Tag:Atlanta Braves
Posted on: September 19, 2010 7:56 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:31 pm
 

Twins still unsure of Morneau's return

Justin Morneau finally is having many more good days than bad while battling post-concussion syndrome and for that, the Twins are thrilled.

But as for when we'll next see Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP who hasn't played since July 7, Morneau isn't far enough along to where the Twins feel they can address that definitively.

"He continues to make progress," Twins general manager Bill Smith says. "I don't know if he'll be back this year or not. As I've said, we're not going to do anything to jeopardize his long-term health or his long-term career.

"Those two things are much more important than whether he plays next week, or next month."

Morneau was hitting .345 with a 1.055 slugging percentage when he left the game on July 7. He had 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 81 games. He was set up for another monster year.

Then, bam.

Troublesome thing is, this isn't Morneau's first bout with a concussion in the majors, it isn't his first bout with a concussion, period. An old hockey player from Canada, Morneau had concussions on the ice before his baseball career started. He was disabled in April, 2005, with a concussion suffered when he was hit in the head with a Ron Villone pitch.

Those all feed into why the Twins and Morneau are forced to take thing so slowly this time. Good news for the club is, in Morneau's absence, Jim Thome has been incredibly productive in more at-bats than originally was planned. The Twins' depth has been a saving grace.

As for Morneau, Smith says, "Every one of us, including Justin, would love to have him back in the four hole."

Question is, when?

Likes: How much fun is this NL West race going to be these last two weeks? ... The Braves and Phillies this week. ... Watching Colorado's Todd Helton play first base. ... Watching Troy Tulowitzki swinging the way he's swinging. It's just incredible to watch. ... Looking forward to seeing Texas play this week. ... Ted Simmons, the Padres' bench coach, with his interest in managing. With all the jobs that will be open this winter, an imaginative team could make a real good hire. ... What a great thing that Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio should be OK after suffering a heart attack following the win over Notre Dame. ... Did you see that MSU-ND finish? If there are any more finishes close to that the rest of the way in college football, it's going to be a fun season. What a finish! ... Lots of good buzz about the new Hawaii Five-0 premiering this week on -- yes -- CBS, but what I love is that they kept the old theme song. That tells me right there that they're handling the show with care. ... Gotta get to the movie theater to see The Town. Don't know when I'll have time, but it looks like a winner.

Dislikes: Get the maple bats out of the game before someone gets killed. Come on, what's it going to take?

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now me and my mate were back at the shack
"We had Spike Jones on the box
"She said, "I can't take the way he sings
"But I love to hear him talk"
"Now that just gave my heart a throb
"To the bottom of my feet
"And I swore as I took another pull
"My Bessie can't be beat"

-- The Band, Up on Cripple Creek

Posted on: August 12, 2010 5:47 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 8:21 pm
 

The Jones-Cox Show comes to premature end

It is one of the great modern manager-player runs going, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, together in Atlanta, 17 seasons strong.

Now, with news that Jones has blown out his left knee and is finished for the season, the Braves' last gasp under the retiring Cox is guaranteed to have a bittersweet ending no matter how it finishes.

Jones' wrecked knee wrecks Atlanta's playoff hopes? Awww.

Braves overcome Jones injury to make the playoffs while Jones forced to watch? Awww.

Braves win World Series to send Cox out with another ring while Jones helpless to help? Awww.

Sentimental as some stories become, the game has a way of stripping sentiment in favor of cold reality, and that's what the Braves are dealing with now. Fighting for their lives to fend off two-time NL champion Philadelphia -- dealing with a significant injury of its own with Chase Utley sidelined -- life now becomes much more difficult for the Braves.

Jones, 38, was hitting .265 with 10 homers and 46 RBI in 95 games with the Braves this season, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Struggling so badly earlier this year that he spoke of retiring at season's end, Jones over his past 11 games was hitting .368 with three homers, five RBI and eight runs scored.

Short-term, Jones' loss vastly increases the degree of difficulty for the Braves, who now will plug Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad into third base in place of Jones while searching the waiver wires for a spare-part match.

