Atlanta Braves: Opening Day Is Just the Beginning of a Long Journey

Will BrownContributor IMarch 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31:  Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves is congratulated by teammate Jason Heyward #22 after scoring during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jason Heyward started off his second season much like his first one. He is penciled in as the sixth hitter in the lineup, playing right field and wearing his now fan-favorite No. 22 jersey.

He also hit a home run to right center in his first at bat of the season—sound familiar?

As Heyward's legacy continues to grow as a young force in the league, Braves fans should take what we had in our first game with a great deal of optimism. Derek Lowe pitched fabulously, keeping his momentum from a great 2010 September and postseason.

Chipper Jones continues to boost the fans' optimism that he can be a force to be reckoned with once again. Brian McCann swung the bat well, and we all know it is just a matter of time before Dan Uggla launches his first jack as an Atlanta Brave.

Yes, we only managed five hits, but we hit the ball pretty well as a team, making fairly solid contact throughout the game.

Eric O'Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel came out of the bullpen and were able to close down the shutout of the Washington Nationals in the 2-0 win, giving Fredi Gonzalez his first win as the Braves manager. 

Most will take it for what it is—a 1-0 start to a very long season of baseball. The season will have its ups and downs; players will go through hot streaks and slumps; pitchers will dominate at times and struggle to buy an out in others.

One NL Executive has called this Braves team possibly "the most well-rounded team in baseball." They may not have the best pitching staff in the National League or the best group of power hitters, but this team does possess leadership, a balanced offense, a hard-nosed staff and a desire to win.

The Braves' keys to the season have been gone over hundreds of times in the past few months, myself being one of the people to have done it. For now though, I want to soak in the full effects of Opening Day. The optimism it brings every club is like Christmas for many. It gives fans of teams that will soon fall off to the side a taste that they won't feel for very long this season.

This is a team capable of winning the World Series; there is no one doubting that. A win while staying healthy is the best way to start the season. But, with 161 games left until the playoffs start, the Braves will look at this as just one of many stepping stones towards the ultimate goal: a World Series Championship.