CUL­BER­SON

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS SATURDAY -

When Ozzie Al­bies suf­fered a ham­string in­jury and needed a break, Cul­ber­son was there.

He’s al­lowed the Braves to be cau­tious with in­juries with­out wor­ry­ing about the dropoff in pro­duc­tion.

An­thopou­los has found his Tay­lor, an easy plug and play who also adds to the club­house ca­ma­raderie.

“He’s the MVP of our team,” NL MVP can­di­date Fred­die Free­man said. “When Ron­ald went down, he went to left field and kept go­ing. Ozzie’s gone down the last cou­ple of days, and he’s picked it right up. It’s been huge. There’s not many words you can say to de­scribe what Charlie’s been do­ing. He’s the rea­son why we have the chance to play mean­ing­ful games in Septem­ber.”

Cul­ber­son be­came the first At­lanta-era Brave with two pinch­hit, game-end­ing homers in a sea­son in early June. Four of his 11 home runs have ended a game. He lives for the big mo­ments, even if he can’t ex­plain how.

Even the Braves couldn’t imag­ine Cul­ber­son be­com­ing such a god­send. Sure, they pro­jected a nifty util­i­ty­man, but as Free­man said, he’s been a steady pres­ence on and off the field as his team evolves into a force.

“That’s nice,” Cul­ber­son said in re­sponse to Free­man’s com­ments. “It’s just been con­ta­gious. Other guys do well, you just feed off that. It makes things a lit­tle bit more re­lax­ing. Just happy to be in the mix and help­ing these guys win.”

Typ­i­cal Charlie. He won’t ac­cept credit and al­ways de­fers to oth­ers. It’s part of why he’s such a hit with his team­mates. He quickly earned re­spect de­spite a lack­lus­ter on-field re­sume.

He plays hard and has fun do­ing it. Noth­ing much was ex­pected, but he an­swers ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. He puts the team above him­self, set­ting a stan­dard for younger play­ers to fol­low.

Sounds like an em­bod­i­ment of the 2018 Braves.

“He’s just been some­thing else,” man­ager Brian Snitker said. “I hate to think where we’d be with­out him right now be­cause he just picks ev­ery­body up and can play any­where. The at-bats have been re­ally, re­ally good.”

For­tu­nately for the Braves, Cul­ber­son’s con­trol­lable through 2021. Their MVP util­i­ty­man is here to stay.

Cul­ber­son be­gan his ca­reer with the Giants who drafted him in the 2007 MLB Draft. He spent a few years with them be­fore be­ing traded to the Rock­ies and even­tu­ally sign­ing as a free agaent with the Dodgers.

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