LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bobby Cox insisted that he wasn't kidding and visitors to Champion Stadium on Sunday morning received proof the Braves manager is no liar. Two newly erected nets stood watch above the right-field fence, like something you might see at your local driving range and their sole purpose was clear. To stop the car-seeking blasts that have been flying off the bat of Atlanta Braves super rookie Jason Heyward(notes) this spring.
You might have already heard the story turned legend by now: Heyward, a 20-year-old power-hitter who was recently ranked the top prospect in baseball, hit two long home runs that reached the Braves' brass parking lot behind the right-field wall. One dented a Coca-Cola truck that was presumably delivering soda. The other smashed the sunroof on the car of Bruce Manno, an assistant general manager for Atlanta.
Estimations for that strike? Try 450 feet and $3,400 in car repairs for Manno.
Rather than relocate the parking lot and severely lengthen the walk to work for leaders like Cox and GM Frank Wren, the Braves instead ordered the fine folks at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex to raise the nets in defense.
I wanted to hear Heyward's side of the story and so I sought him out on Sunday in the Braves clubhouse.
What did he say to Manno after wreaking such havoc on his car (which, by the way, wasn't a rental)?
"I apologized to him," said Heyward, who put on 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason and is hoping to win the right fielder job by Opening Day. "But he said keep on doing it every day and he'll keep on replacing it.
"I didn't have to write a check."
Heyward wasn't sure if he'd be able to clear the nets because he hadn't seen them yet, but my amateur opinion says that the automoblies still aren't completely safe. They did get a temporary reprieve on Sunday, though, as Heyward didn't see many hittable pitches while taking live batting practice against teammates Kenshin Kawakami(notes) and Jesse Chavez(notes).
Heyward has an active Twitter account — @jasonheyward — but if he's aware of the hype and fuss his damage is causing among baseball fans online, his humble self wasn't letting on.
"Other people bring it to my attention as far as the media or headlines go," Heyward said. "But I'm just a ballplayer, I'm not really seeing or looking for any of that."
BLS editor Kevin Kaduk is currently on a weeklong tour of spring training camps in Florida. To ride shotgun, follow him at @bigleaguestew.