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Braves' Michael Harris II visits Smyrna school for day of giving

By Brian McKeithan bmckeithan@mdjonline.com

SMYRNA — Among the questions elementary school students have about Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Harris II: Does he have a girlfriend? What is his favorite video game? Is he famous?

The answers are yes, “Call of Duty” and maybe, depending on who you ask.

On Wednesday, more than 50 Braves employees, including Harris, the National League Rookie of the Year, visited Green Acres Elementary school in Smyrna.


Harris visited three classrooms, fielding questions from students. Meanwhile, volunteers from the Braves did landscaping work, painted, and packed bags with food and snacks for kids to take home over the holiday break.


One hundred students across first, second and third grades were chosen by their teachers to receive a free bike from Academy Sports and Outdoors, based on their attendance, behavior and hard work.

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The gestures came after Green Acres was adopted by the Atlanta Braves Foundation for the 2022-23 school year as its inaugural “Hank Aaron All-Star School.” Through the program, the foundation looks to provide the school with teacher and classroom support, facility improvements and student engagement.


“We’re meeting the needs of the schools, that’s the whole idea of this,” said Danielle Bedassee, the executive director of the Braves Foundation.


Bedassee estimated the Braves Foundation has put around $30,000 toward the school. The foundation contributes to Green Acres’ food pantry, is designing a break room for teachers and plans to add a projector screen in the school cafeteria.


Corporate partners of the Braves have also chipped in. RaceTrac donated $25 gift cards to all of the teachers, and Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta gave a free two-night stay to fourth-grade teacher Monica Brooks, who was chosen for the honor by Green Acres Principal Ashley Mize.


Green Acres’ theme for the 2022-23 school year, which Mize said she chose before her school was adopted by the foundation, is “Hit a Grand Slam.” She said the partnership with the Braves has allowed Green Acres to better meet the needs of the students while also providing them with fun events, such as the visit from Harris.


“Being able to see someone physically in front of them that has achieved the status of being a professional athlete is really special because they get to see they are a real person,” Mize said.


The 21-year-old Harris, who was born and raised in metro Atlanta, said he was encouraged to pursue professional baseball when he met pro players in high school. Now, he wants to pass that experience along.


“Allowing them to see somebody who is living out their dream can motivate them to actually do what they want to do, instead of what the society perceives as a popular job,” Harris said.

Between answering questions from students about his personal life, his favorite foods and whether or not people recognize him on the street, Harris told students to have a backup plan in case their dream doesn’t work out, and emphasized that failure is part of learning. If baseball didn’t work out, he told them he would have gone to school to become a veterinarian.


Eight-year-old Favour Ebhodaghe, who is in the first grade, was one of the students chosen to receive a bike.


Ebhodaghe said she has only ridden bikes with training wheels, but she’s excited to try riding without them.


“It feels very exciting and I love it. It’s very, very awesome,” Ebhodaghe said about the giveaway.


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