MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Huntingdon Athletics) – Former Huntingdon catcher Joseph Odom is one of 27 non-roster invitees to the Atlanta Braves' major league spring training.
Odom received the invitation to major league spring training in early January. He will report to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., near Orlando, on Feb. 19 with the other pitchers and catchers. The remaining position players will report by Feb. 24.
"This has definitely been one of my goals," Odom said. "They called me and said they were happy with the year I had and that I had earned a spot. To see my hard work paying off and being one step closer to my dreams is awesome. But I also realize I still have a lot of steps to make to get to where I want to be and make my dream a reality."
Odom, a native of Vestavia Hills, Ala., is the youngest catcher listed on the Braves' non-roster invitees list. He sees this as an opportunity to learn from the veterans while showing what he can do.
"The biggest thing is it's a huge honor to just be invited," Odom said. "There are only 20-something non-roster guys who are invited and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the youngest catcher. I hope to turn some heads and have people asking, 'who is that Odom kid'.
"But it's definitely going to be a learning experience just to see how the veteran guys go about their business. One of the things I look forward to is being able to talk to guys like (Braves catcher) A.J. Pierzynski, who have been around the game. It's going to be a good experience to be around those guys, talk to them and be able to pick their brains."
A 13th-round draft pick by the Braves in 2013, Odom spent the past two seasons in high-Class A with the Lynchburg Hillcats and the Carolina Mudcats. Last season with the Mudcats, Odom batted .222 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. He was one of seven players in the Braves organization to be selected to play in the Arizona Fall League in 2015.
"There have been some ups and downs, but I feel like I have developed and made a lot of improvement," Odom said. "To skip low-Class A and go straight to high-Class A, it looked like it was all going to develop a lot faster. But spending a second season in high-Class A was good for me. I was able to get my feet wet the first year and understand what I needed to work on with the mental side of catching and helping pitchers get through games.
"There has definitely been some adversity but there has been some success too. I'm just excited for this opportunity to go and take what I've learned and get ready to learn a lot more from these older guys. Hopefully I'll be set to start in Double-A with the Mississippi Braves. That would be fun to come back home and play in Birmingham and Montgomery."
Before he leaves for spring training, Odom is spending some time back at Huntingdon, training at Posey Field.
"He is working out here and it's good for the guys to be around him," Huntingdon head coach D.J. Conville said. "He has a big opportunity in front of him and it's good for the guys to see that a guy of his caliber has played in the program recently. It's good for our guys to see the love and respect he has for this program and for Huntingdon College."
Odom said he enjoys coming back to Huntingdon to work out and visit. After all, it is home.
"Huntingdon took a chance on me," Odom said. "I was a guy who wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school, but Huntingdon gave me an opportunity to play baseball and continue my education. This became home for me"
"The years I spent here were some of the greatest years of my life. I learned a lot about the game and myself as a person while I was here at Huntingdon and it helped prepare me for the next step."