The J-Hey Kid comes through again; why aren’t we shocked?

Ho, hum. Another home series, another pie in the face. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Ho, hum. Another home series, another pie in the face. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A month ago we wondered if he’d make the team; now he’s carrying it. Two weeks ago we wondered if he’d have a chance to win rookie of the year; now we’re thinking, “Why not MVP?”

On Sunday a TV reporter used the word “legend” in a question to Jason Heyward, who scoffed. “Legend?” he said. “It’s one season — it’s not even two weeks.” And it is terribly early to be bandying such loaded terms. That said …

“He’s a beast,” Brian McCann said.

“He’s special,” Jair Jurrjens said. “He’s awesome.”

“He’s the one,” Eric Hinske said. “These guys don’t come around that often, but he’s the one.”

The Braves won Sunday because the already famous rookie did a thing maybe one 20-year-old in a hundred thousand — this one — could have managed. With two out in the ninth and his team down a run, Heyward came to bat and, for four excruciating pitches, kept the bat on his shoulder.

Jurrjens: “In a big at-bat, another kid would be swinging, trying to hit a bomb.”

Hinske: “In a spot like that, you know what’s at stake. But you’ve got to try to be calm. You’ve got to breathe.”

Heyward: “I took some time to see what [Colorado closer Franklin Morales] was doing.”

What was Morales doing? Throwing fastballs gauged at 96 mph by the Turner Field radar gun. Heyward took four of them — the first two for balls, the next two for strikes. Now the rookie was down to one swing, but this rookie is such an adult he knew it didn’t need to be a big swing.

“I was just going with the pitch,” Heyward said. “I was trying to relax, not trying to do too much with it.”

He didn’t. He stuck out his bat and poked the ball past third baseman Ian Stewart into left field. He went the other way. He hit it where they weren’t. He won a game in which the Braves were down to their last strike. How, Heyward was asked, does a 20-year-old do such a thing?

“It helps the more you go through it,” he said.

And how many times has he gone through it? Well, there was that one. “The last time we were at home,” he said. “The last game against the Cubs. There was an at-bat I could have done better.”

McCann: “It’s fun to watch him go through the process and make adjustments. It’s just been amazing watching it. He doesn’t get caught up in what the media has been saying: He just does what he can do. He’s had the respect of everybody in this clubhouse from Day 1.”

Heyward has 15 RBIs; no other Brave has more than eight. Heyward has six extra-base hits; among Braves, only Martin Prado has that many. Heyward has taken two postgame pies in the face; no other Brave has taken any.

Hinske did the honors Sunday. (After Heyward’s Opening Day home run, Peter Moylan had been the pieman.) “A walk-off win,” Hinske said, “and a rookie has to get a pie in the face.”

Regarding precocious rookies, Hinske has some standing. He played with one at Tampa Bay in 2008. Speaking of Heyward, Hinske said: “He reminds me a lot of Evan Longoria. In a big situation, they’re able to slow themselves down and get the job done.”

Two weeks in the big leagues, and already Heyward has two game-winning hits. And this time, it must be noted, he acted a bit like a rookie. After rounding first base, he leaped in the air four times. “I wasn’t too calm today,” he said, but he was calm when it counted. And he, as ever, had a perfectly sound reason for going temporarily insane.

When he’d hit the home run Opening Day, Heyward said, he’d reined in his feelings. “That game wasn’t over. Today the game was over.”

Yes it was. Jason Heyward ended it. And the legend grows.

127 comments Add your comment

Heath

April 18th, 2010
6:25 pm

Good move starting him in the majors!

Chris

April 18th, 2010
6:25 pm

FIRST

GO HEYWARD

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
6:29 pm

That was a pretty good move, you’d have to think.

Tonight, someone is crying Tim Tebow tears

April 18th, 2010
6:32 pm

BRAVES WIN!!! BRAVES WIN!!!

The Wad

April 18th, 2010
6:36 pm

A week ago during his ’slump’ I opined that he needs to show me something soon or I may start believeing he should be in AAA. Can anybody find the erase button on that blog? It`s not that I hate being seen as a fool( I too often am), it`s just that I hate being seen as a fool so early in the season. Nice work young`un…now maybe you can rescue McLouth and ‘milk-shake’ Melky from TP and teach them a thing or two about hitting.

Harry

April 18th, 2010
6:36 pm

One of you reporters please ask J-Hey where he was when Sid slid.

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
6:37 pm

Heyward was 2 years old when Sid slid.

Harry

April 18th, 2010
6:38 pm

That hit reminded me of that day. Thank you Heyward for making my day.

