“I’ve been workin’ all night, man What’s a young kid gotta do to blow up

Jay Bruce hit his 7th home run of the season yesterday, a game-winning drive to the seats in right center. The home run was his fourth in four games. He’s the first Red to do that since Adam Dunn in 2008. The Reds come from behind to beat Houston 6-5, winning the must-have series and heading into a Monday day-off.

I found a great read after the game yesterday while listening to the postgame. It’s good to hear Bruce acknowledge that we’ve been here before with one of Bruce’s “rare-air moments” as Paul Daughterty refers to Bruce’s unbelievable hot streak.

“I’m feeling now like I’m ready to make the right move on the right pitch,’’ Bruce said Sunday. “In years past, if I hit home runs, I did. If I didn’t, I didn’t. I didn’t know why.’’

“Earlier in my career, I never really knew anything but that I was good at baseball,’’ he said. “Up here. everyone’s good at baseball. Still, no matter what I did, I expected more.’’ Problem was, Bruce said Sunday, he didn’t do the work needed to satisfy his expectations. He’d been good his whole life without it.

Bruce goes on to talk about a refined approach and some of the other ideologies that have made him successful thus far this year. In fact, he speaks like a ten-year veteran with one quote in the story.

“Always remember,’’ he said, “that the game doesn’t owe you anything.’’

If Bruce can keep up anything close to this production, he’ll be mentioned in conversations with the game’s elite. That’s been the hope and expectation for him all along.

It’s funny to hear Joey Votto in the post-game show talking about how he hopes that Jay Bruce has figured it out. To be honest, if he truly has his ceiling is higher than that of Votto. And it won’t even be close. And the Reds will go running away with the NL Central.

Bryce Harper’s Major League Debut was Memorable

[Box Score]

[WaPo] [Big League Stew] [DC Sports Blog] [Dodgers Now]

I’m happy with what I saw of Bryce Harper’s big league debut. The only at-bat I missed last night was his first MLB hit, a rocket double off the base of the wall that would have been out of most parks. But I saw all I needed to see.

The hustle, the look, the grey bat. The incredible bat speed. The rifleman throw from left field that had a runner nailed at home plate if Wilson Ramos would have just hung onto the ball.

I hope this is the first of many memorable games from Harper and I hope he’s up for good. Last night was a memorable atmosphere as a baseball fan with Strasburg on the bump, Matt Kemp slugging one deep into the night, Vin Scully calling the game on my television. It will always serve as the perfect memory for the youngster’s debut.

Did anyone else miss Jerry Hairston comparing Bryce Harper to Larry Walker/Jay Bruce? Hairston was on the field the night that Bruce made his MLB debut. Pretty neat to read that coming from a player’s perspective.

Game 21, 2012: Reds make it a Perfect Saturday at the Ball Park

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Better Off Red] [Mark Sheldon]

Couple of random take home points about yesterday’s game, which was one of my favorite Reds games I’ve been to:

  1. It was the best game that Jay Bruce has had that I’ve been to, if you’re not counting his MLB debut. The home run was a bomb. The defensive double-play assist. The double down the line. Four RBI’s. Huge day for Bruce.
  2. Johnny Cueto was dominant, and working quickly. The game was just 2 hours, 23 minutes. He went seven shutout innings and after the first he never really was under any type of duress.
  3. Zach Cozart made the play of the year–probably the finest play I’ve seen made live at a game. From the seat of his pants. Check out that play HERE.
  4. We got to see Aroldis Chapman pitch. He struck out Chris Snyder with a 99 MPH fastball to end the game.
  5. The Reds wore the red jerseys for the rare Saturday, 4:00 PM start home game. I like the 4:00 PM start quite a bit I think. I like 1:00 PM Saturday home games more, but the Reds seem to do it once a year, tops.
  6. We saw the same guy in the crowd catch two consecutive foul balls in this one. Never seen that before.
  7. This game came during Mike Trout’s return to the big leagues and prior to watching Bryce Harper’s MLB debut later on in the night.
  8. The drive to Cincinnati seems a lot shorter after driving to Wrigleyville last weekend.
  9. I appreciate Logan Ondrusek almost beyond words. It’s great having a guy with that kind of stuff in our bullpen.
  10. [blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/196269480123441153"]
  11. This was one of the best Saturday’s I’ve ever spent at the park. It reminded me so much of this April 27, 2002 game I was on hand for. It’s funny because I didn’t realize it was about 10 years to the day.
  12. I got to the ballpark and somehow the batteries in my camera died. All the pictures below are off my iPhone.

