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Leo Mazzone  

Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone has guided what is arguably the best pitching staff in baseball for more than a decade.

This book is a great behind the scenes look at Mazzone's philosophies and gives insight into his relationships with former and current Braves’ greats such as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and many more of the talented pitchers that he has worked with.

Each chapter in Tales from the Braves Mound covers a season – the high points from winning clutch games, making it to the post-season and even a World Series championship to the low points such as Smoltz’s Tommy John surgery, losing Glavine to the Mets and getting knocked out of the post-season. But, most of all, the book is about Leo Mazzone.

Leo Mazzone was never a major league pitcher; his playing career amounted to ten years in the minors pitching for various teams. Then in 1976 he was recruited to manage a team in the Independent League out of Corpus Christi. After two successful years the league ran out of money and Mazzone took a position in the Carolina Leagues, which is where he was several years later when he was noticed by the Braves organization.

Because of Mazzone’s success managing and developing pitchers the Braves wanted him to be their pitching coach, so from 1979 to 1989 Mazzone coached and developed pitchers in the minor leagues. Finally, in 1990 he got the call to the big leagues and joined together with Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox to put together what may be the finest pitching staff ever.

Much of the success can be attributed to Mazzone’s simple routine – he has his pitchers throw in between starts not once like most teams but twice. According to Mazzone it “closes the gap between a four- and five-man rotation”. Mazzone feels that a four-man rotation keeps the pitchers sharper while a five-man rotation keeps the pitchers healthier. Under Mazzone, Atlanta's pitchers have ranked first or second in the major leagues in earned run average every season beginning in 1992. Not only that but the Braves have had eleven division titles since 1991 – the first full season that Mazzone was responsible for the Atlanta bullpen. So, whatever he is doing is obviously working.

Building relationships with his pitchers is another thing that has contributed to his success. Mazzone respects his pitchers – he often times allows them to tell him when they are ready to come out of a game. In return, his players have a great respect for him.

Throughout the book there are many examples of interactions that Mazzone has with his pitchers. Most of these exchanges come during his trips to the mound. He tells a story of one particular visit to the mound when Steve Avery was pitching against the Rockies. Avery was having an exceptionally bad outing and hit Andres Galarraga. When Mazzone came out to talk to him Avery asked him what the *$#@ he was doing there and Mazzone responded in kind. Later, the entire bullpen enjoyed watching replays of it. Another time, Greg Maddux, who must have been feeling left out because Mazzone had not been out to the mound all season, informed Mazzone that he would look into the dugout in the sixth inning and he should come pay him a visit. Sure enough, Maddux looked in during the sixth inning and when Mazzone came out they chatted for a minute and Maddux told him, “Okay, we’ve got your TV time now. Thanks for coming out.”

There are many other stories that I could share with you but I suggest reading this book for yourself. Tales from the Braves Mound is a wonderful collection of anecdotes and memories from Mazzone's time on the Braves bench. Even if you are not a Braves fan you will have a greater appreciation for the team and their accomplishments after reading this book.

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