Comments about Jason Heyward
THIRD BASEMAN CHIPPER JONES
Physically he's ready. Obviously he's got the body to be able to hit third, fourth, fifth, whatever. It's the mental aspect that he's got to learn. He's got to learn when teams are pitching around him. He's got to learn how to take two strikes just to get that one pitch that he wants to put in play. He's got to learn how to sit on pitches, situational hitting. All those things come with experience. He's got a lot of that now. He's gifted in that he's very patient at the plate already. It's just learning a guy's repertoire, learning how certain teams are going to try to get him out, and being able to recognize that quickly and make the adjustment.
We're taking the 25 best players, and Jason Heyward certainly is one of them. He's good enough to be here everyday, so let's get it done. He's going to help us win a lot more ballgames in April, May, and June than in Gwinnett. He's had a great spring. He's worked as hard as anybody. I would not be surprised to see the Braves try to lock him up this offseason.
He's not intimidated up here. There's no fear of him being overmatched. I think he's going to learn more, faster, here. And I think Bobby feels the same way.
He's so much better than I was that rookie year. The biggest thing for me was having the solid veterans there to take me under their wings and teach me the ropes. Freddy McGriff, David Justice and Marquis Grissom - they all did it for me. Now it's my job to kind of show him the ropes and show him how to be that offensive force in the middle of the lineup and be smart middle of the lineup hitter. He'll pick it up fast. I have no doubt that soon he'll probably be hitting third or fourth.
I don't think there's any doubt the microscope has grown bigger over the years with the coverage that young rookies now get. There are no secrets. Back when I came up, you had to be really in tune with your minor league baseball to even know who we were. Now they're plastered all over ESPN and MLB Network. Everybody knows who you are. People got scouting reports on Jason, and the guy's never played a big league game yet. Word is out. But he's a guy that's going to keep all that stuff at arm's length. He's got a solid head on his shoulders, and he's very down to Earth. I don't see him having a problem with the pressures of producing in a rookie season.
He doesn't take the hype very seriously. He's just focused on a playing a good right field and being a good teammate. As long as he does that, there won't be any problems.
He came down here completely focused on doing just what he's done – making an impression and winning that job and having there be no doubt about him winning that job. Everything has gone according to plan. This is no shock to anybody here, least of all him. That's just how confident he is, and how comfortable he is in his role.
I was brash and cocky. There are a lot of differences. I was a lot more outgoing. He's a lot more introverted. He's black. I'm white. He's a hell of a lot bigger than I was at that age. There are a lot of similarities, but hopefully both equally effective.
What Jason is going to do in the next few years is going to garner a ton of respect in this clubhouse. Hopefully the leadership qualities continue to blossom in him and he can help.
STARTING PITCHER TOMMY HANSON
It's unbelievable. He's scary just walking around. That dude is enormous. He's a monster. You shake that guy's hand and it just swarms you. He's a great guy, too. I worked out with him a bit in the offseason. He's a good guy. He's going to fit right in. Hopefully he has success early and can just build off that.
There are people all over him 24/7 in the clubhouse. It's insane. I dealt with that a little bit last year, but not to the extent he got this year. For the most part, I think he handled it well. He's a pretty low-key guy. He's handled it really well and stayed low-key about everything. I think he handled it the right way. We're all excited for him to make his debut, and hopefully he can help us out and help us win some games.
OUTFIELDER MATT DIAZ
He's bigger than he was last year in spring training. He's an imposing figure. Nate McLouth and I have decided if he's in right field on days we start and there's a pitching change we're meeting over in left field, cause we don't want to look that short next to him. He's even bigger emotionally. He's a mature kid.
There's no doubt at some point he will be a superstar in this game. He could come out of the gates and be rookie of the year and all that. You never know. But at some point, with his mental makeup and his physical tools, he will be a superstar in this game.
FIRST BASE COACH GLENN HUBBARD
He's got a chance to be a really good one. I don't want to put anything on him. You try not to put, "He's a Ryan Howard-type guy." He's a Jason Heyward. Let him be what he is. He's got a chance. He plays the game hard. He's got a good swing, plays good defense out there, and he runs the bases well. He's a total package guy. He's a great kid. I like that as much as anything.
THIRD BASE COACH BRIAN SNITKER
Jason's had a great spring. He's a kid beyond his years, as far as makeup and maturity. He's just a classy, classy young man. He's a great player, but he's an even better person. He's a very polished, good kid. He brings a lot to this team. There's nothing but good that you can say about that young man on and off the field.
MEDIA RELATIONS DIRECTOR BRAD HAINJE
It's been a different monster than anything I've dealt with before. I had Albert Pujols with the Cardinals in his rookie year. Pujols really came out of nowhere. He only made the opening day roster due to an injury the last week of spring training for the Cardinals. Bobby Bonilla pulled a hamstring. He got off to an unbelievable start in April and really took the game by storm. Nothing has compared to Jason. Talk about somebody who could really handle it. He's a very sharp individual. He has a really good idea of how things work. He's been a perfect pupil.
Part of the role with the media relations department is to be the gatekeeper for the players. The number one job is to get their work in and play baseball and to make us a better team. We also understand people want to know more about this player and about our team. And that's also why we're here. It's been a fine line with Jason. The bottom line is he's the best player on our team right now.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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