The best thing I saw: J-Hey on Opening Day, Cam in the Dome

The moment: Jason Heyward watches what he'd just wrought. (AP photo)

The monumental moment: Jason Heyward watches the wonder he'd wrought. (AP photo)

The great British music magazine Mojo has a holiday feature in which prominent music folks share The Best Thing They’ve Heard All Year. (This year’s installment offers Jeff Beck touting Trombone Shorty, Brian Eno lauding MGMT and Gene Simmons singing the praises of Lady Gaga.)

In the spirit of Christmas, er, borrowing, last year I identified Josh Nesbitt’s snatch of a recovered Georgia Tech fumble from Florida State linebacker Nigel Carr that wild night in Tallahassee as The Best Thing I’d Seen In 2009, at least sports-wise. (Only later would the Tech quarterback change his official designation to “Joshua Nesbitt.”) For this year’s BTIS, we rewind to …

April 5, 2010: Turner Field is packed for the Braves’ opener, which isn’t always the case. The masses have come to see the ballyhooed rookie Jason Heyward, who spent spring training demolishing vehicles parked behind the right-field wall at Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista. The game begins with Heyward, who hasn’t yet played an official big-league play, receiving the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron, who had on April 8, 1974, surpassed Babe Ruth by hitting No. 715 in a Braves’ home opener.

Bottom of the first: Five of the first six Braves reach against Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano, who took a 3-0 lead to the mound. The No. 7 hitter watches the first two pitches. Then Heyward drive Zambrano’s third serve 446 feet. A three-run homer — to give the Braves a lead they’d keep, no less — on with his first big-league swing.

Says Terry Pendleton: “As soon as he hit it, we started high-fiving and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ “

Looking back, Heyward’s Opening Day clout set the tone for a season of step-up moments. Of their 91 victories, the Braves came from behind in 45 — almost half. They won 25 times in their final at-bat. And they needed, as we know, every rally: They made the playoffs as a wild card by one game over San Diego.

Thirteen days after Opening Day, Heyward would deliver a walk-off single against Colorado 19 hours after the Braves had been no-hit by Ubaldo Jimenez. Two days after that, he would tie a game against Philadelphia with two out in the bottom of the ninth by hitting a home run off Ryan Madson. (Troy Glaus, who hadn’t hit a lick, touched off the tying rally with a two-run homer. Nate McLouth, who wouldn’t hit a lick, won it with a leadoff walk-off in the 10th.)

For TBTISAY, I considered another performance authored by another young Atlanta native playing in this city almost eight months to the day after Heyward’s emphatic debut. Cam Newton’s performance in the SEC championship game was so breathtaking it made folks wonder if the Auburn quarterback mightn’t be the greatest collegian ever. (Indeed, I asked Newton’s coach if he’d ever seen a better college player, and Gene Chizik, who’d been the defensive coordinator on the team Vince Young led to the 2005 BCS title, said he hadn’t.)

For a sustained performance, Newton’s on Dec. 4 trumped Heyward’s on April 5. (To match Newton’s game, Heyward would have had to hit four three-run homers.) But for a single moment, that one swing was my highlight of 2010.

By Mark Bradley

Cam Newton touches home plate, figuratively speaking. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Cam Newton touches home plate, figuratively speaking. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

132 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

December 21st, 2010
1:54 pm

sigh, another first

D A Double U G

December 21st, 2010
1:58 pm

Want to know the best thing I saw in 2010??

THIS!!!…… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KDrPUcUsFY

42-34
9-1
61-39-5

kevin

December 21st, 2010
1:59 pm

I wished your defense was first TG…..

D A Double U G

December 21st, 2010
2:00 pm

I was there on April 5th, and witnessed Heyward’s first bomb.

I am a lifetime Braves fan, and will put that single moment as my ABSOLUTE favorite in-person witnessing,

Still gives me chills thinking about how the crowd reacted as soon as that ball came off his bat.