Happy Bryce Harper Day

It’s finally here.

Bryce Harper will make his Major League debut tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers playing left field at Dodger Stadium. The Nationals aren’t in Washington (I kind of always thought they would be when this day arrived) but Stephen Strasburg is on the hill.

From now on, on this April 28th and each April 28th to follow, it’s Bryce Harper Day.

This is just one of those days that I’ll come home tonight, settle in to catch the game on MLB.tv, and be glad that I took it in. You never forget a Bryce Harper big league debut or the things that occur in the game that shape themselves around the player making his highly-anticipated debut. How will the game come to him? Will he have the chance to be a hero? Will the game decide it’s going 16 long innings and give him 8 at-bats? It’s all exciting to think about.

And does Harper get hit number one of what will be a ride to 3,000 tonight?

Tonight I want you to turn on your televisions or log onto your laptops and do what you need to do to see Bryce Harper’s debut in the big leagues, because someday you’ll tell your children or their children about it. And they’ll probably what to know if they’re worth their salt as a baseball fan.

Did you see Bryce Harper’s big league debut? What were you doing on Bryce Harper Day?

And in closing, anyone remember this post? I made that post when he was 15 years old. I’ve followed a lot of highly touted prospects. Since that day I’ve decided Harper was the finest I had ever laid eyes on.

This is going to be a game-changing event for the sport of baseball. We’ve never seen anything like this. April 28th, 2012: Bryce Harper day.

Game 20, 2012: Reds Spirited comeback Falls Short

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Redleg Nation] [Better Off Red] [Crawfish Boxes] [Houston Chronicle] [Hal McCoy]

This was one of those rare games of which I did not see a single pitch. We had an NFL Draft party at our house, and when I got the alert on my iPhone that the Reds were down 6-0, I didn’t even bother flipping the game over to check the score.

This team is just flat-out not getting it done right now. There’s no mixing words and no other way to describe it. Mike Leake came out and got hammered around the yard again.

The Reds fought back with a spirited abandon. And I got several text messages about Scott Rolen hitting four balls directly on the screws and going 0 for 4. The comeback died in the 9th, but I think the four unanswered (along with what sounds like it could have been a lot more) bode well for us heading into the weekend.

Wandy Rodriguez continued what has been a career of success against the Reds. Six innings, two earned runs, six strikeouts. He’s got two wins and a 1.72 ERA now. And the Reds are just a game ahead of the putrid Astros.

I’m not fully blaming Dusty Baker–even though he says and does stupid things–but the Reds have got to show some response here soon and play hard for the guy. This is more of what we saw last year. And what is Baker doing hitting Jay Bruce 7th in this lineup? I don’t care if it’s a left-handed pitcher. It’s stupidity. Bruce has OPS’d almost at as high of a clip against southpaws. This is a manager not reviewing his data closely enough.

We’re headed to the ballpark today, and I am very confident we’ll see a win and the Reds will close out this series with two in a row over Houston. I’ve never been more sure in fact. Johnny Cueto is on the bump, and the Astros oppose with a guy I think the Reds will absolutely eat alive.

Highlights:

Wandy Rodriguez continues his mastery of the Reds

Todd Frazier RBI triple

Jay Bruce homers (5) to center field in the 9th inning

Devin Mesoraco goes back-to-back

Game 19, 2012: Reds let one slip away via Angel Pagan

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Mark Sheldon]

This post should be about the great games of Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey. About how the Reds found a way to start a home stand with a sweep of a quality opponent.

Instead, it’s about a blown save by Sean Marshall and the most heartbreaking loss of the year.

Baseball is a funny game like that. And I think back to how many times poor snake-bitten Homer Bailey has had a game in which he had B-plus or A-minus stuff, pitched good enough to get the win, and yet had it stolen from him late on something freaky (in this case it was Marshall’s hanging curveball).

I liked the Reds match-up against Vogelsong a lot coming into the game. And they collected 12 hits. Three of them belonged to Jay Bruce. Just one of those days from Bruce that we’ve seen so many times where he gets one hit and then seems to put together a big day.

You have to look at things big-picture during baseball season, because if you’re looking micro instead of macro you’re going to piss yourself off. Taking two of three games is nice, and starting home-stand with a quality series victory like the Reds did over the Giants is positive. With the Astros coming to town over the weekend the Reds have a chance to really get rolling.

