Country music star Hank Snow had a big hit with his recording of “I’ve Been Everywhere” back in the early 1960s, and that could definitely be the theme song for Warner Robins native and former Stratford baseball standout Russell Branyan.
Branyan, who led Stratford to a GISA baseball title in 1994, hitting .576 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI, was chosen by the Cleveland Indians in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft that June. In his two seasons at Stratford, the two-time all-state player had a career batting average of .528. He went on to spend 20 years in professional baseball with 12 of those in the major leagues, and he got to see plenty of the good old USA during that time. And you can also throw in several cities in Mexico.
He had minor league stops in Burlington, North Carolina; Columbus; Kinston, North Carolina; Akron, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; Louisville, Kentucky; Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Tampa, Florida; and Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania; along with Mexicalli, Estrellas and Tijuana, Mexico.
He had major league stays in Cleveland, (twice), Milwaukee, (twice) Seattle (twice), Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Arizona and Los Angeles with the Angels.
Branyan had two nicknames during his playing days. He was deemed “Russell the Muscle” because of his size (6-foot-4 and 235 pounds) and home run power, and 3TO, which stands for Three True Outcomes. In 50.5 percent of his plate appearances in the major leagues, he either drew a walk, struck out or hit a home run. Branyan played in 1,059 major league games with 403 walks, 1,118 strikeouts and 194 home runs, many of which were moon shots.
When Branyan was playing for the South Atlantic League Columbus Red Stixx against the Macon Braves, I saw him hit the longest home run I ever saw at Luther Williams Field. It went far over the right field wall and probably is still going. During the 1996 Sally League season, he hit 40 home runs and was named League MVP.
Among his mammoth blows in the big leagues was a 480-foot blast at Miller Park in Milwaukee during the 2004 season against Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux, the year after Maddux left Atlanta. That is the still the longest home run ever recorded in that stadium.
During the 2010 season, while playing for the Seattle Mariners against the New York Yankees, Branyan became the first player to hit a home run into the first section of the fourth deck at the new Yankee Stadium. That homer hit off the glass of the Mohegan Sunset Bar in dead center and was measured at 450 feet. While Branyan’s shot has been bettered by one foot, no player has matched his feat of hitting off the restaurant glass since.
During his major league career, he homered once in every 15.1 at-bats. He is one of only a handful of players I know of who has hit a home run against all 30 major league teams. Jim Thome. Adrian Beltre, Vladimir Guerrero, Sammy Sosa and J.D. Drew are also in that group along with several others.
Branyan now lives in Franklin, Tennessee, right outside of Nashville with his wife and three children. While he is not playing this year, he is still in shape and is available if a team needs a late season power hitter.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com