Long-term, this injury means we very well might have seen the last of Jones. If he does decide to retire -- a very real possibility, given the normal six-month recovery from this type of injury and his advanced age -- the next time Jones' name comes up in earnest in baseball circles very well might be in Hall of Fame discussions.

He's not a slam-dunk first-ballot guy, but his 436 career homers (37th all-time), 1,491 RBI (52nd all-time) and .941 OPS (30th all-time) certainly put the six-time All-Star -- and 1999 NL MVP -- onto the front porch of Cooperstown.

It's just a shame that if the Braves do make the playoffs this fall, Jones won't be at Cox's side as a couple of Atlanta icons swinging for one more shot at glory.

Likes: Tell you what, glad there were no serious injuries in the Cardinals-Reds brawl, and this might not be the most mature or politically correct reaction, but I love the emotions that were injected into that rivalry this week. Baseball, in the free agent era, has gone corporate and too many players are way too friendly with each other. The result is, it takes the edge off of too many rivalries. No worry about that down the stretch in St. Louis and Cincinnati now. ... The Kids Are All Right. Great cast, great acting. Next up: The Other Guys. Gotta see Derek Jeter's acting debut. And I hear WIll Ferrell is actually funny again. ... Finally catching up with Pat Conroy's Beach Music, a long ago best seller, and man Conroy can write. Enjoying the book, but the plot goes a little too far in the back half of the book in some areas. ... Wrote off Mad Men a couple of years ago, decided to give it another chance this year and I'm glad I did. Finally, belatedly, enjoying it. ... Hard to go wrong with any Apple products in my book. My iTouch went bad after just a year-and-a-half, turned out the battery malfunctioned and they replaced the entire unit with a new one. ... Look, the former drummer for the Greg Kihn Band now ... cleans carpet? It's true. But don't ask him about pet hair in the carpet.

Dislikes: The fact that Manny Ramirez is earning $20 million and can't be bothered to rehab his calf strain, or whatever he's calling it, with the Dodgers is a joke. Of course, nobody's surprised, are they, that Manny's off on his own? And the Dodgers were the suckers who gambled with him.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You could lie on a riverbank
"Or paint your name on a water tank
"Miscount all the beers you drank
"Back where I come from
"Back where I come from
"Where I'll be when it's said and done
"Well I'm proud as anyone
"That's where I come from
"We learned in a Sunday school
"Who made the sun shine through.
"I know who made the moonshine, too
"Back where I come from.
"Blue eyes on a Saturday night
"Ttan legs in the broad daylight
"TV’s, they were black and white
"Back where I come from"

-- Mac McAnally, Back Where I Come From

Posted on: July 13, 2010 8:39 pm
 

Setting the stage at the All-Star Game

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few things as we get set for the 81st All-Star Game:

-- National League pitching plans: Florida's Josh Johnson and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay will follow starter Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. After that, manager Charlie Manuel plans to review the game situation, see where the AL lineup is and go from there. With lefties Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano and Carl Crawford hitting 7-8-9, you could see one of a couple of lefty relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo or Arthur Rhodes if the situation dictates.

-- AL pitching plans were unclear as for who would follow Tampa Bay's David Price to the hill. But in Price, Texas' Cliff Lee, Boston's Jon Lester and the Yankees' Andy Pettitte, the AL is loaded with lefties. Which could mean right-handers Justin Verlander and Phil Hughes will be interspersed with them.

-- Boston's David Ortiz on the legacy of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Unbelievable. When you give a team that many dreams, that many possibilities to win, that's something you've got to respect no matter what."

-- This is how stacked the AL is: Mauer, last year's MVP, is hitting seventh. Last time he did that? "The minor leagues," Mauer said. His reaction to hitting seventh? "Where do you want to put everybody?" Mauer said. "Somebody's gotta bat down there."

-- The pressure is on Padres closer Heath Bell if he pitches late in a close game. San Diego has provided three of the past four losing pitchers: Bell last year, Chris Young in 2007 and Trevor Hoffman in 2006.

-- Atlanta's Omar Infante, the most unlikely of All-Stars, is having a ball. His favorite moments? Tuesday afternoon in NL clubhouse, and Monday watching the Home Run Derby on the field, holding his one-year-old son, taking as many photos as he could. As for the game? "It's very important," said Infante, whose Braves are in position to benefit if the NL can win home-field World Series advantage. "Everybody's psyched."