Of course this is coming from the guy who was texting friends ‘they won’t be under .500 again this season’ after the win a few nights ago over Barry Zito and the Giants.

Highlights:

Jay Bruce 2-run home run (4) gives Reds 4-2 lead

Homer Bailey was very good

Angel Pagan crushes dreams

Scott Rolen home run (2)

Song that should be played at loud-speakers at a stadium near you:

Game 17, 2012: This is the Mat Latos We Were Searching For

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [Bay City Ball] [Mercury News] [The Splash]

Now this is the Mat Latos we traded for.

If the Reds get this Latos to show up more often than not this season, it’s pretty self-explanatory what’s going to happen. The Reds can be a monster.

I didn’t think the Reds had a chance in Hell last night when I saw Matt Cain was pitching.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/DiamondHoggers/status/194804991859499009"]

But I was wrong. I felt like the Reds had three key at-bats in the bottom of the first-inning that were game altering. Zach Cozart opened the game up with a 10-pitch showdown against Cain, and although he flew out to short; the Reds had opened up Cain for head shots with a few nice early body blows from their lead-off hitter. I’ll say it again, these are the type of at-bats that win you ballgames at the onset.

Drew Stubbs doubled, and after Joey Votto struck out Brandon Phillips had another battling type at-bat that resulted in a two-run home run. The Reds were off to the races and a bonus came later in the inning because Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen got Matt Cain to throw even more pitches.

It’s impossible to get these professional at-bats game in and game out. But picked a good pitcher to do this against. You don’t need these kind of at-bats to beat the Barry Zito’s of the world or the Randy Wells’. Matt Cain doesn’t make that first inning mistake to Phillips that landed in the Cincinnati bullpen unless you grind on him like the Reds did. Notice that he settled in and was basically unscathed for the rest of his outing.

The Reds great perseverance in their at-bats also still called for a couple of big pitches by Mat Latos. With the bases juiced, he lured the red-hot Nate Schierholtz to ground out with the bases loaded. That opened the door for the Reds to shoot up the San Francisco Giants like the Alamo.

Great start to a homestand.

Highlights:

Bark in the Park last night in Cincinnati – (Sorry we didn’t make it this time, Bentley)

Phillips two-run home run

Bruce bases-loaded double

Retaliation for Votto being plunked?

Latos’ strong outing

The Bartman Seat

Aisle 4, row 8, seat 113.

To think one man’s curse was the main attraction of my afternoon at Wrigley. This is where it all went down. Where the Cubs were so close (with Dusty Baker at the helm) yet so far away. I remember that October 14th night in 2003 like it was yesterday. Sitting on my futon on a Tuesday night after a fall practice having a few Natural lights with my buddies. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I didn’t care about the Cubs or the Marlins.

From that night forward, I would be in pursuit of a visit to this seat for almost a full decade before claiming the destination finalized.

I’m very thorough, you see. It wasn’t good enough to walk up to the Bartman seat and snap a simple picture. I had to get it from every possible angle. I don’t even remember if I sat in the damn thing I was so giddy and excited. Pretty soon others surrounding us realized exactly what I was doing, and exactly what spot I was in. They started to copycat, and take pictures of the seat before climbing in it one family member at a time. No one ever really said a word of what the seat was or represented. I can tell you one thing though: when I told the usher I wanted to see the Bartman seat; he led the way like he had done it 1000 times before.

I touched the railing and tried to soak it in. Bartman was looking at this before Moises Alou came over and threw his tantrum. I wish I knew where Bartman was right now. I would do just about anything to meet the guy. If you ever read this Steve, you only did what myself or millions of others out there would have done in the same situation. Real fans don’t fault you. And if I can play Nostradamus for a moment, I think that someday off in time awaits when Bartman comes out of hiding and is embraced by Cubs fans everywhere.

The Cubs are going to have to win a World Series for this to happen. But it will happen. As I wrote last year, Bartman will be forgiven then and brought out of hiding. I hope I’m around to see it. I hope I’m in Chicago for that matter.

One last look at the Bartman seat, with Mrs. Diamond Hoggers in the background probably telling me to get a life or asking if we can go check out something else.

I had to visit this spot of the baseball world and get it on the blog. As sad of a part of history as it is, it remains an enormous part of baseball-lore and will forever. I’m glad I got to see it.

