August 13, 2022

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Elder's toughness on display in hometown start

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ARLINGTON — One of the first stops Braves pitcher Bryce Elder made when landing in Texas was home — a small town called Decatur about 50 miles northwest of Globe Life Field.

He slept in his own bed that night, took his grandmother to breakfast the next morning and later got to work in preparation for his start on Saturday against the Rangers — the team he, his family and pretty much the rest of town grew up rooting for.

The thing about small towns is that they’re tight-knit. When Elder, the Braves’ No. 5 prospect, was called up in early April, not many people were able to make the trek to Atlanta to watch him earn his first win against the Nationals. His family immediately booked flights after hearing the news, but everyone else watched from home.

When it came time for Elder to start against his hometown team, hundreds of people from Decatur and the neighboring towns showed up to support their hero. Though, if he heard you call him that, he’d deny it and say he’s just a regular guy.

“It goes to show that I was fortunate enough to grow up in a good town,” Elder said after Atlanta’s 3-1 loss to Texas. “It means a lot for them to come out and make the drive down. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

After the game, Elder made his way to the main concourse to greet everyone. Engulfed by a crowd, he lost count of how many autographs he signed in the 30 minutes after the last out.

His family and friends wore T-shirts that read, “Respect the Elder,” across the chest. Some of them even stayed up through the night to make sure they were ready for the game. Win or lose, everyone was just happy to be there, his mom, Kasi Elder, said.

According to Kasi, Bryce was told he wasn’t good enough to make it to the college level. Then, he committed to Texas. They said he wouldn’t be drafted. Then, he was selected by the Braves in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft. Now, he’s four games into his career in the Majors.

“We’re just along for the ride,” Kasi said.

Through four starts, Elder has compiled a 1-3 record with a 4.74 ERA. Manager Brian Snitker had nothing but good things to say about the 22-year-old’s outing, but he kept circling back to one topic: Elder never folds.

Elder gave up four hits, three runs and three walks, including a two-out home run to Rangers shortstop Corey Seager in the first inning. After surrendering that run, he collected himself and took the mound again to strike out the next batter and end the inning.

“He’s still learning. He’s a young kind,” Snitker said. “That’s like I say every time, he’s going to experience something new, whether it’s with the running game or executing pitches … he never gives in. I admire him. He’s got a lot of great [intangibles], it’s just a matter of experience for him.”

Saturday marked Elder’s first start against his hometown team. It wasn’t in the stadium where he grew up watching games, so the moment didn’t hit him as much, but he was happy to show out for his community.

“Whether he’s at this level or the Minor Leagues or wherever, he’s that same kid,” Kasi said. “He still believes he’s got work to do.”

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