ZEBULON Being a first-round pick in the MLB draft is glorified, but comes with a massive spotlight. Asheville native Braxton Davidson has dealt with that notoriety for the last two-plus years, bouncing around with four different teams since being drafted in 2014.This season, however, Davidson has enjoyed staying close to home with the Carolina Mudcats. After playing with T.C. Roberson, the 20-year-old was drafted by the Braves with the 32nd pick. While he hasn’t quite met expectations along the way, Davidson hasn’t lost faith in himself. Neither have the Braves.Whether it’s bonding with Dansby Swanson, enjoying a home-cooked meal from mom or getting texts from Fred McGriff, Davidson is enjoying every minute of being in Zebulon. He discussed all that and the pressure that comes along with being a first-round pick when he sat down with the North State Journal.North State Journal: How has the second half of the season gone for you thus far?Braxton Davidson: It’s gone pretty well. I’ve been trying to stick to my same approach of staying through the middle and it’s been working out better so far. I’ve been swinging and missing a lot this season and fouling off some pitches I can usually hit hard. But all in all, I feel like I’ve done a good job of driving in people and hitting home runs, which is what helps teams win ballgames.How much do you feel like you’ve grown as a player since being drafted out of T.C. Roberson?I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m more mature now, even though I showed some immaturity today [slamming his bat after a strikeout], but usually that stuff doesn’t happen. Learning from guys that have been with this team like Dansby [Swanson] and [Ozzie] Albies have shaped me more as a player. I just try to see how they adjust to failure to help me grow on and off the field. It’s pretty special to learn from guys like that.Seeing guys like Dansby and Ozzie pass through, how much does that encourage you to join them?Those guys are very, very good ball players. And they’re great people. Most people don’t know that, but Dansby was my roommate and I was with Albies since 2014, so they motivated me a lot. I love being here, but seeing guys like Dansby and Albies moving on makes me want to get out of here. (Laughs)Why do you say that?I want to be with them all the way through this process. Hopefully we can come up together and play in Atlanta together and bring championships back to the Braves. We believe that we can bring back what the Braves had in the 90’s again. Hopefully we’ll bring more world championships to the table.Growing up in Asheville and playing in Cary for USA Baseball, what is it like to play close to home?I also got to play in Five County Stadium during my freshman year against a guy named Carlos Rodon. You might have heard of him. (Laughs) He was pretty good back then, too. But yeah, this is a place that feels like home. My parents make the trip and a lot of my friends go to NC State and UNC. It’s pretty special to still have that feeling because minor league ball can get lonely at times.What’s the go-to when your mom comes to town?Man, there’s nothing like having moms in town. I’ve always been a momma’s boy, what can I say? (Laughs) She always cooks up those filets with a loaded baked potato and asparagus. That’s my go-to with mom. Can’t get any better than having that on a regular basis.Going straight to the pros out of high school, how difficult has the path been?I’ve had good moments and I’ve had really bad moments. I’m here for a reason, though, and I believe in me as a player and that I’m capable of being great. I try to put in the work and really do things the right way. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel like I’m on the right path.How much extra pressure comes with being a first-round pick?There’s pressure tied to being a first-rounder because of writers who talk about ‘prospects this, prospects that.’ They don’t understand that not everybody’s Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Noah Syndergaard. People put in their minds that every first-round pick is going to be those guys. It takes time for some guys to develop. You know? I’m two years removed from high school, so it doesn’t always click immediately. It’s going to take time, and I’m glad the Braves are taking that time with me.What is it like to be a part of a system that is currently in rebuild mode and looking to develop young talent?It’s pretty special because the Braves have faith in me. I know that with Dansby, Albies, Sean Newcomb and Dustin Peterson that we can all be great. This is kind of what they did in the early 90’s is build a roster around young players and won 14 straight division titles. It’s special to be a part of this organization and know that the future is bright.Did you grow up a Braves fan?I went to a lot of games, but I actually grew up a Yankees fan. But with it being close to home, I always rooted for the Braves, too. I was a big Andruw Jones fan, to be honest. And a Fred McGriff fan with that helicopter swing, man that was awesome. (Laughs) Those guys were so much fun to watch.I know Fred McGriff made the trip down to Zebulon earlier this year as a special assistant. Did you develop a relationship with him?Man, the Crime Dog texts me about once a week to see how I’m doing. It’s pretty special to be that close with someone I idolized as a kid. He just wants me to hit home runs, man. That’s all. (Laughs) He sent me a text after the [July 17] game that said, ‘Two strikeouts and a grand slam? Excellent game!’ I’ll take that all day. It was awesome for my confidence to know he watches what I’m doing. It makes me proud to be a Brave. I’m hoping I can stay a Brave until my career’s over.
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