-- The turf is in good shape here in Angel Stadium. But it almost was in even better shape. The rock band U2 was scheduled to play Angel Stadium in early June, after which the contract called for new sod to be laid at Angel Stadium. Instead of a new playing surface, however ... well, Bono underwent emergency back surgery, U2 canceled its tour and the turf remains the same.

Posted on: July 2, 2010 9:11 pm
 

Jimenez, Price aligned for All-Star Game

If American League manager Joe Girardi chooses to start Tampa Bay's David Price in the July 13 All-Star Game -- a very real possibility given that Price led the AL in ERA (2.44) and wins (11) on Friday -- the coast is clear.

And if National League manager Charlie Manuel gives the nod to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez -- which seems a slam dunk -- that should work, too.

In the first season in which baseball will deem ineligible any starting pitcher working on the Sunday before the All-Star break, the view from several days out looks pretty good.

Of the top AL starters, only the Angels' Jered Weaver (who leads the majors with 124 strikeouts), Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and the Yankees' CC Sabathia currently are projected to start for their clubs on that Sunday.

Among the NL's top starters, only the Mets' Mike Pelfrey is slated to start on Sunday, July 11. But depending on what manager Jerry Manuel does with his pitching on the club's off-day on Thursday, July 8, that could change.

Price, a serious candidate to start for the AL, is scheduled to make his final pre-All Star start for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, which would leave him plenty rested for the Anaheim game. And if Girardi looks in a different direction, Seattle's Cliff Lee (last first-half start next Friday), Boston's Jon Lester (Friday) and Clay Buchholz (Tuesday), the Yankees' own Phil Hughes (Friday) and Texas' Colby Lewis (Wednesday) all should be eligible.

Jimenez makes his final pre-All Star start on Thursday and, assuming good health, should be a foregone conclusion to start for the NL in Anaheim.

As for the rest of the NL's top starters, things are setting up very nicely for Manuel: Florida's Josh Johnson (final first-half start slotted for Wednesday), St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (Friday), Adam Wainwright (Saturday) and Jaime Garcia (Thursday), Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (Saturday), Atlanta's Tim Hudson (Friday or Saturday), Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (Friday), the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (Thursday), San Diego's Mat Latos (Wednesday) and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (Wednesday) and Barry Zito (Thursday)  all should be fresh for the game.

Likes: Great move by Texas acquiring catcher Bengie Molina. Look out, this is the strongest team the Rangers have had in several years. ... The wheels came off the wagon horribly in Arizona, but make no mistake: Fired general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch are good people. ... New Arizona manager Kirk Gibson's first game in the dugout, of course, is against the Dodgers. Who else? ... The All-Star break just around the corner and Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Diego in first place. ... The new concert DVD from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, Live in Hyde Park. Very, very good. Great song selections, tremendous playing and some breathtaking camera work of both the band's work and the crowd in Hyde Park. ... Quaker Oatmeal Squares for breakfast. ... Ben & Jerry's Milk and Cookies ice cream.

Dislikes: It's July, so here comes the July 31 trade deadline, a time that you would think would get a baseball writer's juices flowing. And it does mine, too -- it's fun to see the moves as they're made -- but it's also become one of my least favorite times of the year because there is so, so much wrong information that will be produced this month. And ferreting out the truth from the fiction is next to impossible. The sad, simple fact is the journalism bar at times is lowered today, and this is one of them.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Summer
"It turns me upside down"

-- The Cars, Magic

Posted on: June 4, 2010 11:11 pm
 

Braves' Venters a real vulture

LOS ANGELES -- Red-hot Atlanta and streaking Los Angeles got back to business here Friday night. And Jonny Venters, the Braves' one-pitch wonder, figured life would get back to normal after he unexpectedly scooped up his first career save Thursday by throwing, yes, one pitch.

While the Braves hooted and hollered and kidded him into Friday, the circumstances weren't funny.

