February 26, 2010
Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward(notes) is widely considered the best hitting prospect in baseball. Last year, at 19, he delivered 17 homers and a .323 average across three minor league levels. He reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason, too.
In insurance circles, however, Heyward has become a serious problem.
When he takes batting practice at the Braves' spring training facility in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., any vehicle within 500 feet is apparently at risk. On Tuesday he destroyed a sunroof and dented a truck. By the end of March, the right-field parking lot could very well be an apocalyptic scene: smoldering cars, cratered asphalt, stranded motorists.
But fear not, Florida citizens. The Braves are among baseball's most forward-thinking organizations, and they're taking steps to keep you safe. This from David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
When manager Bobby Cox said that the Braves will probably install nets to protect cars from Jason Heyward’s prodigious batting-practice home runs, reporters thought he was kidding.
He was not kidding.
"I’m serious," Cox said Thursday at Champion Stadium. "Smashing too many cars."
As Braves assistant general manager Bruce Manno could attest, this is not myth. This stuff is happening – Manno has an $3,400 estimate for repairs as proof.
And if the nets don't hold Heyward, team engineers have designed a surface-to-air defense system, already at the advanced prototype stage. The Braves are committed to containing this threat.
Let's just hope they don't contain Heyward by keeping him in the minors to begin the season. He clearly belongs in a stadium that has a second deck.
Photo via AP Images