Chipper Jones has given subtle hints over the past year that 2010 will likely be his last season in baseball, and as each day goes by in this baseball season, it is beginning increasingly evident that the future is now for 20 year old Jason Heyward.
It seemed to be a little prophetic that Heyward’s first at-bat was a homerun, and for the most part he has played at an All-Star level and kept the Braves hopes alive of a wild-card berth alive with his heroics.
Heyward’s batting average has fluctuated the past few weeks and manager Bobby Cox had sat him down on occasion against tough left handed pitcher such as the Mets’ Johan Santana. However, one can tell when Heyward comes to bat, fans notice.
Heyward will likely be a building block for years to come, along with Martin Prado at second base.
Chipper has quietly faded into the background with his .223 batting average as of May 23rd and it doesn’t seem appear that he is breaking out of his season long, injury-riddled funk anytime soon. Right now, Chipper is day-to-day and recently tried to soften his retirement stance.
He is 38 years old, but he has been able to position himself to leave on his terms just like Bobby Cox retirement announcement.
In 1990, Dale Murphy was abruptly traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and David Justice took over right field in much the same way Jason Heyward did essentially in replacing former Braves player Jeff Francoeur.
Even though Heyward has taken Frenchy’s spot in right field, it appears he is in the process of taking over as face of the franchise.
Against the Cincinnati Reds on May 19th, the Braves had blown a 4-0 lead and the Reds were able to tie the game at four apiece. So things didn’t look good for awhile, but Prado got on base, and Jason Heyward hit an RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a comeback win over Reds 5-4.
When Prado crossed the plate, the Braves’ dugout went crazy as if Francisco Cabrera hit a single to score Sid Bream in the 1992 Nation Championship series versus the Pirates.
Everyone watching on Peachtree TV or witnessing the game live at Turner Field could feel the emotion.
Heyward had doubled twice in the game and also hit his first major league triple. The rookie helped the Braves end Cincinnati’s four-game winning streak.
It’s early, but let’s take a look at some of Heyward’s highlights thus far in 2010:
Heyward Impact Moment #1 In front a sellout crowd at Turner field, Braves’ fans were chanting, “Let’s go, Heyward!” in his first game ever as a major leaguer and against Carlos Zambrano, he hit a fastball into the Braves’ bullpen over the right-field. The Braves won in a rout, 16-5.
Heyward Impact Moment#2 Despite having a great debut, the 20 year old struggled some in the next few games and caught some criticism from media and fans suggesting he should go back to the minors. However, he recovered nicely as the Braves traveled to San Francisco. Heyward hit a HR off Giants’ starter Todd Wellemeyer and added an RBI single in a four-run seventh that secured a 7-2 win, ending the Giants’ four-game winning streak.
Heyward Impact Moment#3 At this point of the season, the Braves offense was basically Prado and Heyward. The Braves’ young star drove in two runs on a pair of doubles to help the Braves win 6-2.
Heyward Impact Moment #4 The Braves were down and out, and Jason Heyward came through with two outs in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies and hit a game-tying homerun. The Braves ended up winning in the 10th inning, 4-3 on a Nate McLouth walk-off homerun.
Heyward Impact Moment #5 Heyward doubled twice and also hit his first major league triple. The rookie hit a walk-off RBI double to give the Braves a 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds.