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Gwinnett Braves fish with the kids at Eagle Ranch
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Gwinnett Braves outfielder Brian Barton, left, chats with 16-year-old Eagle Ranch resident James while they fish Tuesday afternoon at the Eagle Ranch lake. Several members of the Gwinnett Braves visited the Christian-based center to spend time with the young residents.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Joseph had his grip on a pole, but he also had a glove and baseball ready in case he could catch more than fish.

As things turned out, the 16-year-old resident of Eagle Ranch got a chance to do both — and alongside Gwinnett Braves players — in an outing Tuesday at the Christian-based center’s scenic 10-acre lake.

"I think it’s pretty nice of them to be spending some of their free time with us," Joseph said. (Eagle Ranch prefers that its participants are only identified by their first name.)

Nine players from the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and their wives visited Eagle Ranch, which helps children who have troubled backgrounds or face other tough situations.

"I’m having fun. I haven’t fished in a long time," said Brian Barton, an outfielder. "It’s a great event, and it’s always good to give back."

The players went fishing with about 20 boys while their wives spent time with a dozen or so girls on crafts and other activities.

"We hope (the children) have an enjoyable time — that they see these athletes as mentors and have an opportunity to just have a relaxing, fun time before the school year starts," said Stefanie Long, an Eagle Ranch spokeswoman.

Eagle Ranch, which sits on 270 acres amid tall trees and rolling hills, serves as a residential program but also provides counseling and education.

When the Gwinnett Braves here moved from Richmond, Va., last year, Eagle Ranch "formed a partnership with them," Long said.

"We are always interested in developing relationships with athletic teams. Obviously, it gives Eagle Ranch some exposure to the community and helps us get our message out to a broader audience."

A lot of the center’s children live in the Gwinnett County area, she added.

The fishing trip marked the first time the Gwinnett Braves, as a team, has visited the center at 5500 Union Church Road in South Hall.

"It’s a wonderful place," said outfielder Brandon Jones, sitting off a pier with his pole dipped in the water. "I especially like the outdoors. I don’t fish much, but I enjoy trying."

He said he felt it was important to "have a good time with the kids and ... just show them some support and let them know we care about them — just try to give some positive influence in their lives."

Kevin, 15, said he’s not a big angler, but he enjoyed hanging out with the Braves. "It’s kinda cool that some famous people took the time to come out here," he said.

Jones turned to Kevin, pulling his pole out of the water, and said, "There is no fish in this spot."

"That’s the worst fishing spot ever," he said, laughing.

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