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
6:39 pm

I lied. Heyward was 3 years old in October 1992.

beachcomber

April 18th, 2010
6:39 pm

We oft groan about games we should have won but did not. Today was one we probably should have lost – men stranded everywhere; questionable decision of sending JJ back out in the 8th when we had four rested studs in the pen; very close call on the Glaus grounder to name just a few.

Remember this one if we win by a game come season’s end.

B Ladd Smith

April 18th, 2010
6:42 pm

I’m holding my breath, but the more I see, the more I believe Jason may be the real deal. Absolutely amazing!

Harry

April 18th, 2010
6:42 pm

Heyward could have been a bat boy then.

braveshoo

April 18th, 2010
6:43 pm

I still say the Braves need a power hitting 1b to win the pennant. Its that simple. Trade some of their surplus minor league pitching for Adrian Gonzales from SD and the Braves become the team to beat. Stick with TG and they will come up short. I’ll live with McClouth and Melky platoonong in CF, and Diaz in RF, but TG is a pinch hitter only. WE NEED AG!

Reid Adair

April 18th, 2010
6:51 pm

Heyward comes through in the clutch. He had the big opening day, then he had a very small “slump” that caused some folks to wonder if he should have been in Atlanta.

It’s a 162-game season. It’s not two weeks (even less). It sure sounds like Jason Heyward has a good understanding of where he is and what’s going on.

KC in Smyrna

April 18th, 2010
6:54 pm

Heyward needs to be batting much higher in the batting order. He has 15 RBI from 7th in the order and hitting in front of McLouth or Cabrera. He needs to be either 2nd (behind Prado) or 5th (in front of Yunel)

Dave

April 18th, 2010
7:00 pm

Very nicely written Q & A with the kid.

BigFish

April 18th, 2010
7:03 pm

The Braves caught a huge break, because rally killer (Glaus) hit into a game ending double play. The umpire just blew the call.

Hank Still The King

April 18th, 2010
7:10 pm

Bradley…. can you and your ink pals coin a new nickname for Heyward. J-Hey sounds so pathetic given this kids growing status. Let’s get something worthy going for him. Smack some fear into the enemy! The great legends of the game had great nicknames. J-Hey is too kiddie, too punk. He’s a fearless slugger. Pay him so respect!!

Kelly

April 18th, 2010
7:20 pm

I loved the moment when Eric Hinske jump-hugged Heyward. He’s sweet, and even sweeter with the cream pie all over Heyward’s face. Amazing win, Braves. Way to go.

daBraves860

April 18th, 2010
7:20 pm

This game had me on the edge of my seat!! this kid is amazing, and i really like how we’re being very patient… i mean 16 walks in two games? that’s impressive. now we need to produce those runs, and i believe they’ll come! Bring on the phils!

Terry

April 18th, 2010
7:26 pm

He hits just like I taught him.

Brien O'David

April 18th, 2010
7:27 pm

Seems like most of his big hits since the first homer have been the opposite way.. And he is back to being patient. If those two things continue, there’s no telling what kind of season he’ll have

Terry

April 18th, 2010
7:30 pm

However, I noticed a couple of flaws in his swing that I’ll work with him on some more.

Kane337

April 18th, 2010
7:30 pm

Yea, good thing Wren didn’t send him to the minors for a few weeks so they can have them an extra year. That turned out to be a great decision.

Frank

April 18th, 2010
7:34 pm

Our decision on Hayward seems to be working. I just wonder if we should now take a chance on Freddie.

DC Brave

April 18th, 2010
7:34 pm

And today the Mudville nine are heroes again . . .

4 series played and we’ve won 3. Only 50 or so more series to go.
Go Braves!

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
7:34 pm

Beachcomber, that’s well said. I usually think the Braves are going to win — I got into the habit back in the ’90s — but I had a bad feeling about this one. Until No. 22 came to bat.

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
7:35 pm

Hank, wasn’t Willie Mays the Say Hey Kid?

Angus

April 18th, 2010
7:36 pm

Why aren’t we shocked?

Because Mark Bradley is the Debbie-downiest of Debbie-downers and despises Braves’ success.

Just kidding, Mark. Well, not really.

Happy Sunday, Braves’ fans!

Eddie Mathews

April 18th, 2010
7:41 pm

At the game today and Heyward is awesome. The Glaus/Cabrera experiment needs to end.