Our First Wrigley Field Trip

I finally made it to Wrigley Field. It took me nearly 30 years in my life to make the trek some 6 hours and 15 seconds north, but I made it. It didn’t matter that I saw my Reds lose 6-1 in front of a crowd of 38,405.

It was the number one thing on my bucket list. As I looked up into the sky this past Saturday afternoon, I could have died right there a happy man. Here is the story of my day in Wrigleyville. And to think I was in Chicago the day Phil Humber threw his perfect game.

This was moments after my first view of the Wrigley Field marquee. I know I was acting like a child because our friends that live in Wrigleyville were laughing at me. I snapped a bunch of pictures and basically acted like most first timers probably do. Actually, maybe more excessive than that. But there’s no words to describe what I felt when I first saw it.

All I know is I’ve wanted to be at this spot for as long as I can remember. I first remembered seeing it in the intro to “Perfect Strangers”.

We decided to post up at the Cubby Bear. We had about an hour and half to kill, and there’s nothing better than drinking a few cold 312’s across from Wrigley Field with it in plain view out the window. As for the Cubby Bear, there were a fair amount of Reds fans on hand doing the same thing. Also, the best chilli I’ve ever had in my life; including Skyline. Sorry Cincinnati. It’s true.

Another full on view of the marquee just before we were ready to head inside.

This is a giant macaroni noodle. It’s significance is unknown by me at the present time, but I’m guessing Wrigley owns Kraft or something like that? Or there’s some type of long-standing partnership existing. It’s just cool and others were taking pictures of it so I made like the tourist I was and decided to get it before I dug into the meat and potatoes of the stadium.

Check out these old timers playing brass instruments outside the stadium before you enter the park! Now this is a ballpark!

When I went inside, I told my wife the first thing we were doing is heading to the Bartman seat. If Wrigley Field was bucket list item numero uno, this was easily 1a. More on this to come in the following post, but I can cross off Steve Bartman’s seat off my list as well.

This is about the moment I kept saying to my wife “can you even believe we’re really here?” I guess it’s one of those moments every die-hard baseball fan who reads this blog can relate to. Wrigley Field is unlike any other ballpark on this earth. This little Midwestern gem sits in the middle of a neighborhood. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in Chicago and be able to walk over to the game some weekend afternoon. There’s probably a good reason I wasn’t born into that position, because I would find myself doing it far too often.

I continually found myself taking in each moment slowly, trying to savor it all. Suddenly I realized yet another different quality than I had at any other park I’ve been to. There was a song playing, but it was all by the organ. It was beautiful. And I knew the song but I just couldn’t think of it. As I looked around at everything I’ve waited three decades to see, I had to guess the song. It was Whitney Houston’s “Dance with Somebody”. I don’t think I ever enjoyed the regular rendition that much.

There she is folks, the beauty in all of her glory. Look how green the ivy is.

Pretty good view of the left field Wrigley rooftop with ‘Hey Hey’ on the left field foul pole. Someday I’ll be back to sit in those bleachers where Sammy used to hit em’.

Just another shot from around Bartman central that I had to have.

Here’s something else that makes it an old-time ballpark. I imagine I looked pretty weird snapping a picture while taking a leak, but oh well. I had to do this to give you an idea of the full experience. The next thing I knew I was thinking about the guy who did the Pete Rose headfirst slide in one of these a few years back. At least I’m not him.

Just another pregame shot of beautiful Wrigley. It was a cool day but the sun was shining.

Check out the old style rafters above, as well as the pillar built into the seats. It’s different from the stadiums that go up today, but that’s what gives all the character. I’m told there’s something else different about this stadium than other parks. The visitors clubhouse isn’t down below the dugout like most parks but above where you see right here. I never knew that until a fan who had done a Wrigley tour shared that with me as I was taking this picture.

Here’s the right field Wrigley rooftops. Free advertisement here, someday I’ll be checking out Wrigleyrooftops.com and setting up a game from there. I hear it’s $120 for all you can eat and drink. It might have came in handy for us on this day.

One of my favorite shots of the entire day.

There’s the legendary manually operated scoreboard in deep center field. And it keeps accurate time!

Waiting for the game to start, little did I know that the Reds weren’t going to be hunting for a sweep come Sunday at this point.

