Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz talks to fans before a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)
Brett Davis
March 31, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) After 51 years in baseball, longtime Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz is moving to an advisory role he says is perfectly timed to finally provide more family time.

As the team approaches its final season at Turner Field, it announced several front-office changes on Thursday, including Schuerholz moving from team president to vice chairman.

Schuerholz and Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk were careful to avoid any hint that Schuerholz, 75, is retiring.

''I'm not stepping out, I'm not stepping back,'' Schuerholz said. ''I'm stepping forward, maybe with little bitty steps this time and not the larger steps I've taken over my career.''

Added McGuirk: ''Stepping up is what I call it.''

McGuirk said Schuerholz's new role will ''give him a perch to opine about almost anything.''

Schuerholz will continue to take a lead role in the team's search for a new spring training site. The team is planning to leave its Disney World complex after 20 years, looking for a camp closer to other Florida teams. The team is in negotiations with Sarasota and Palm Beach County and also has talked with other sites, including St. Petersburg.

The Braves also announced that Mike Plant will take over as president in charge of development while Derek Schiller becomes president overseeing business, a reorganization that coincides with the move to suburban SunTrust Park in 2017.

Schiller said Schuerholz represented ''class and professionalism.''

''Most of all, he's been a great mentor for me,'' Schiller said. ''He has helped shape my understanding of what it takes to be a leader in this organization.''

Schuerholz was general manager of the Braves from 1990 through the 2007 season, building a powerhouse that won 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series. He became the team president after giving up the GM title.

Plant and Schiller, who previously served as executive vice presidents, have largely overseen construction of the 41,500-seat stadium and adjacent mixed-use complex, which includes office space, a hotel, restaurants and other retail development.

President of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella will remain in their roles.

Hart will report to both McGuirk and Schuerholz, while Plant and Schiller will report solely to McGuirk.

McGuirk said it was important that Schuerholz, like former manager Bobby Cox, remain ''a Brave forever.'' Schuerholz will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame this summer.

McGuirk said Schuerholz, who was GM when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 1985, is recognized as ''one of the greatest ever'' baseball executives.

Schuerholz said he will continue to spend time around the team but may be ''not as visible.''

He said it was time for a change.

''It's just where I am in my life,'' he said, noting that for 51 years, ''there is no calendar except the baseball calendar. I wasn't around for a lot of family events and family affairs that I now intend to be there for.''

Schuerholz said the obvious highlight of his 25 years with the Braves was the 1995 championship.

''Every day in my 51 years, that's been my goal,'' he said. ''That's what I was trying to do. We did that here in 1995 and not only that, for 14 years we gave this organization and this community a chance to celebrate world championship-caliber baseball every year, year after year, and I'm proud of that.''

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