AU Fan

December 21st, 2010
2:01 pm

You are right Cam is soooooooooo sexy. I carry his picture with me all the time.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
2:10 pm

Sigh, kudos again, Todd.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

December 21st, 2010
2:13 pm

gotta throw in Conrad’s walk off grand slam against the Reds too. I still get goose bumps after watching the Heyward HR.

gatorman

December 21st, 2010
2:13 pm

mine was watching grantham give the choke sign just before we kicked our field goal {{{17 out of 20}}

todd grantham

December 21st, 2010
2:14 pm

something i hope to see in 2011 is a Georgia football team with 13 victories or, in lieu of that, the end of the Mark Richt era.

Stocking stuffers

December 21st, 2010
2:14 pm

Shreveport tickets

nemov

December 21st, 2010
2:14 pm

Worst moment…. Cam telling SI that his Dad helped him pick Auburn over Mississippi State.

Paul H

December 21st, 2010
2:15 pm

Falcons knocking off the Saints

What if....

December 21st, 2010
2:15 pm

The team that drafted Cam made their initial contract offer $198.000.00. A ten percent raise.

Paul H

December 21st, 2010
2:16 pm

Falcons beating ESPN’s favorite team and player of all time (Vick) in the GA Dome to advance to the super bowl.

nemov

December 21st, 2010
2:16 pm

Other crazy moments…. The LSU v. UT game. LSU’s bounce pass, fake FG against the Gators.

MalibuGT

December 21st, 2010
2:17 pm

mine was watching Roy Halladay pitch the no hitter against the Reds in his playoff debut. I was in an airport bar and every man, woman, and child were focused on the TV’s. Magical

D A Double U G

December 21st, 2010
2:20 pm

Stocking stuffers,

The SHREVEPORT tickets marked down to $14 are more like GAG GIFTS. I actually purchased 5 of them, and they will be in some of my fellow Dawg Alum’s stockings to generate a good laugh on Christmas Morning.

Those tickets will soon after find the trash can, assuring that many more EMPTY seats in the Tech section.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
2:23 pm

A note: When I say, “The Best Thing I Saw …” — I mean in person.

2012 FEAR THE END

December 21st, 2010
2:33 pm

Bobby Cox leaving

norman

December 21st, 2010
2:33 pm

I thought you would have said Kennesaw State beating GT. BTY, how are the owls doing?

Ryno in Athens

December 21st, 2010
2:35 pm

Trombone Shorty is very good.

Escaped from Email Purgatory

December 21st, 2010
2:39 pm

Blocked again. Was it “hell” or “boner pills”?

2012 FEAR THE END

December 21st, 2010
2:42 pm

“ballyhooed” MB is this your new word?

MURPHY

December 21st, 2010
2:47 pm

Best thing-sports wise? Only one–Beating Tech again to make it 9-1 in last 10 years

MURPHY

December 21st, 2010
2:51 pm

2nd best in person-Watching Spurrier beat Florida in the Swamp. Not in person best: Watching Spurrier beat Bama

Skeezix

December 21st, 2010
2:52 pm

I agree Mark. Heyward’s first at bat was electric. I had rushed home from work because I did not want to miss his first big league at bat. I turned on the TV just as he was walking to the plate. When he hit the homer I went nuts. I was home alone and had no one to celebrate with, but I went nuts anyway. A hit and a moment that Braves fans will be talking about for a long time.

My second favorite sports moment of the season would be the last five minutes of the Duke/Butler NCAA Championship game.

Escaped from Email Purgatory

December 21st, 2010
2:55 pm

MB says: “A note: When I say, “The Best Thing I Saw …” — I mean in person.”

Shoot. I don’t get out much. Does it have to be sports-related?

This past Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law’s wife belched the alphabet (after she chugged a Coke first).

It was the Greek alphabet if that’s more impressive – and she was standing on her head. Did I mention she was seven months pregnant at the time?

Skeezix

December 21st, 2010
2:57 pm

Worse of the year? The Carolina Panthers pretending to be an NFL team. .

SWAT Native

December 21st, 2010
3:18 pm

Mark,

I’m proud to say I also saw both of those performances in person. I’m surprised you don’t have one of the Falcons comeback wins (like Baltimore) as another great moment.

alpharettadawg

December 21st, 2010
3:20 pm

hearing Jim Powell say (post Heyward homer) “…and this place is upside down!!!”

