On April 5th, 2010 the Atlanta Braves were facing the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day at Turner Field. Batting 7th in the lineup for the Braves that day was just 20 years of age and had the number 22 on the back of his uniform. His name...Jason Heyward.
Heyward was noted as a 5-tool player coming up through the Braves farm system. He showed promising signs of speed, power, arm strength, defense, and general baseball IQ. Normally players of his age do not earn a spot on the opening day roster but Heyward was an exception.
Jason Heyward had arguably the greatest first at-bat in the majors than any other Braves player. Hitting 7th in the lineup, it was probably unlikely he anticipated getting a first-inning at-bat, but he did.
Carlos Zambrano was on the mound for the Cubs. After a first-inning rally against Zambrano, the game was tied at three. Heyward stepped into the box with runners on first and second and one out.
After falling behind in the count 2-0, the veteran Zambrano decided that he would challenge the kid with a fastball “right down Peachtree!” as former Braves’ broadcaster Chip Caray would say.
Heyward did not miss his pitch and belted a 3-run home run to give the Braves a 6-3 lead. Braves fans erupted to applaud the result of Heyward’s first big league at-bat. The noise in that stadium created a playoff-type atmosphere only a couple of hours into the season.
That homer was even more special because of the meaning it carried. Jason Heyward's best friend in high school passed away in a tragic auto accident. He chose to wear the number 22 as an honor to his friend, Andrew Wilmot and gave Wilmot's mother his jersey with the number.
Heyward surprised her with tickets to the game and she sat in right field which is exactly where he hit his first career homer during this game. That is an unforgettable and special moment for all parties involved. It's certainly one of the best Braves moments in recent history.
Jason Heyward provided Braves country with a lot of fond memories during his five year stint with the team before being traded to St. Louis in 2014.