Takashi Saito suffered a pulled left hamstring that would knock him onto the 15-day disabled list when he threw strike two to Russell Martin with two out in the ninth inning of Thursday night's game.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox summoned Venters, a 25-year-old rookie whom the Braves picked in the 30th round of the 2003 draft, to finish off Martin. Billy Wagner, the Braves' closer, was unavailable because he had worked four games in the preceding four-day span.

One slider later, job done.

And Venters still hasn't heard the end of it.

"When we were walking in, Bobby was screaming at me, calling me a vulture," Venters said Friday, grinning. "And [closer] Billy Wagner has been ragging me all day. Every time he comes around, he tells me he has to win his job back.

"He calls me 'The Closer.'"

Though Venters has finished five games this season, Thursday's was his first save opportunity. He's appeared in 17 games as a situational lefty and compiled a 1.27 ERA and a .181 opponents' batting average in 21 1/3 innings.

When he reached the mound after Saito limped off Thursday with the Braves clinging to the one-run lead, Cox had just one piece of advice for him.

"He told me, 'If you're going to throw a slider, throw it down," said Venters, who proved to be a good listener just a few seconds later.

Aside from the Braves' teasing and, yes, warm congratulations, Venters received several other messages.

"Quite a few," he said. "I had a bunch of texts last night when I came in. Mostly from family and friends."

As for the ball, it was safely tucked away on a shelf in his locker.

"That's probably going into a case," he said. "I never thought it would be like that -- if I even ever got a save."

Likes: Beautiful drawing of retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox on the cover of the Braves media guide. Nice angle, from behind Cox in the dugout as he's looking out onto the field at Turner Field. ... Really nice moment during batting practice Friday -- several moments, actually -- when Dodgers manager Joe Torre walked over to visit with Cox and the two future Hall of Fame managers spent 20 or so minutes sitting on the bench in the visitors' dugout, chatting. ... Got a chuckle earlier this week when, in the Mets' clubhouse, the song American Pie was blaring from an iPad in Alex Cora's locker. ... Henry Schulman, Giants beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, says Pittsburgh is a far better city than generally given credit for. I could not agree more. And the picture of this Primanti Bros. salami sandwich in his San Francisco Ball Scribe Blog made me wish I was sitting through that Pirates-Giants rain delay Friday night with one of those bad boys on a plate in front of me. ...

Dislikes: John Wooden, sleep well. Sad, sad day. If the world had more John Woodens, I guarantee you there would be far fewer problems. What a sweet and tear-jerking sentiment from former UCLA player Jamaal Wilkes, who said he was in the room with Wooden's son, James, when Wooden asked to be shaved, and noted that "his son made the comment that when he got shaved he was getting ready to see Nellie." Nell is Wooden's late and beloved wife, who died of cancer in 1975.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Don't give up on your dreams
"Or your dreams will give up on you"

-- John Wooden

Posted on: June 3, 2010 8:26 pm
 

A few final thoughts on the travesty in Detroit

Let's start with this: If you have not heard umpire Jim Joyce's agony in the aftermath of his blown call to rob Detroit's Armando Galarraga of a perfect game Wednesday night, you owe it to yourself to listen. Especially if you're hopping mad, looking for somebody to slug and your blood pressure is through the roof:

Listen to Jim Joyce here.

And if some of your hardness doesn't begin to melt just a little after listening, then I imagine you've never made a mistake in your life. It's darn tough not to feel for the man.

Meantime, with the wreckage still smoldering in Detroit, the important thing now is to figure out what lessons can be learned.

Me, I see several (besides baseball needing to look seriously at implementing more replay and better umpires).

I see Galarraga offering an incredible example of class and sportsmanship. "Nobody's perfect," he said Wednesday night. Imagine! This from a 28-year-old man immediately after he <em>was</em> perfect. From a man who is fighting for a permanent spot on Detroit's roster -- he was recently recalled from Triple-A Toledo.

I see Joyce, heartsick and temporarily broken, offering a gut-wrenching apology and exemplifying courage at its finest. Awful day at the office, yes. We all have those. But not all of us are strong enough to shoulder a colossal mistake. Not only did he seek Galarraga out to apologize after he viewed the replay on Wednesday night, he worked the plate for Thursday's series finale, shrugging off baseball's offer to take a sabbatical. And Cleveland manager Manny Acta afterward said Joyce had a great game.

