Don't panic, it's not the cover, and the associated mythical jinx that goes along with it. Sports Illustrated is not turning new Braves phenom Jason Heyward into its old phenom Jeff Francoeur. While Heyward may be more of a "natural," he did come from somewhere. The article on him in this week's Sports Illustrated focuses on where Heyward came from and a little bit about where he might be going. Here are some quotes from the article by Tom Verducci:
Verducci writes about how Heyward's father, Eugene, ran up nearly 300,000 miles on the family's SUV transporting Jason to all the stops on his youth baseball schedule. Jason tells Verducci: "When I was 10, I saw a couple of big league games, and I said, ‘I want to do this the rest of my life.' They had a plan, my parents. I appreciate that they did everything they could to get me in front of all the right people. But my dad said, ‘Without you saying you wanted it, it wouldn't have happened.' Every year he asked, ‘Do you still want to play baseball?' By my senior year I looked at him like he was stupid. And he said, ‘All right. I will never ask you again.' "
The article also focuses on the East Cobb program that has produced so much talent over the years:
Verducci also highlights the strength of the East Cobb Baseball program where Heyward cut his chops: "Since 1985 East Cobb has won 146 national titles [on the Pony and Babe Ruth League levels] and produced 150 pro players, including 21 drafted and signed last year alone. It has grown to 85 teams for ages eight through 18. You might see as many as 600 scouts and college coaches at the complex at a time; they're engaged in the baseball equivalent of catching fish in a barrel. Among the major league stars who have played at East Cobb are [Brian] McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Jeremy Hermida, Nick Markakis, Micah Owings, Matt Capps, Stephen Drew, Dexter Fowler and Gordon Beckham-and that doesn't include the 14 first-round picks in just the past three years."
It's a long article, but very in depth and well worth the read -- it's great to read long-form sports journalism like this once in a while (a rarity nowadays), especially when it's done by a master like Verducci. The issue hits newsstands tomorrow, make sure you get your copy.