New lineup:

Matt Diaz
Martin Prado
Chipper Jones
Jason Heyward
Brian McCann
Yunel Escobar
Hinske / Freeman
Nate McLouth

NCBravesFan

April 18th, 2010
7:42 pm

Nice write-up and I agree with the poster who earlier said this is a game we probably should have lost.

Despite all the problems with hitting the ball so far, we’re 7-5 and a game out, with the Phils coming to town. As long as we can pitch the ball and we have a guy like Heyward out there, we should be in contention.

Go Braves!

Suwaneedawg

April 18th, 2010
7:45 pm

MY 15 year old son yells at me everytime this guy comes to bat if I am not in front of the tv. He sounds mature beyond his years. Like he said, it is only two weeks but, it sure has been a fun ride so far. Where would this team be without this 20 year old?

nathan

April 18th, 2010
7:46 pm

I am a huge Braves fan and super excited about this team and have super high hopes. I cant wait to see Heyward in the all star game but lets look at frank wrens 2 big offseason acquisitions.

Glaus + Cabrera= Fail

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
7:47 pm

You’re forgetting Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, nathan. They’ve been OK.

nathan

April 18th, 2010
7:49 pm

Yes I meant to say additions to the lineup. Wagners been solid and Saitos been phenomenal. I guess that Makes Wrens grade balanced out to a C.

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
7:51 pm

I would agree that the Glaus experiment hasn’t yet paid off. And I’ve been disappointed in Melky Cabrera. I mean, the guy did start for Steinbrenner.

Freaknik 2010

April 18th, 2010
7:52 pm

What kind of disciplinary action will McCann face for calling Heyward a beast?

BRAVES COUNTRY

April 18th, 2010
7:52 pm

Looks like if we want a championship we should ship Freddie Freeman + prospects for Adrian Gonzalez come deadline time

Bryan G.

April 18th, 2010
7:55 pm

I try to not get excited about J-Hey and remind myself he’s only a rook, but he really looks special. In the way that we kidded ourselves about Frenchy – ignoring his obvious flaws in fundamentals and just seeing his early returns – I keep trying not to kid myself about Heyward. However, he looks like the real deal.

Woody Woodward

April 18th, 2010
7:56 pm

HanktheKing—”The Word”. Got kind of a biblical proportions kind of ring to it, wouldn’t you say?

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
7:57 pm

You know, Bryan G., Francoeur had a knack for rising to the moment his first couple of years, but his way was totally different from Heyward’s. Can you imagine Francoeur batting with two out and the game on the line and taking the first four pitches?

JohnSmith

April 18th, 2010
7:58 pm

Braves fans should be proud that Atlanta’s journalists and commentators aren’t blatant homers, at least. (I mean, have you ever seen a Nats or a Giants telecast? Mercy. “Due up next: Big Money Benji Molina!” Complete with graphics and a still photo. Indeed.) Maybe it’s all those seasons of winning without going all the way that have tempered the press. In any case, it’s good for the sports writers who cover the Braves to be realistic about the team’s weaknesses. It’s their job to be objective, and sometimes that means being pessimistic. It’s then the job of the players to perform and dismiss that pessimism. The fans have the easiest task of all: show up and cheer. ^_^

Go Braves!

joe jones

April 18th, 2010
7:59 pm

Got to get Glaus out of the lineup. He is a automatic out. His swing is way to long and he looks washed up. He leaves more runners on base than any hitter in baseball.

carlchamblee

April 18th, 2010
7:59 pm

Big difference between Heyward and Frenchy. Jeff never showed the patience and plate discipline that Heyward has already shown.

joe jones

April 18th, 2010
8:04 pm

Got to get Glaus out of the lineup. Nobody leaves more runners on or hits into more douple plays than Glaus.

Shane

April 18th, 2010
8:06 pm

Can you imagine Francoeur batting with two out and the game on the line and taking the first four pitches?

There isnt that much imagination in all of imagination land.

Mark Bradley

April 18th, 2010
8:08 pm

Ha, Shane. You made me laugh.

Shane

April 18th, 2010
8:08 pm

BTW regards Cabrera and Glaus. Glaus may not have it anymore but 12 games isnt long enough to tell. Also Cabrera is not only getting used to a new team but also a new league. I think he will be fine.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 18th, 2010
8:11 pm

Having seen all of the “second comings”, I’d suggest relishing the real deal.

This season, his seaon will be, well, special.

Stay tuned.

Vic Wertz

April 18th, 2010
8:12 pm

Mark, yes, Willie was the Say Hey kid when he played for the NY Giants. I know. I was an Indians fan back in 1954, and I saw The Catch live and in color, through tears.