza and Luis Nunez being the others. Those three played a combined 610 games with Chattanooga, topping the 538 combined games of Chattanooga's three most experienced current players -- outfielders Blake Smith and Brian Cavazos-Galvez and catcher Griff Erickson.

Needless to say, there has been plenty of catching up this week.

"I guess the longer you play, the more this is going to happen," Cavazos-Galvez said. "I think I know someone on just about every team."

The former Lookouts have been productive in their old abode, with Pedroza's two-run home run propelling Mississippi to a 4-2 win Sunday night and Nunez's grand slam being the difference in the Braves' 5-3 triumph Monday. Russell had a game-tying RBI on Tuesday night, but the Lookouts pulled out a 2-1 win.

Pedroza said it's been "sweet" watching the three former Lookouts getting the better of the organization that let them go, and he and Russell admit there has been no shortage of motivation.

"I don't have anything bad to say about the organization over there," Russell said, "but there is going to be some motivation to go out there and perform the best you can and help your team win every single game."

Said Erickson: "I'm sure they want to stick it to us as much as they can, but for us it doesn't change how we play."

Russell first arrived in Chattanooga as Baseball America's best power-hitting prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, and he hit 40 home runs in 270 games during the 2010-12 seasons. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound former University of Texas standout was still with the Dodgers in March until being released.

"Getting released by the Dodgers with a week and a half left in spring training was pretty nuts," he said, "and then two hours later I got a call from the Atlanta Braves saying they want me to be a part of their organization. It definitely made for a roller-coaster of a day and was a crazy process, but it all worked out."

Russell, Pedroza and Nunez each will turn 27 later this year, and they continue to reside at the Class AA level. They have not given up hope of reaching the majors, nor has their enjoyment of the game waned in the least.

"The older I've gotten, the more I've realized that as long as you can keep a jersey on your back, you've got a chance," Pedroza said. "That's one thing I always tell myself, and that's one thing that motivates me. In this game, there is nothing you can control except going out and doing your best and trying to put up good numbers.

"The rest of that stuff is up to the general managers, and you either get lucky or you don't."

Ross Stripling (1-1, 2.66) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 series finale for the Lookouts, with Aaron Northcraft (2-3, 3.91) scheduled for the Braves.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.