CUMBERLAND — There is a lot of love between Joc Pederson and the Braves, and the whole city of Atlanta, and he demonstrated that by wearing pearls.
The San Francisco Giants’ outfielder was traded by the Cubs to Atlanta in July of last year. He helped the Braves win the World Series, and he captured the city’s heart with his platinum-blond Mohawk and the string of pearls that wound up such a token of the team’s success that there is a pearl embedded in its World Series rings.
“This is the first day I’m wearing them,” Pederson said. “It just felt right, I think it goes with the whole story of why I started wearing them — because it just kind of felt right and I wanted to wear them, and Atlanta embraced them and took it to another level. So I didn’t really want to wear them again until we were here.”
Pederson is actually wearing a different strand — the pearls he wore last fall are now in Cooperstown.
Pederson helped design the Braves’ World Series rings during the lockout, but he didn’t know a pearl was part of the design until after they were produced, of which, he said, “It is really special.”
Pederson received a standing ovation when he received his ring before the Giants’ game at Truist Park on Monday. Atlanta coach Ron Washington had known that would be the case, saying the response would be “a tremendous reception. He had 43,000 people wearing pearls, you think he’s not going to get a reception? You know all the guys wear all that gold stuff, and here comes Joc wearing pearls. He walked out there that day with pearls and oh, boy, that was it from that point.”
Washington, the former Texas manager and longtime third-base coach for the Oakland Athletics, said Pederson is one of his all-time favorite players.
“Jocko is awesome,” Washington said. “You look at him and think he’s a space cadet, and he’s the sharpest tool in the box. And you talk about big hits? He gets big hits, big time. Jocko is the greatest. He speaks his mind, and he’s been winning a long time.”
Braves players said when Pederson arrived in Atlanta last year, he gave the team an immediate boost with his play and his personality.
“It was incredible,” said former A’s reliever Jesse Chavez, who was teammates with Pederson with both the Braves and Dodgers. “We already had a lively clubhouse, but Joc added even more character. He hit the ground running, it was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ San Francisco is in for a treat with him.”
“He brought his own style,” former Giants reliever Will Smith said. “There’s no way to describe it — it’s just Joc being Joc. The pearls were just so random. He didn’t say he was going do it. He just showed up one day with blonde hair and then showed up with a pearl necklace on and we’re like, ‘All right, man, you do you. Go for it, dude.’
“And then they caught on and everyone was wearing them in the stadium, they loved it. That was awesome.”
Washington points to a contribution he thought was even more meaningful. Washington had a talk with the team on the road about team love, and got to the park a few days later to find Pederson had had T-shirts made that read “Just a little love,” as Washington displayed Monday — he wears his every day still and gestures to it when he needs to remind players.
“Every day from then on,” Washington said, “No matter where we were, when he came out to play, Joc walked in the dugout and said, ‘All we need, fellas, is a little bit of love.’ He said that talk really affected him.”
Atlanta itself had a huge impact on Pederson. He said the day he arrived, ushers and security guards rushed to introduce themselves, and he was touched by how welcoming everyone was; the crowd gave him a standing ovation his first pinch-hit at-bat. On Monday, as he walked in with Giants teammates, he was greeted left and right.
“They were like, ‘Guy, you were here for two months, what’s the deal?’” Pederson said. “I said, ‘I don’t know — it’s just a special spot.’”