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Braves go country for a day as Aldean takes cuts
Braves Spring Basebal Heal
Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) watches batting practice Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. - photo by Associated Press


KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jason Aldean circled the bases, touched home plate and collapsed next to the batting cage, pulling his cap over his face.

"After lunch, let's come back and do it again," Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said jokingly.

Sprawled on the ground and struggling to catch his breath, Aldean replied, "No, I'm good."

The country music star got a chance to live his other dream Thursday, working out for more than two hours with his favorite baseball team while trailed by a crew filming it all for a TV reality show.

Aldean didn't make the team — with cameras rolling, Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren told the singer he had been "cut" after the workout — but by all accounts the former high school player held up well alongside such stars as Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann.

"Not bad," Jones said. "He's a little more athletic than we're used to seeing from our normal celebs."

Gonzalez agreed.

"He's the best celebrity I've seen, by far. Not even close," the manager said. "You can tell he's got a little background in baseball."

Wearing uniform No. 9, Aldean started out taking grounders at first base, scooping up a few low throws. Then he got some solid wood on the ball during his turn in the batting cage, his longest drive landing on the warning track and short-hopping off the fence. Finally, he joined the team for base-running drills, tailing along at the end of the pack.

Aldean was taping a segment for the reality show "Day Jobs," which airs on the country music cable network GAC. Normally, the show follows artists as they return to jobs they held before becoming famous, but he had no desire to go back to his old line of work.

"I was a delivery guy for Pepsi," he said. "That was not cool. I was not going back and doing my old job. I worked too hard to not have to do that anymore. So they said, 'What about we do kind of a dream job deal with you, where you get to do something with the Braves?' I was like, 'Now that I would be into.'"

The 35-year-old Aldean was born and raised in Macon, Ga., about 75 miles south of Atlanta.

"I've been a fan of this team for a long time," Aldean said. "I grew up watching 'em. To get to come out and do this today is a big honor for me."

Except for an occasional game of softball, Aldean's athletic career ended after he played first base at Windsor Academy in Macon. But he's still got pretty good skills with the mitt.

"Sometimes you just close your eyes and hope it finds your glove," Aldean quipped. "But I was pretty comfortable over there."

The gap between him and the pros was a lot more pronounced in the batting cage.

"It almost looks like they're barely swinging and the ball just jumps off their bats," Aldean marveled. "But that's why they do this for a living and why I don't. It's a little intimidating getting up there hitting in front of those guys."

Recalling the movie "Major League," Aldean felt a little like the Wesley Snipes character Willie Mays Hayes, a speedy outfielder who was punished every time he hits the ball in the air.

"I had a lot of popups," Aldean said. "I started to drop down and do some pushups."

Aldean expects his episode to air sometimes in October, in conjunction with the release of his fifth studio album. His most recent effort, "My Kinda Party," received Album of the Year from the Country Music Association and was nominated for a Grammy.

The Braves are shorthanded at first base, where Freddie Freeman is expected to be out at least a week with a knee injury.

Still, the team passed on a chance to sign Aldean.

"We've got some roster issues right now," Gonzalez said, struggling to contain a smile. "We don't have a spot on the roster."