March 31, 2011
Just call him Mr. Opening Day.
For the second straight year, Atlanta Braves rightfielder Jason Heyward(notes) hit a home run in his first at-bat on opening day — this one coming off Washington Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez(notes) to lead off the second inning in the Braves' 2-0 victory.
Combine the shot with 2010's blast off Carlos Zambrano and Heyward becomes just the second player in baseball history to hit an opening day homer in his first career at-bat and then follow it up with another homer to lead off the next season. Stats Inc. says the only other player to notch the feat was Kazuo Matsui(notes), who did it for the New York Mets in 2004 and 2005. Interestingly, he also hit an inside-the-park homer to lead off the 2006 season.
Unfortunately for Matsui, those homers were the high point of his career with the Mets. While his first homer thrilled Mets fans who hoped he'd bring power, speed and defense to shortstop, he only hit six more home runs that season, and just 32 in his seven-year career. The disappointment killed the Mets' plans to switch Jose Reyes(notes) to second base.
Braves fans, of course, are hoping that Heyward's career turns out just a wee bit better. After finishing second to Buster Posey(notes) in last year's NL Rookie of the Year voting, Heyward now has 19 homers for his career. Not a bad way to start a sophomore season.