With one big-league swing, Jason Heyward makes a memory

It was too loud to do anything but hug. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Hugs were the order of the day. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

One swing into his big-league life, Jason Heyward made everybody go crazy. It had been loud before he turned on Carlos Zambrano’s fastball, but now the ballpark was the inside of a jet engine, a Spinal Tap amp cranked up to 11, a ballpark that didn’t feel like sedate Turner Field at all.

Said Heyward: “I couldn’t hear myself think. It was like … ” And here the rookie made a sound of a waterfall crashing, of a lion roaring, of how it felt to be rounding the bases in the center of stadium full of folks who’d waited all spring  to see something like this. Only how could anyone imagine they’d see something exactly like this?

A three-run homer the rookie’s first time up as a big-leaguer? A three-run homer that broke a 3-all tie? A three-run homer that traveled, according to one estimate, 446 feet? You’ve got to be kidding.

Indeed, that’s what Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton reported those in the dugout were yelling to one another. “As soon as he hit it, we started high-fiving and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ You can’t script something like that.”

Said Chipper Jones: “I haven’t felt electricity like that in a long time.”

Said Heyward: “I remember it being loud when I came to the playoffs against the Marlins in 1997.”

Jason Heyward was 8 at the time. At age 20 he authored the greatest Opening Day moment in Turner Field history. The vaunted prospect who’d spent spring training bombarding automobiles came north and, with one swing, took us back to those days when every trip to the old stadium yielded some fresh wonder: Three pitchers working a combined no-hitter; Otis Nixon scaling the fence; Sid Bream sliding home.

Jason Heyward, who’s 20 but who acts twice that, said the one swing meant only that his team had taken the lead. “If I didn’t know I belonged [in the big leagues] before that swing, then I don’t belong.”

The day had begun with Heyward hitting a homer on his sixth swing in batting practice and had continued apace with him catching the ceremonial first pitch delivered by Hank Aaron. And then the script got silly good: Five of the first six Braves reached and the No. 7 hitter punctured eardrums.

Afterward he got the full treatment: A shaving-cream pie in the face from Peter Moylan. (Heyward stopped his postgame interviews only long enough to wipe his face; the bulk of the session was done with his scalp covered with the white stuff.) For posterity, he was presented  the bat, the ball — bullpen coach Eddie Perez retrieved it — and the day’s lineup card as autographed by Bobby Cox.

Pendleton: “It will be a big moment for a long time — for him, and for a lot of us … He was what the crowd had anticipated, and here he comes. He gives us a moment we’ll be buzzing about for weeks.”

You couldn’t script this sort of thing, but somehow when the ball was flying toward the distant bullpen you weren’t surprised. Because that is the promise inherent in Jason Heyward. He’s the best position player the Braves have developed since Andruw Jones, who famously hit two home runs in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series. But even Andruw Jones didn’t hit a home run on his first swing.

One swing into his big-league life, Jason Heyward gave us a reason to get excited about the Braves in way we haven’t been in years. Five times he batted, and each time the chant came: “Let’s go, Hey-ward!” And, for a welcome change, not once did we hear, “Let’s go, Cubs!”

Said Heyward: “We’re Atlanta’s team. And we didn’t disappoint today.”

They’re Atlanta’s team. He’s an Atlanta guy. Neither disappointed this day.

109 comments Add your comment

TG from CA

April 5th, 2010
8:30 pm

This is going to be a very fun season of Braves baseball. What a great day!

[...] still at the ballpark, having witnessed the wonder wrought by Jason Heyward. But I’m about to head home, whereupon I’ll be chatting live off the NCAA championship [...]

Logan Gray

April 5th, 2010
8:35 pm

Kane337

April 5th, 2010
8:37 pm

Just watched Heyward hit that home run again on the Sports South replay of the game.
I think my eyes got a little watery for some reason…

Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur

April 5th, 2010
8:38 pm

Hey, I hit a homerun in my first at bat ever too!! Don’t forget me guys! Parkview Panthers, C’mon guys? High Five?! (like borat)

Youngerthan Thatnow

April 5th, 2010
8:38 pm

Just the start… lots more to come. CONGRATULATIONS JHey!!

Greg

April 5th, 2010
8:39 pm

YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If we score 16 runs/game than we’re gonna win it all.

