With Day One of the 2010 Major League Baseball season in the books…pretty much everybody out there knows that one of Spring Training’s biggest stories (Atlanta’s Jason Heyward) quickly became one of the biggest stories of the new season.
With one swing of the bat, the McDonough, Georgia native became the first player to hit an Opening Day home run in his first at bat since fellow Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer did it exactly one year ago.
Here are ten things you might not have known about players hitting a home run in their first at bat.
According to HitTracker, Heyward’s blast went 476 feet…the longest of this young season so far. There are a few more numbers I could throw at you, but I’ll spare you. Check them out HERE…it’s pretty interesting.
All in all, since 1895, there have been 104 Major Leaguers who have gone deep in their first career at bat. And if you’re keeping track, 42 of them were American Leaguers and 62 called the National League home.
Sure, it isn’t as dramatic as doing it in your first at bat, but did you know that there have been 42 Major Leaguers to hit a home run in their LAST at bat? Okay, okay, what does this have to do with anything? Well…two (Paul Gillespie and John Miller) of these 42 also hit homers in their first at bat as well.
The guy who threw out the first pitch of the Atlanta-Chicago matchup was former slugger Hank Aaron. Coincidentally, the Braves legend was caught by, you guess it, Jason Heyward. Not coincidentally…it took “Hammerin’ Hank” until his 26th at bat of the 1954 season to hit his first career home run.
I’m not sure what is more impressive…hitting a home run in your first at bat as a Major Leaguer or hitting one on the first pitch you’ve ever seen thrown at you. Well, only 25 players have done the latter.
I know it isn’t fair to include Heyward in this list, but you have to. Of the 104 that have went yard in their first at bat…21 (including Heyward) never hit their second. Five of those 21 (again, including Heyward) are still active…so the list will, more than likely, decrease in the coming weeks. In case you were wondering...former third baseman Gary Gaetti leads all first at bat home run hitters in career long balls with 360.
18 years, 345 days
Just a couple weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Whitey Lockman has the honor of being the youngest to hit a home run in his first at bat. Another fun fact about Lockman…he scored the tying run, just ahead of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that won the National League pennant for the 1951 New York Giants. Heyward is the third youngest to homer in his first at bat...he'll turn 21 this August.
Sure, Heyward is only the third Atlanta Brave to go deep in his first career at bat (Jermaine Dye and Jordan Schafer were the others), but in 1955, Chuck Tanner went deep for the MILWAUKEE Braves. So how do these four guys add up to six? Well, don’t forget Joe Harrington and Johnny Bates who rounded the bases in their first at bats for the Boston Beaneaters…an early predecessor to the team that now calls Turner Field home.
There were two guys on base when Heyward went deep off Carlos Zambrano. Three times in Major League history, players have hit grand slams in that initial plate appearance. Who did it? Bill Duggleby was the first in 1898, Jeremy Hermida (in 2005) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006) were the other two.
Bob Nieman and Keith McDonald are the only two players in Major League history to hit home runs in their first TWO at bats. Nieman did it during the same game in 1951, but McDonald had to wait two games in 2000.
So before you go on thinking “Jason Heyward is on pace for 162 home runs this season”, consider this…the best season ever by a player who went deep in his first at bat was by former All-Star Bill White, who had 22 home runs in his rookie year of 1956.
But then again, 162 might not be out of the question if you believe any of the hype that has followed the young Braves phenom. Haha.