ATLANTA -- As Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann was taking batting practice before Wednesday night's game at Turner Field, he reminisced about Monday's Opening Day victory and said, "That was the most fun that I've ever had playing in a game. Everything lined up just right."
McCann's second-inning solo shot chased Carlos Zambrano and gave the Braves some cushion as they cruised to a 16-5 season-opening win over the Cubs. But while the 26-year-old enjoyed collecting his third Opening Day homer in a span of just five years, he was certainly well aware of the fact that the highlight of the day came courtesy of the titanic, three-run shot that Jason Heyward produced in the six-run first inning with the first swing of his Major League career.
"It was a nice little line drive that he crushed, and that's the kind of hitter that he is," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said of Heyward's drive that went an estimated 414 feet and landed on the mounds at the back of the Braves' bullpen. "He's a line-drive hitter. He just hit a line drive a long way."
With his memorable homer, the 20-year-old Heyward became the youngest player to homer in his first career at-bat since Reds 19-year-old right fielder Ted Tappe in 1950. The youngest player to do this was New York Giants outfielder Whitey Lockman, whose historic homer occurred in 1945, just 20 days shy of his 19th birthday.
While the sports world was buzzing about his homer on Tuesday, Heyward enjoyed a low-key day off that enabled him to spend time with his grandparents before they traveled back to New York on Wednesday.
Heyward's ability to handle his instant stardom and continue to take his same approach to the plate during his final four at-bats on Monday wasn't overlooked by Pendleton.
"He stayed within himself," Pendleton said. "He doesn't try to get bigger or hit the ball further. He just goes up there and does what he does. That's what is going to separate him from a lot of young hitters coming to this league."
Heyward scorched a low liner through the middle of the infield for an eighth-inning single that completed his two-hit debut. But the at-bat that impressed Chipper Jones occurred one inning earlier, when with Yunel Escobar on second base and nobody out, the young phenom was successful in his attempt to direct the ball to the right side of the diamond.
"That's how you earn respect among your teammates," Jones said. "We're all going to see those homers, but what gets overlooked is the fact that the kid knows how to play the game and he works at it."