Reid Adair

April 5th, 2010
8:40 pm

What a great moment for Jason Heyward today. He has brought some excitement back to the organization. The question will be if Heyward is enough to outweigh all of the issues that Frank Wren didn’t resolve (despite his claims to the contrary) in the off-season.

A...Blank

April 5th, 2010
8:42 pm

that was awesome..what a moment!

randyarnold

April 5th, 2010
8:46 pm

Watching the shot heard round the Ted, you knew you were watching something special. Even Yankee fans like me hope the thrills this young man can create will bring fans back out to the ballpark and rekindle some enthusiasm for the Braves.
On the negative side, is there anywhere but down to go?

Billy

April 5th, 2010
8:46 pm

No you didn’t Frenchy…you did it in your first game but not your first at bat.

[...] Jason Heyward | One swing into his big-league life, Jason Heyward made everybody go crazy. It had been loud before he turned on Carlos Zambrano’s fastball, …Tags: Jason Heyward , Jason Heyward Braves, Jason Heyward Home Run, Jason Heyward Jersey, Read MoreWith one big-league swing, Jason Heyward makes a memory. [...]

Feeanch

April 5th, 2010
8:48 pm

Just got home from game. That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard the Ted. I was jumping up and down like an idiot just like I was when Sid Bream slid his slow ass home to beat the Pirates…Good think for D Lowe being overshadowed by J Hey is that no one is going to be talking about D Lowe getting shelled. The irony is that Zambrano gave up 3 bloop singles then the big mistake to J Hey, then never recovered. Still not a D Lowe fan and just hope he is mediocre at best this year and then we can trade him. But wow…it was fun to witness history live and in the flesh today…

Tired of numbers

April 5th, 2010
8:49 pm

Why do people like Logan Gray have to ruin a good blog with stupid commits?

Kane337

April 5th, 2010
8:49 pm

Thank you Frank Wren for not sending Heyward down to the minors for a couple of weeks and allowing ALL of us Atlanta Braves fans to enjoy this truly special day we will remember for a long time.

Steve

April 5th, 2010
8:50 pm

Yet you go to http://www.ajc.com and see hardly anything about the Braves or Heyward. In any other major city, opening day is the #1 story yet for us, the main stories are a Coke bottle injury and yet more black people claiming racism. Why would the Braves not take the headline this evening? Great game, go Heyward, and Go Braves! Great crowd today and the bullpen looked great. Looks like we will need it when Lowe pitches.

Tired of numbers

April 5th, 2010
8:54 pm

A great day for a great guy and all you can say is 2nd?

WestOfAthens

April 5th, 2010
9:00 pm

Good things come for those that wait…

Is this any exception?

BravesFan

April 5th, 2010
9:05 pm

Wow…it’s going to be a treat following this guy for the next twenty years! Awesome!

Dave

April 5th, 2010
9:07 pm

Heyward is probably the next Griffey, Jr. He’ll have his ups and downs just like anybody else and he’ll need to make minor adjustments as he goes because pitchers, coaches and scouts will exploit the most minor weakness in a player. But, he looks like the next superstar in baseball. And we got ‘em!

rico43

April 5th, 2010
9:12 pm

Final what? What an amazing day to be a Braves fan: Heyward going deep (AFTER having the first pitch throw to him by Hank!); largest day-game crowd in Turner Field history; Zambrano trying not to have his head explode. McLouth making an Andruw-like play (or two? Lou would disagree!). Even a standing O for Wagner.

I’m glad there’s an off-day to savor this one for a little while. Thanks, guys.

David C

April 5th, 2010
9:13 pm

Braves show promise. Nice opening day. Also nice to finally read blog comments that don’t start with a tool, then the writer congratulating the tool

ABravesFan

April 5th, 2010
9:13 pm

A fantastic start to the season. I was amped about this year before today’s game, now I’m even more excited. Love the sight of a rocking Turner field.

38YearBravesFan

April 5th, 2010
9:16 pm

What a great opening day. The season holds such promise. Go do it Guys!

GO BRAVES!!

[...] by atlmalcontent Said Heyward: “We’re Atlanta’s team. And we didn’t disappoint [...]

WestOfAthens

April 5th, 2010
9:23 pm

Hmmmmm…
Weren’t we all “high”on a fellow named Francouer? Hometown hero, big homer first at bat.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves

WestOfAthens

April 5th, 2010
9:25 pm

Really, listen to yourselves…..

