A fan favorite player during his time in Washington, Ryan Church talked before Sunday’s game about missing his teammates and fans in the nation’s capital, but being thrilled to be part of the Braves organization.
“Words can’t describe it,” Chuch said of playing for a franchise steeped in history and tradition with legendary manager Bobby Cox at the helm. Church described the Braves organization as low-key and very different from the high-pressure atmosphere in New York.
“They have the right atmosphere to give you the freedom to just go out there and have success,” he said. “Guys just show up and play the game the right way. Everything goes with having that freedom. It breeds success.”
It’s the kind of success that Church thinks the Nationals and their “hungry fans” will experience soon and that the city deserves.
“Fans here really appreciate it if you just go out there and give it your all every day. It’s getting to a point where they expect to win,” he said. “They’ve got Zimmerman and Dunn over here who hate losing. They’ve got the draft picks. They’ve got guys that are hopefully going to contribute in the next couple of years. There are still a lot of pieces they need to shore up.”
Those critical needs include starting pitching, a stronger bullpen and better defense. Church believes those strengths explain why his team is still in the NL Wild Card race.
“When I was here and we had success, we had a good bullpen. You’ve got to have a good bullpen and you’ve got to have starting pitching,” he said. “You’ve got to have five guys, quality guys, who you can hand the ball off to every day...and you have to play good defense.”
Church quickly points to that inaugural year for the Nationals as his favorite time with the organization both because of the team’s success and because it was historic and exciting for the city.
Now, his new team is looking to fight their way into the exciting postseason. Despite that pressure, he insists that the Braves are relaxed and focused, while trying to avoid scoreboard watching and instead worry only about winning their own games, including four more after today against the Nationals.
“On paper, yes - you expect to win. We have a lot of respect for these guys, but yes, you expect to win and of course you’re upset if you don’t,” he said.
After hosting the Mets for the final three home games of the season, the Nationals will travel to Atlanta next weekend for a four game series that could help to decide if the Braves will head to the postseason.