ATLANTA -- As he has remained rather shy and humble over the past few weeks, John Gant has provided clear indication that he is much more comfortable on a mound than he is in front of inquiring reporters. But as the right-handed reliever stood in front of his locker at Turner Field on Monday afternoon and prepared for his first day as a Major Leaguer, he could not completely hide the excitement of knowing that he was about to fulfill his lifelong dream to become an Atlanta Brave.
"I have been dreaming about playing for this team since I was six or seven, when I got my first baseball glove and played my first season in Savannah [Ga]," Gant said. "My team was the Braves. I've grown up a big Braves fan and I've been waiting for this for a long time."
Gant's hope to fulfill this dream was enhanced in July, when the Braves acquired him via a trade that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to the Mets. The right-hander responded by posting a 1.99 ERA over seven starts for Double-A Mississippi, but he was still a rather obscure figure when he came to this year's Spring Training in the shadows of the crop of top prospects Atlanta brought to big league camp.
Steadily over the past couple of weeks, however, Gant evolved from being "the guy with a funky delivery" to a guy who could help the Braves at some point this year, either as a starting pitcher or reliever. He earned his spot in the Atlanta bullpen after featuring his changeup in the process of allowing just four earned runs over 15 1/3 innings (which includes the four scoreless innings completed against the Tigers during a game that was called early due to rain).
Still, even after Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez informed him he would be on the Opening Day roster, Gant still responded in a reserved manner. He exchanged a few telling handshakes with teammates, but when approached by reporters, he sheltered his emotions, knowing he had been instructed not to say anything until the roster was officially announced.
"I'm more excited than anxious or nervous," Gant said. "I'm just happy to be here and get my chance, finally."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.