Atlanta Braves Baseball: Jason Heyward-Hype Sweeps Through Spring Camp

Joel BarkerSenior Writer IFebruary 23, 2010

In June of '09 I wrote a story recapping Tommy Hanson's major league debut in Atlanta. In that article I talked about the Hansonmania that had taken Atlanta by storm in a losing effort.

In 2010, still days away from the first exhibition game of spring training, Heyward-Hype has made Hansonmania look like my seventh birthday party—the one when the clown didn't even show up.

On Monday, all we heard out of camp was how Derek Lowe thought Jason Heyward looked like an outside linebacker. And how Chipper Jones likened the 6'4" behemoth to Jevon "the Freak" Kearse, a former Florida Gators/Tennessee Titans defensive end. Chipper later referred to Heyward as a "bigger Freddie McGriff."

The topper came Tuesday, however. During batting practice Bobby Cox likened the pop in Heyward's bat to that of Hank Aaron's.

That was before Heyward drilled a ball over 450 feet, destroying assitant GM Bruce Manno's car sunroof. It was even before Heyward dented a moving Coke truck just beyond the wall at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, FL.

I wonder what he'll do for an encore Wednesday. Maybe fly faster than a speeding bullet, or leap a tall building in a single bound.

Look, I'm excited about the kid, too. I'm already on record saying that this 20-year-old kid, who has played all of three games above Double-A baseball, will win the National League Rookie of the Year in 2010.

Granted, I have nowhere near the credentials of Bobby Cox, but I think I'll stop short of comparing his swing, looks, demeanor, or anything else for that matter to that of the greatest home run hitter in the history of the game.

I don't think I'll be taking Chipper's approach by drawing comparisons to great Gators past (and not just because I despise the Gainesville school, either).

No, I think hype is all well and good in its place.

I think it's okay to proclaim future success for a guy like Heyward or Hanson, but comparing them to Aaron and Nolan Ryan is a little much for my taste.

I think Heyward is bound to have a great spring. I think he'll break camp with the team as the starting right fielder for your Atlanta Braves. I think he is good enough to be a difference-maker for a team that had virtually no offense for much of the '09 season.

Notice a recurring theme yet? I think. I think. I think.

That's pretty much all you can do with a kid who has played exactly three games in Triple-A.

By all accounts, Heyward is going to be a special baseball player. That appears evident right now. As evident as it seemed Jeff Francoeur would be at this point in his career.

He was even declared "The Natural" by Sports Illustrated after his much ballyhooed major league debut.

For now, let's just think Heyward is going to be a great player. Maybe if we temper our hype just a tad this kid wont feel the pressure that the last Atlanta-area kid felt when he finally made it to the show.

I can't wait to watch him play right field in Atlanta every day. Right now, though, that day is at least five weeks away. How about we start acting like it and let the kid develop a tad more before proclaiming him Hammerin' Heyward?