While I was at the Braves Foundation Holiday Party for the Troops at Turner Field today I had a chance to speak at length with one of the Braves alumni who was in attendance, catcher Johnny Estrada. He was released in 2008 by the Nationals, and hasn't played since then. He lives in Newnan, Georgia, and just opened up a pizzeria off of exit 47. He told me that he wants to try to come back and play again, "I do miss playing. I mean I'm 34, but I still feel like I'm one of the best catchers and hitters in the big leagues, from what I've seen on TV."
I didn't want to mention that he looked like he was carrying a few extra pounds, but he admitted, "The first thing I'd have to do is get in shape, but I'm not far from being where I could be competitive. This has been just the last week having these thoughts."
Most Braves fans remember Estrada as the catcher who got bowled over unnecessarily by Darin Erstad in 2005. Estrada came back after that and was still an effective player, but come to find out after he did some research and visited the doctor to have his head checked that he has been suffering from post-concussion syndrome for the past few years."I had all the symptoms of it, but I didn't know what it was; the nausea, not being able to get your heart rate up, the deliriousness."
Johnny doesn't feel any ill will towards the team, saying that they have only recently learned how these types of injuries can have lingering effects. I could tell that this has really been something that has bothered him and continues to be a cause for concern.
Estrada came off as a real laid back, but serious guy. I could see why he was one of the more popular players among his teammates when he played in Atlanta. Even speaking to him the first time as I did today, he still came across as if he had known me for a long time. He makes you feel very at ease when you're speaking to him. Similar in nature to Mike Gonzalez.
I hope Estrada decides that he does want to come back to baseball and try to play again. The game needs more good guys like him.