LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bruce Manno drove into the parking lot from hell Friday with a loaner car. His Toyota 4-runner was still in the shop with a crushed sunroof and a bent rack, which is what he gets for parking in Jason Heyward’s landing zone, about 425 feet from home plate behind the right-center field wall at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
“Yeah, he hit it good,” said the Braves’ assistant general manager, still thinking like a scout.
So why still park here?
“I guess it’s one of those things like, ‘It can’t happen again, can it?’” he said. “Besides, this is a loaner car. I’m thinking of parking on the other side now when I get my car back. We’ll see if we get the net up in time.”
I’m going to post a column later today on Heyward. Before doing so, here’s a little warmup. You’ve no doubt heard of Heyward’s batting practice exploits. Several cars have been dented in the parking lot reserved for Braves’ front office employees, particularly over the past two spring, said general manager Frank Wren, thanks largely to Heyward and prospect Freddie Freeman (both left-handed hitters).
Some time in the next few days, nets will be hung to partially protect the cars. Groundskeeper Ed Mangan took all of the measurements Thursday, Wren said.
“We’ve got balls even clearing this back well,” Wren said, pointing to a tall yell concrete wall that’s approximately 450 feet from home plate. “The real problem isn’t cars being hit in the back. We have balls that are bouncing off the wall and coming back and smashing windhields. [Director of player development] Kurt Kemp has had his windshield smashed twice.”
Bill Acree drove into a lot and pointed a dent in the back of his truck. “That’s not too bad,” he said. “I don’t know who hit it. I told them, we either need to trade Heyward or move the parking lot.”
And the answer?
“We’re buying the nets,” he said laughing. “I guess we’re a little reactionary, huh?”
Clubhouse manager John Holland also had a car dented but wasn’t overly concerned.
“You always know there’s a risk here,” he said. “But it’s not my car. The Braves provide it. If I had my own car, I’d be a little bit more leary of parking here.”
Earlier posts from Braves’ camp: