Braves' longtime travel director easing into retirement

Acree stepping into advisory role entering 50th season with club

ATLANTA -- Bill Acree has likely seen more Braves games than anybody since the club moved to Atlanta in 1966. And he is looking forward to a less stressful view as he prepares for his 50th season with the club.

Acree has been granted his wish to vacate his title as the team's director of travel and move into an advisory role. He will provide necessary guidance to Chris Van Zant, who will now handle the club's travel, and his son, Ben Acree, who will oversee the home clubhouse and handle all of the team's equipment needs.

"These guys are ready, they've been ready," Bill Acree said.

Likewise, Acree has been ready to step away from the hectic full-time duties he has held over decades for the Braves. Though he has held a variety of roles since 1966, Acree has essentially been in charge of travel, the home clubhouse and equipment since 1981.

As Acree spent Thursday morning preparing to leave for Spring Training, he seemed excited about the chance to remain a part of the organization in his new role. He will be present during Spring Training and make some regular-season trips to Atlanta from his home in St. Simons, Ga.

"It feels good," Acree said of his semi-retirement. "I feel great."

Acree was a junior at Briarcliff High School when he joined the Braves' grounds crew staff in 1966. His salary rose from $1.50 an hour to $1.75 an hour when he accepted responsibility to prepare the grounds crew uniforms and handle the timesheets.

Acree was 18 years old when he became the visiting clubhouse manager in 1968. Five years later, he was handling both clubhouses and serving as Atlanta's equipment manager. But in 1974, at the request of then-manager Eddie Mathews, Acree vacated his duties in the visitors' clubhouse and focused all his attention on the home clubhouse.

When former owner Ted Turner allowed broadcaster Pete van Wieren to vacate his dual role as the team's traveling secretary, Acree added that aspect to his duties. Thus, for the past 34 seasons, the Braves have relied on Acree to run the home clubhouse, serve as the equipment manager and fulfill the often-difficult responsibilities of coordinating their many travel needs.

Van Zant, who joined the Braves as a batboy and clubhouse assistant in 1990, spent the past two seasons as the club's assistant director of team travel and clubhouse services. He held the title of assistant clubhouse manager and team travel manager from 2001-12.

Ben Acree, who has been part of the home clubhouse staff since 1997, has spent the past few seasons handling the equipment manager duties for his father. His responsibilities have included managing the equipment (including the many different uniforms), and handling the day-to-day home clubhouse operations, including meal planning.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.