Jason Heyward becomes the eleventh Braves player in franchise history to homer in his first major league at-bat on April 5, 2010. The much touted 20 year-old rookie, with the hometown fans chanting, “Let’s go, Heyward!”, hits a three-run homer in the first inning off Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano at Turner Field.
After a rapid ascent through the minor leagues, the Braves invited Heyward to spring training in March 2010. There, his hitting continued to draw notice, as he routinely hit “rockets” all over the field and over the fences, compelling manager Bobby Cox to make him a regular in the lineup. He mentioned that he heard a different, more pronounced sound, of the balls hit off Heyward’s bat. Reggie Jackson, a New York Yankees special assistant, concurred, characterizing that sound as “stereo”, while everyone else was “in AM.” Heyward hit two notable batting practice home runs at the Champion Stadium training complex in the Lake Buena Vista, Florida. One damaged a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot, and another broke the sunroof of Atlanta Braves’ assistant general manager Bruce Manno’s car. He was initially issued uniform number 71. At the end of spring training, he asked the team for, and received, number 22. He presented one of his jerseys with the number 22 to Ruston to show that he honored her son, which elicited an emotional reaction from her.
After making his MLB debut for Atlanta in 2010, Heyward was named to the National League (NL) All-Star team and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Baseball America named him their MLB Rookie of the Year. Injuries limited his playing time in 2011 and 2013. With a breakout season in 2012, he hit 27 home runs with 82 RBI and 21 stolen bases while finishing tenth in the NL in runs scored with 93. Also recognized for his defense including coverage in the deepest parts of right field, he won both the Fielding Bible and NL Gold Glove Awards for right fielders in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and Wilson’s MLB Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. He is widely regarded as one of the best outfield defenders in baseball.