I ended up sneaking down a little closer (and in the sunlight) for the first inning to get some good pictures. It was amazing how friendly all of the fans in the stands were to us. I attribute this to the Cubs just not being competitive for so long. The people don’t feel threatened. They’re just die-hard baseball fans. Knowledgeable. There to take in the atmosphere just like me.

And here’s Downthelinerooftop.com, in case you want to sit in the rooftops in foul territory.

To think we live such a life in such a place. That’s Joey Votto running and warming up on the field by the way.

Paul Maholm seems to have the Reds number. And when I showed up at the park wearing my Jay Bruce jersey, I was upset to find that Dusty held Bruce out of the lineup because he was 2 for 15 lifetime against Maholm. What he needed to be told was that I came all the way from Ohio to see a Bruce Bomb at Wrigley Field, and Jay’s two hits off Maholm lifetime were both dingers.

Votto getting ready for his first inning at-bat. It was a long day for Joey. It seems like he homers every time my wife and I are at the park together. It wasn’t meant to be on this day. Votto went 0 for 3 with a walk and a couple of strikeouts.

Future Reds Hall of Famer at the plate.

And again. My wife and I don’t do shots anymore. We stopped doing that a long time ago. But I told her I bet her that Joey Votto would go deep today. She said not going to happen. I told her if it happens, we’re doing shots after the game, my choice. Joey saved her from a hangover.

Mike Leake, little do you know you’re about to get pounded all afternoon, Wrigley Field style. I don’t like Leake’s stuff one bit. After 10 hits and five earned runs over 5 and 1/3, Leake would hit the showers. He just wasn’t fooling anyone.

Here’s the main attraction for the Cubbies, Starlin Castro. He had a couple of knocks and added a triple.

I think Starlin Castro is going to have an Alex Rodriguez type of career in Cubbie land.

Dan Patrick sung the seventh inning stretch. One of my favorite pictures of the entire day.

Carlos Marmol is one of my fantasy baseball closers. I like his tools and his skills a lot. He has great stuff. The one thing I disregarded is that Marmol isn’t going to save a lot of games this year. The Cubs aren’t going to win a lot of games, and even in this appearance it was a non-save opportunity. He’s still one of my favorite pitchers in baseball and I got to see him in the 9th on the mound at Wrigley. Unfortunately my team was butter to his hot knife.

Get ready, Reds. Carlos Marmol is gonna send them home happy with their fourth win of the young season.

And Marmol was dealing. If you got up to go to the bathroom like my wife did, you would have missed Marmol’s 13 pitches altogether. Guy was pitching like he was double-parked. And he quickly dispersed of three Reds hitters in order to seal the win down, dismissing thousands of Cubs fans to their afternoon date with a local watering hole of their choice.

Here’s one last look at Wrigley Field from behind home plate before I exited the turnstiles. What a day. What an experience. I don’t know how long it will be until I return, but I will be back.

We finished up the afternoon over at Murphy’s Bleachers bar. Which should be a whole new post all in itself. There I met a couple of salesmen Reds fans from Iowa, a bridal party–and the brother was on hand said he was really good friends with Patrick Kane. I met about 100 other strangers who seemed like my best friend for 10 or so minutes. I sang “Go Cubs Go” while wearing a Reds jersey. A few beers make you do funny things. My wife asked me when we’re moving to Wrigleyville.

One of the greatest baseball and life experiences I had ever been a part of was in the books.

Game 13, 2012: Reds Stave off Sweep in St. Louis

[Box Score]

Cincinnati.com | Better off Red | Mark Sheldon | C70 at the bat

Analysis:

I texted a couple of my buddies who share my love/hate with the Reds with me yesterday while perusing the box score. The Reds had closed out a key 6-3 win in their house of horrors against a hot St. Louis Cardinals team. They had lived to fight another day. The season wasn’t over, yet. Bronson Arroyo came up big as he has in the past on a day where you had to have a win, only allowing a three-run bomb to Matt Holliday.

The usual crew of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs, and Jay Bruce had a say in the win.

“You know what kind of teams play to avoid sweeps? Bad ones,” my friend responded to my text. I guess he isn’t optimistic like I am. But I quickly texted him back–I have a feeling that the Reds will go into Sunday with a chance to sweep the Cubbies this weekend–and if they do all will be right with the world again.

You can’t sweep a team until you win one. The Reds can’t go on a winning streak until they win this afternoon at Wrigley behind Homer Bailey. It’s got to happen first.

