Heyward supplies more magic on opening day

WASHINGTON – Just when it seemed like Jason Heyward might be “old” news at age 21, making room in the spotlight for the opening day debuts of rookies Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel, here came that familiar mighty swing.

After introducing himself to Major League Baseball last opening day with a monster home run on his first swing, Heyward was back turning heads Thursday with a first at-bat homer to help the Braves beat the Nationals 2-0.

Heyward took his time getting his first home run this year. Two swings.

And this time Freeman was “in the hole” in the Braves dugout to enjoy it.

“Again?” Freeman said he kidded his friend when Heyward returned to the Braves dugout. “I was just happy for him. A little cutter, he said. He drove through that with his top hand. It’s pretty impressive to see from the side angle like that. He hit that ball hard. Got to, to hit it out in this weather.”

Heyward joined former New York Met Kaz Matsui as the only other player in major league history to homer on opening day in his first two seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Remarkably, Matsui homered in his first at-bats as well, in both 2004 and 2005, including against the Braves’ Russ Ortiz as a 28-year-old rookie fresh from Japan.

“That’s what, two guys?” Heyward said. “That’s pretty cool.”

No way was Thursday’s home run going to be able to touch what Heyward did a year ago. That was a blast of an estimated 460 feet into the Braves bullpen, it was a three-run shot, and it was the first of his major league career.

“The element of surprise it brought to the stadium,” Heyward recounted. “We’re at home, my family, my friends were there, the way my teammates reacted after it – it was all awesome. You can’t relive that.”

But the one Thursday had plenty of substance too. It doubled the Braves lead to 2-0 against Livan Hernandez to lead off the second inning, giving Braves pitchers a little more cushion to work with the rest of the way.

It also made a great souvenir for a Braves fan sitting in the second row in right center field at Nationals Park.

With his booming shot on April 5, 2010 off a fastball from the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano, Heyward became the youngest player to homer in his first major league at-bat since 1950 when a 19-year-old Ted Tappe did it for the Reds.

With his encore performance Thursday, he had to generate a little bit more power on his own. He hit a 2-1 cut-fastball that registered 77 mph on the radar gun. Still, he put a charge into it.

He’d fouled off the first offering from Hernandez, looked at back-to-back fastballs out of the zone, then punished the pitch Hernandez left up.

“The last home run I got off Livan, I think he did the same thing – just got a pitch up,” said Heyward, who now has two home runs in 12 at-bats against Hernandez. “Fortunately I hit a mistake.”

17 comments Add your comment


March 31st, 2011
6:17 pm

sid's bream

March 31st, 2011
6:29 pm

go heyward! let’s have a great year


March 31st, 2011
6:30 pm

Freeman also hit one very deep but to left center today. Good to see the kid going to the opposite field. The Braves defense was also good today with FF saving several errors with nifty pickups. McCann gunning down a baserunner and Prado looking good in LF.

Reid in EAV

March 31st, 2011
6:33 pm

Fourth! J-Hey sets the bar incredibly high for Opening Day 2012. No pressure. ;)


March 31st, 2011
6:41 pm

Keep them coming Heyward, MVP!!

Dave Wilmot

March 31st, 2011
6:47 pm

Thank you Jason for making me smile and to watch the number 22 round the bases. Andy is smiling on you today!!!!


March 31st, 2011
6:49 pm

solid victory all the way around, except there was a stretch where we were sat down something like 16 straight by Hernandez. But all in all a good victory.

Da Mick

March 31st, 2011
7:06 pm

I’d just like to see Jason batting further up in the order. That number two batter looks like he’s got the same old uppercut swing to me. Let him prove his recovery toward the back of the line-up first, not in that key spot


March 31st, 2011
7:07 pm

Nice win, Bravos. We gotta lot of guys who need to get off the “schneid” next game! Chipper can still hit!


March 31st, 2011
8:34 pm

Ron H.

March 31st, 2011
8:35 pm

Livan always plays the Braves hard…we have to get to that guy! Glad we did today! Woohoo!

Only the first game of the season, and the “mow down” by Livan was not fun, but…a win’s a win! :)

Have a great season, Bravos!


March 31st, 2011
8:46 pm

Dave Wilmot–I hate to say I do not know the full story of why he wears the number that he wears. I know it’s a great story, but I have missed it. Please tell it again. It involves a friend of his that he played ball with I believe.


April 1st, 2011
12:30 am

I went to the game, and dammit, I walked into the stadium right after the homer.

obi wan kenobi

April 1st, 2011
10:34 am

The force is with the braves…..

Dave Wilmot

April 1st, 2011
2:24 pm

CJDawg – Yes it does. Jason and my son Andy played baseball together at Henry County High Scool. And was a year older than Jason. In October of 2006 Andy was killed in a car wreck up here in Tennessee while attending college on a baseball scholorship. Jason picked Andy’s #22 high school number to honor him; and to honor Andy’s mom who was his favorite teacher at the high school.

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