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
3:22 pm

Didn’t see the Baltimore game in person, SWAT Native.

joe

December 21st, 2010
3:23 pm

Best thing I saw was me getting $800 in cash for two SEC championship game tix from a Gamec0ck fan…

TB

December 21st, 2010
3:23 pm

Mark,

Now that Lorenzo Cain is with the Royals, do you think the Braves can arrange a trade without giving away too much?

dean

December 21st, 2010
3:24 pm

This is easy since my only in-person sporting event this year was GA beating TN. At least it was a win.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
3:25 pm

Something we know for sure, TB: The Braves are good at trading with Kansas City.

J-Smoove

December 21st, 2010
3:34 pm

Right now I would have to say J-Hey’s homerun on opening day…. I hope that next Monday I can say the Falcons beating up on the Saints on MNF!

Villa Rica Wildcats

December 21st, 2010
3:38 pm

For me….
It was watching the Carrollton Trojans LOSE in the AAA title game in the Dome 2 weeks ago… YES!

DawginLex

December 21st, 2010
3:41 pm

Sitting behind the UT band at the UGA/UT game and having them only play Rocky top 4 times all game long.

singing “Hey Hey Baby” over and over again in Lexington while we massacred Kentucky at commonwealth

K with a K

December 21st, 2010
3:42 pm

Michigan at ND…D.Robinson accounting for 502 of Michigan’s 532 yrds! K.Rudolph’s 95 yrd TD catch and run! What a game!

War Eagle

December 21st, 2010
3:51 pm

The Best Thing I saw in person all year was seeing Auburn dominate Georgia 49 -31 and watching all the Georgia fans exiting the stadium during the middle of the 4th quarter.

Sean

December 21st, 2010
4:09 pm

I can’t believe no one has posted this one yet, but my favorite moment; short lived however, was Eric Hinske’s 2 run homer in game 3. As a die hard Braves fan that was one of the greatest moments I have seen. The crowd was going crazy and when I watch the moment and the teams reaction it still brings goosebumps. Conrad had to fumble the game away, but it was still one of the best moments of the season for me.

Person

December 21st, 2010
4:10 pm

I know the rules restrict it to moments seen in person. But if it can expand to moments seen live on television, nothing can top Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria in the World Cup.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
4:15 pm

Your rules can stretch to include whatever you like, Person.

Lakedawg

December 21st, 2010
4:18 pm

One of my looking forward to big moments next year is when the big hammer falls on the AU football program with about 6 years probation.

Keith

December 21st, 2010
4:18 pm

I was there, too, Mark. Jhey’s hit was quite grand…as were some of the comebacks. I would have to say that Hinske’s homer in Game 4 brought more excitement than Jhey’s (i went to about 20+ games this year), and that place was freakin’ crazy. I guess you leave that out since it ended in a MISERABLE loss…but since we’re talking single moments…I would have it in the top 5.

A future special moment:
Falcons defeat the Eagles in the Dome on a last-second TD by Matt Ryan and the Falcons clinch a Super Bowl Berth. :)

GO FALCONS!

Keith

December 21st, 2010
4:19 pm

*Sorry, Mark, Game 3, not 4.

UTVOLS

December 21st, 2010
4:20 pm

One of my favorite moments was at the end of the Braves season and Game 3 of the NLDS when Hinske hit the 2 run homer. I have never heard Turner Field so loud and the electricity was amazing. That is the type of atmosphere we need for every game next year to deal with the Phils rotation. Too bad the moment was short lived, but it was worth the experience.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2010
4:21 pm

The Eric Hinske homer was a great moment, Keith. But I couldn’t get over what followed, which may have been the worst thing I’ve ever seen in baseball.

Keith

December 21st, 2010
4:23 pm

Yeah, it was worse than hearing the kind of country song that makes you want to…well, I won’t say.

But since you mentioned single moments, I had to mention it cause people forget after the four-letter name of the player…well, I won’t mention that either.

Keith

December 21st, 2010
4:24 pm

On a side note, kudos to Wren for offering a deal to Hinkse.

Kudos to Eric for going with ATL and not going home. :)