Video:

Brandon Phillips solo home run puts the Reds on the board

Joey Votto RBI single

Drew Stubbs solo home run

Finally Making the Trip to Wrigley Field

Due to the kind act of my step-brother, tomorrow I’ll cross one main item off my sports bucket list.

I’m going to Wrigley Field. And as an added bonus I get to see the Reds play. Life is good.

Going up to Wrigley Field is one of those things along with going to Shea Stadium a few years back, somehow making it to Chavez Ravine, and hitting up Beantown and Fenway Park; I’ve been daydreaming about since I was a kid. So many lull afternoons spent watching WGN growing up because it was the only game on. Wrigley field seemed like this far off mystical place that I was told existed, but I never thought I would be able to record my own experiences about it.

I can’t believe I’m going to get to visit the Steve Bartman seat (Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113). The Cubby Bear and Murphy’s Bleachers.With the places that exist in that city, and the lush sports history that I can’t get enough of; it’s probably a good thing I haven’t allowed myself to discover Chicago until now.

I’ll have a full report on my dispatch to Wrigley Field up sometime soon. This day can’t end quickly enough.

Steve Berthiaume: “Cincinnati Reds tried for Albert Pujols.”

I’m going to have to credit a Cardinals blog with the assist on this one.

Last week on the Jonah Keri podcast, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume (whom we love) was the guest. He spoke about the Cincinnati Reds coming thisclose to acquiring former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols:

“I think, think they (the Reds) were a lot closer to getting Albert Pujols than anybody knows or anybody talked about. I think the Votto money was targeted for Pujols in the off-season and when that didn’t pan out that they said, OK, let’s keep our guy, let’s give it to Joey Votto. I think those two were more connected than anyone realizes.”

Alright, before you start with the ‘I don’t buy it’ business, remember that Berthiaume is way more connected than you or even I. I do buy it.

Look at the money the Reds gave Votto. I think there were rumblings in the Reds front office about going after Pujols. And I think that Walt Jocketty used Pujols as a way of convincing Bob Castellini that the Reds could write a contract like this up to begin with.

When the Reds missed the mark of how much Pujols wanted, those numbers still worked for the guy already under contract and all the Reds needed to do was change the name written on the deal. A right handed hitter like Pujols helps the Reds more than Votto does.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: Matt Wieters, All-Star

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our seventh prediction: the Baltimore Orioles young phenom Catcher and the All-Star year that lies ahead for him.

We’ve been waiting on Matt Wieters to have a breakout season and enter he next tier of offensive players in the league.

————————————————————————-

And until life got busy, I was going to tell you that Matt Wieters was a sure-fire All-Star this season. It was one of our 10 predictions.

I ask you, after last night’s 2 home run, 5 RBI performance in which he hit a grand slam in extras against the ChiSox, how are we lookin’?

I have to get credit for this. Dude is a stud.

The Return of a Generational Superstar: Jason Heyward is Back

When I woke up this morning I got an e-mail about my Jason Heyward Baseball-Reference page sponsorship expiring in 20 days.

In a year’s time, it seems like I was barely able to take solace in my own epitaph written on that page:

Every once in a while, we who follow the game of baseball are blessed with a generational talent of that era. This is that player.

And I could be wrong, but I think Heyward is back. Really back. Been to the lowest depths and didn’t know how good he had it once back. The wheels could still fall off just like they did after last April, but I think we’re seeing that crown jewel prospect who was once ranked ahead of Stephen Strasburg starting to become a force again.

I had the chance to scout Heyward’s at-bats all day long on MLB.tv. I made my wife mad because she couldn’t peel me away from the computer screen to put up an umbrella on our new porch table. I had to see his plate presence. I had to see what kind of pitches he was swinging at. And of course, what kind of results was he yielding.

In the first at-bat of Heyward’s game (a 7-4 win to complete an Atlanta sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers) he got Chris Narveson into a 3-1 count but just got jammed and flew out to center. He didn’t swing at any bad pitches. Next time up Heyward hit a towering home run off the lefty starter into the right field seats. It doesn’t look like line-drive power to me. He followed that by lining a 3-0 count rocket to left field off a lefty reliever and a walk off John Axford.

These 1 for 3 with a walk and an extra base hit are the types of games that you will take all day long from Heyward, or any young player trying to make his way back. Heyward looks like he’s onto something special again.

And those are really cool shoes to honor Jackie Robinson.