[...] meet your new star Best. Debut. Ever. Those who weren’t at The Ted today missed something special. Braves fans delirious for the home team — go [...]

Tron5000

April 5th, 2010
9:51 pm

WestOfAthens, Francoeur did not homer in his first AB. He did it in his first game, but not his first AB. Really, listen to yourself…..

jj

April 5th, 2010
9:54 pm

I think our SS had a good day also.YE is underpaid and the Braves should be ashamed.He and Prado are as good as we’ve seen in a long time.I hope the Braves treat them like they did Mac and Frenchie.

Metro Coach

April 5th, 2010
9:54 pm

WestofAthens, we were also pretty high on a kid named Brian McCann, not every prospect is Jeff Francouer. Also, if you can’t look at and listen to Jason Heyward and see the difference in he and Francouer, well….

Falcons need more white golfers.

April 5th, 2010
10:01 pm

One home run……So what? He’s a bust. By July he will be in AAA Gwinnett.

Homer

April 5th, 2010
10:04 pm

It was great but “Greatest opening day ever in Atlanta history”? What an insult to Hank Aaron and opening day April 8, 1974. Move over Babe here comes Henry with #715. I was there for the greatest opening day ever for Atlanta.

Mark Bradley

April 5th, 2010
10:06 pm

Oh, yeah, Homer. Forgot that one.

Jordan Schafer

April 5th, 2010
10:08 pm

I taught Heyward everything he knows about hitting HRs in his first at-bat.

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:10 pm

What is the loudest you have ever heard Turner Field MB? And how does Heywards homer rank?

logan is a loser

April 5th, 2010
10:10 pm

yeah what a loser “2nd” thats all that schmuck could come up with

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:12 pm

Homer

Good Call. Al Downing serves it up. I still remember the shot of the two UGA students patting him on the back as he rounded second.I was 2 years old when he hit it but my dad tells me I was watching LOL.

jo

April 5th, 2010
10:12 pm

The AJC buries the Braves Opening Day Game on its website. Yet go to the website for the Chicago Tribune and they are running the game story prominently with a photo of Bobby and Lou — and they lost the game in humiliating fashion!! Glad to see the AJC is being its old supportive self!

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:13 pm

Id imagine this is one of those nights when its really fun to be a sports writer. Im sure the morning sports radio shows will be really lively.

Mark Bradley

April 5th, 2010
10:14 pm

It is a lot of fun, Shane.

Mark Bradley

April 5th, 2010
10:16 pm

That was the loudest I’ve heard at the new stadium since Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS against the New York Mets, Shane.

Tron5000

April 5th, 2010
10:18 pm

Every year for Christmas, my dad gets me a Braves ticket package (2 seats). A couple years ago it was a 4-game pack. All 4 games were Mark Redman starts. All 4 games were losses. Thanks for the Christmas present, Dad.

But last year was a 6-game pack, with 3 Tommy Hanson starts, including his debut. This year, I got another package, including today’s fantastic experience. I’ve been to I believe 8 home openers in a row. Today was by far the most electric crowd I’ve seen.

You’re making up for Mark Redman, Pops.

JohnSmith

April 5th, 2010
10:19 pm

Keeping Heyward on the roster for opening day turned out to be one of Frank Wren’s best moves as GM. This is exactly what Atlanta — its team and its fans — needed to start off 2010. Let the 100-win season begin!

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:21 pm

That was the loudest I’ve heard at the new stadium since Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS against the New York Mets, Shane.

Cool. Andruw walked to win that one. I admit I had to Google it to remember that though. Last WS for the Braves.

Mark Bradley

April 5th, 2010
10:21 pm

All four Mark Redman starts? What were the odds on that, Tron5000? (He only started five games for the Bravos.)

MitchGT

April 5th, 2010
10:26 pm

Way to rise to the occasion yourself Mark — thanks.

Bryan G.

April 5th, 2010
10:27 pm

Gosh, what an improbable storyline. Can’t miss 5 tool hometown prospect comes up and in his first game hits a 3 run bomb against the Cubs. I’m sure I’ve never seen such a thing…

(Here’s to hoping THAT history doesn’t repeat itself….)

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:39 pm

I went to a game a few years ago and Mark Redmond was pitching. Supposedly he had been throwing baseballs in his basement. He should have stayed there.

Shane

April 5th, 2010
10:39 pm

Helluva a title game going on 2