I see class from the Tigers and manager Jim Leyland, who said before the game, "This is not a day to boo a bad call. This is a day to cheer integrity." And: "This is a day for Detroit to shine."

I saw Detroit shine when some of the 28,169 fans in Comerica Park applauded the umpires when they took the field, causing Joyce, a jangle of raw emotions, to cry.

It's terrible the way this all went down. But I'll tell you this: If not for the class of Galarraga, Joyce, Leyland and others, this could have been a whole lot uglier. In a bad situation, they all took the high road and, maybe, made us all think a little bit and re-examine a little bit of ourselves.

For that, baseball owes all of them a debt of gratitude.

Likes: June and San Diego, Texas, Cincinnati and Atlanta are in first place with Oakland lurking nearby. Can never get enough Cinderella stories. ... The Braves are making Bobby Cox proud. ... Glad to hear Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be working for the Mariners sometime soon. The only thing worse than when a superstar's career ends is when he disappears completely. Good for the game when they stay around and remain visible. ... Radical changes to Friday Night Lights as the fourth season is underway (for those of us who don't have DirecTV), and the show continues to crackle with great writing and superb acting.

Dislikes: Too bad Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement was overshadowed by the non-perfect game fallout. I mean, the Commissioner's Office wound up releasing a statement on the Detroit brouhaha Thursday before it issued a statement congratulating Griffey for a great career. ... Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow lobbying Thursday for baseball to reverse umpire Jim Joyce's blown call and award Armando Galarraga the perfect game he lost. How about you two politicians concentrate on Michigan's future and lowering that unemployment rate?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Yesterday's over my shoulder
"So I can't look back for too long
"There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
"And I know that I just can't go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

 

Posted on: May 6, 2010 8:19 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2010 9:09 pm
 

Glavine makes his next pitch

Most ironic development in the 2010 season?

Retired ace pitcher Tom Glavine, now a special assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz, signing on as a spokesman for the company that developed and licensed the technical aspects of a certain computer program to ... Questec.

As in, the computerized strike-zone grading mechanism that caused freaked-out umpires to squeeze the zone a few years back ... which nearly blew up Glavine's golden years in the game.

Funny how in life our enemies can become friends, and vice-versa, huh?

The pitching program Glavine liked well enough to sign on with is called PitchSight, and it was developed by L-3 Communications of Burlington, Mass., about a year-and-a-half ago.

In a nutshell, PitchSight is a computer-based system that has the capability of tracking a number of elements designed to aid a pitcher's growth and development. Two cameras and a computer help spit out graphs charting a pitcher's release point, pitch speed, arm angle, the break of a pitch and the location of a pitch.

The intent is that by using the program, a pitcher will be better able to repeat arm angles, pitches and other technical aspects that needs repeating to be successful.

Glavine, who won 305 games in the majors and should be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2014, likes and believes in PitchSight for several reasons.

"It's pretty simplistic -- there are not a lot of bells and whistles," he says. "You can get instantaneous feedback. You can be in the middle of a bullpen session, stop and immediately dial up a pitch and get information that is pertinent with no guesswork.

"One thing that separates it from video is that in video, there's some gray area as to what you think you're feeling and what you see when you're watching."

By its graphic nature, Glavine says, with PitchSight, "what you see is what you get. There is no guesswork."

"Virtually every year down the stretch, I'd go through a period where I wasn't comfortable," says Glavine, who also offered tips and helped tweak the program while it was in development. "Sometimes you feel way off when in actuality you may be only a little off. Sometimes you feel just a little off when in actuality you may be way off.

"Sometimes you'd watch video, but there was still room for interpretation."

Glavine thinks this program would have helped him ("I'm not saying I would have won 100 more games").

And just think, if he's right, it probably could have done so with far fewer words than it took, say, former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

"And less expletives," Glavine says, chuckling.

The system sells for $30,000, plus installation. Ken Riddle, L-3 Communications vice-president, says Boston College is among those currently testing the system. The company is hoping its system will catch on with some major-league teams, which it thinks could benefit in expediting the development of younger pitchers in minor-league systems.

