Cox returns to skipper future Braves stars

Cox returns to skipper future Braves stars

Cox returns to skipper future Braves stars
GWINNETT, Ga. -- Bobby Cox looked right at home as he donned a blue Atlanta Braves jersey in the visitor's dugout at Coolray Field.

But Tuesday night was a little different -- as if sitting in the visitor's dugout wasn't different enough.

The legendary manager, responsible for so much of the Braves' storied history, would soon be in charge of a "Future Stars" team that looks to make Braves history in the years to come.

"It feels great. I'm honored to be able to do this," Cox said. "They're going to be coming through Gwinnett here pretty quick on to Atlanta. I'm delighted to do what I'm doing."

Cox managed such high-profile prospects as catcher Christian Bethancourt and pitcher Sean Gilmartin, who will begin the year in Double-A Mississippi, and third baseman Joey Terdoslavich, who will start at Triple-A Gwinnett.

While the game marked the end of Atlanta's 2012 exhibition schedule, it also saw Cox's return to managing, at least for one night. No one was happier about that than current Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez.

"It's going to be fun," said Gonzalez. "This is the first time we've seen him in uniform. I've been begging him for two Spring Trainings now to get him in uniform. Hopefully this is not the last time that we see him in uniform. It's great to see him, and it's great to see him in a Major League uniform."

"It's awesome," agreed Braves right fielder Jason Heyward. "I wouldn't mind him being our bench coach every now and then."

The idea of getting strategy from a legend was not lost on the Futures players.

"That's special. That's definitely an honor," said Terdoslavich, the Future's starting third baseman. "He's a legend. The Atlanta Braves manager, managing one more time, the first time he's managing against the Atlanta Braves. So I'm excited. It should be fun. Hopefully we can get him one more win. That would be nice."

Cox said he had no special pregame speech planned.

"I just told them some funny stories and how to play the game tonight," he said. "Don't play to try not to hurt somebody because that's when you do get hurt. Just play your normal game. If you're a hard-slider, slide hard. If you pitch in a lot, don't be afraid to pitch in. That kind of thing. But we want to get out of here with nobody hurt, that's for sure."

He admitted that it was nice to see the fans in the pregame festivities, an on-field receiving line of sorts, where early-arriving fans got to meet both teams.

"I was shocked how many came through there. That was great, a great turnout," he said. "They're going to pack [Coolray Field] tonight. I'd like to see this place packed every night. They're going to see great baseball at Gwinnett this year."

And what about the team he's facing?

"I think Fredi's finally put it together," he said. "We'll see how they fare. Hopefully we'll get out of the chute real fast and have a great year."

In the end, it was Gonzalez' club putting together just enough to beat Cox's crew, 4-3, in a rain-shortened 6 1/2-inning affair.

The weather notwithstanding, the night was considered a success.

"If they ask us to do this again next year, I would love to do it," said Gonzalez.

"It was a fun ballgame, the fans got a fun show," added Cox. "Unfortunately, the rains came. Other than that, it worked out well. This is something that may become a tradition."

The Braves hope to make it a tradition of getting Cox back in uniform.

"Maybe next year, we'll see. I feel comfortable with Fredi but I don't want to get in anybody's way at all," he said. "But it felt good to get the uni on again and have a ball game. It was a lot of fun."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.