Power isn’t exactly the trademark of a second baseman. Those guys are often viewed as scrappy workaholics.
Former Atlanta Braves All-Star Dan Uggla is one of the few exceptions.
Ahead of his first appearance in the Charleston RiverDogs’ annual Legends in the South Alumni baseball game, Uggla said hitting home runs wasn’t always part of his game.
The pitchers he faced during his Major League Baseball rookie season in 2006 found that hard to believe after he hit 27 homers. Uggla is still ranked 12th in home runs hit by second baseman in MLB history, trailing guys like Robinson Cano, Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio.
“Honestly, the power just kind of showed up,” Uggla said. “I was putting in work in the weight room and just wanted to get stronger.”
The fourth annual legends game will be Friday at 6:35 p.m at Riley Park. The game pits former New York Yankees against former Braves, two of the most dominant franchises in the 1990s.
The gates will open at 4:35 p.m. to allow fans to interact with players during batting practice.
Uggla says he's looking forward to his first trip to Charleston. Not so much for the famous restaurants and beaches, though he’s heard plenty about both from friends who can’t believe he's never visited the Holy City.
For Uggla, it’s about two main things: getting 18 holes in on Kiawah Island and reconnecting with guys he built strong relationships with during his 10-year career.
A few of those guys — Ryan Klesko, Steve Avery and Eddie Perez — will also be playing in the legends game.
Perez spent all 11 years of his career with the Braves and has been part of the team’s coaching staff since 2006. Uggla touched down in Atlanta in 2011.
“He’s the best guy to be around," Uggla said. “He was a big part of my time with the Braves and just always had my back.”
Reflecting further on his career, Uggla remembers that 2011 offseason when he signed a five-year deal with an Atlanta team that viewed him as its missing piece.
It was bittersweet because he spent his first five years in the majors with the Florida Marlins. But the Braves deal made sense professionally and for his personal life.
“I was able to be around my kids much more and the Braves were a really good organization” he said.
That first year with Atlanta, Uggla smacked 36 homers and drove in 82 runs – more than Ricky Weeks and Brandon Phillips, the two second basemen who received All-Star nods over him.
But Uggla made the Midsummer Classic the following year, and helped the Braves reach the postseason in 2012 and 2013.
Those years in Atlanta have stayed with him into retirement, one of the reasons he’s excited to put on the jersey Friday night.
He won’t be battling Johan Santana or Cole Hamels, two of the guys who gave him the most trouble.
In fact, the game this year will be a softball format. So it’s more about fans, fun and comradery, Uggla said.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I haven’t seen some of these guys in a while so it should be a good time at the ball park.”
For more on tickets, and other players participating in the game, visit www.milb.com/charleston.