As for the idea that it's revenge for Questec?

"This is absolutely something to help pitchers out," Riddle says, chuckling. "I'm not sure I'd call it revenge. It's a different application of technology."

Or, as Glavine says, "You're stealing an evaluation tool pitchers were not real fond of, and now it could be an evaluation tool that is beneficial to pitchers. That's why I like it."

Likes: Still love the XM radio baseball package where you can listen to every game every night (and the MLB Extra Innings package on the tube, too). If only XM had been around a couple of decades ago, just think how many folks could have heard Ernie Harwell then. ... How about the play of Andruw Jones this year? White Sox fans may love it, but Dodgers fans surely are thinking about how badly Jones stole Los Angeles' money. Michigan summers. ... The Hold Steady at the Belly-Up Tavern in San Diego (actually, Solana Beach) on Tuesday night. Their new disc, Heaven is Whenever, sounds great and the show was stellar. Constructive Summer and Stay Positive were among the many standout numbers in the live show. ... These opening acts for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' summer tour: Joe Cocker, Drive-By Truckers, ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, My Morning Jacket and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Now that's strong. ... Finally, season four of Friday Night Lights debuts on Friday night. Nice job, NBC, keeping it on ice for so long that it again faces long odds of getting good ratings. Talk about giving a great show no chance. Of course, there was no room on the schedule, I know, with the lame Jay Leno 10 p.m. show going.

Dislikes: Farewell, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. What a bad week. First Ernie Harwell, now the ace of the Phillies 1950 Whiz Kids.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mama, take this badge off of me
"I can't use it anymore
"It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
"I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Mama, put my guns in the ground
"I can't shoot them anymore
"That long black cloud is comin' down
"I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door"

-- Bob Dylan, Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Posted on: April 5, 2010 5:13 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 7:30 pm
 

The legend of Jason Heyward. ...

... started immediately on Monday in his first major-league at-bat when he ripped a three-run, first-inning homer over the right-field fence to send Atlanta's Turner Field into a frenzy.

Or, wait.

Did it start when he received the ceremonial first-pitch before Monday's game from Hall of Famer Hank Aaron?

Or, wait.

Did it start this spring, when he drilled a distant Coke truck and smashed the sunroof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno's car during one round of batting practice?

Don't look now, but it may be time to start scripting The Natural II.

"I'm not trying to do anything other than get ready for the season," Heyward, 20, told me this spring as the buzz around him grew. "I've been trying to win a job ever since I've been in the organization."

That would be all of, oh, one full professional season.

Heyward's was the most anticipated rookie debut of 2010 -- at least, until Washington recalls pitcher Stephen Strasburg -- and all he did was jack expectations even higher, if that's even possible. The Braves measured the homer at a monstrous 446 feet.

After the Aaron moment, and after outfielder Marlon Byrd had staked the Cubs to an early 3-0 lead, the kid stepped to the plate with the score 3-3 amid chants of "Let's Go, Hey-ward!" His parents, Dartmouth College graduates, were in the crowd -- on television, the Braves broadcasters said that Heyward told them he was leaving tickets for about 50 people today.

The pitch Heyward crushed wasn't a bad pitch. Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano left it over the plate, but it was down toward Heyward's knees. It wasn't like Zambrano left it up. Didn't matter, the 20-year-old phenom crushed it. Paul Sullivan, long-time Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted that Turner Field was louder than he's ever heard it as Heyward's ball went out.

Had Heyward not signed with the Braves after they made him their first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2007 draft, he would be a junior at UCLA today.

Instead, he's climbing the charts with a bullet.

Scouts this spring already were comparing him to Dave Parker and Darryl Strawberry. One former manager who knows both Parker and Strawberry told me that Heyward is far more mature at his age than Parker or Strawberry were at 20 -- another indication of impending greatness for Heyward.

"If you put in the hard work, it's reflected in the results on the field, in how everybody sees you and in you as a person," Heyward, who went 2 for 5 with four RBIs in his debut, a 16-5 Atlanta win, told me this spring. "It pays off."

One major-league at-bat in, it already is.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com