The Los Angeles Dodgers are once again poised to win the National League West Division.
This would mark their ninth division title in ten years. MLBbros manager Dave Roberts and National League MVP candidate, Mookie Betts have been leading the team to another successful season. However, one of the unsung heroes for the star-studded team in Los Angeles has been the veteran MLBbro Jason Heyward.
Heyward was signed by the Dodgers back in December of 2022 on a minor league contract.
The MLBbro veteran ended up making the opening day roster and has provided an invaluable contribution to the team. A 14-year veteran with tons of playoff experience was sure to help any team, especially one such as the Dodgers with high expectations every postseason.
The MLBbro is a former All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner, and most importantly a World Series champion. Adding someone of his pedigree, along with their other roster additions and culture, shows that the team is all in on another championship run,
Not only has Heyward been having a resurgent campaign, but he is also heating up in the final stretch of the season. In the month of August, the MLBbro batted over .300 and only struck out five times in 56 plate appearances. With 13 home runs, Heyward has hit more long balls this season than his last two seasons combined. His current batting average, .262 has not been this high since the 2018 season.
Some of Heyward’s rebirth can be attributed to being reunited with his former Atlanta Braves teammate Freddie Freeman. However, the major reason is his love for the game, and the MLBbro has said that this year he is enjoying playing the game again. His last few years in Chicago were met with disdain due to a hefty contract and underwhelming results.
He still helped to bring a championship to the windy city amidst all the criticism, and is proving this year that he still has something left in the tank. Dave Roberts has placed the MLBbro veteran in a role in which he can excel in easily, and he has done that, and if he continues the Dodgers will make a deep postseason run.
MLBbro Jason Heyward for all intents and purposes was looking towards retirement.
His struggles at the plate with the Chicago Cubs was well documented and even though MLBbro.com roots for the success of all the MLBbros, our stories on Heyward had been reduced to his community work and the use of social media for leadership purposes in the locker room.
The supposed timeline for Jason Heyward was supposed to go like this…
After the Chicago Cubs bought out the contract for $22 million, he was supposed to go away.
The media and PR team was going to produce a documentary on his famous speech during the rain delay to inspire his teammates to win the 2016 World Series.
Have a nice press conference to announce our MLBbro’s retirement.
Jason Heyward had other ideas. He wanted to play baseball. Only one problem, there were no takers out there for an aging free agent that has struggled for a couple of seasons…except for one.
The Los Angeles Dodgers.
“They were the first team to call, the second team to call, and the third team to call,” Heyward said to USA Today Sports. “No one was willing to give a major league contract, but they were at least willing to give me a minor-league deal and give me a chance.”
The Dodgers found a diamond in the rough last year when they signed Trayce Thompson after he was released to fill in for Mookie Betts. Lightning struck twice for L.A. when Heyward signed a minor league deal in the offseason. What did the Dodgers get for their one year, $720,000 investment? A solid contributor in the lineup.
Jason Heyward’s final 124 games with Cubs: 6 home runs
Our MLBbro has already matched the home run total in his final days in Chicago in about one-third of the time with six. But it goes further than that. Check out the advanced stats through 43 games to his “Rookie of the Year” totals in 2010…
Jason Heyward in 2010 (NLROY):
18 home runs with 72 RBI
11 stolen bases
Hitting splits of .277/.393/.456
134 wRC+ (Weighted runs created plus)
4.6 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins above replacement)
Jason Heyward so far in 2023:
Six home runs with 13 RBI
Two stolen bases
Hitting splits of .228/.347.475
Just like in Chicago, our MLBbro has provided the veteran presence in the dugout and locker room providing wisdom and experience to his teammates no matter if they are young or old. For that reason, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gave Heyward the ultimate compliment…
“He’s on the Mount Rushmore of favorite players I’ve been around,” Roberts said. “He has a new lease on life, a new freshness. He’s been a big part of this. I’m honored to be sharing the same uniform with him.”
If our MLBbro can maintain this consistency, not only does this have the potential to be one of the top comeback stories in recent memory, but the Dodgers may have created highway robbery by reclamation projects for the second straight year.
But for Jason Heyward, the Dodgers and the MLBbro.com staff, the real story is about a player being happy playing the game he loves…
“It’s such a good environment here, coming to work, having fun, and having people dedicated to helping you be the best version of yourself,” Heyward said. “Their reputation here has really exceeded itself. There’s a lot of good examples to watch, left handed hitters to watch, examples as far they prepare, the way guys go about their business, pillars like Freddie [Freeman] and Mookie [Betts] and Will Smith. It makes it easier for us.”
“It’s just nice to be playing games trying to win. That’s the most important thing. I don’t care who I’m going out there to battle with, if we’re trying to win every day, there’s the satisfaction. That’s the beautiful part about this organization.”
“I couldn’t be happier.”
Heyward gives a big assist to Freddie Freeman opening some doors for this opportunity. It is easy to see the respect they have for one another in this interview after a big win over the Washington Nationals earlier in the week and what is sustaining the success as of late.
Jason Heyward helped end the longest championship drought in American sports history nearly seven years ago. Feel free to ask any Cubs fan, they’ll never forget the moment their torment was finally over. He’ll most likely never have to buy a meal again in Chicago again because of it. However, it’s what he’s doing now in the very same community that may turn out to be his greatest contribution in the future.
After breaking ground last year, the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy finally opened, a new super fly facility on Chicago’s West Side. Heyward himself has selected the academy’s head of baseball operations.
Why Did J-Hey Open Baseball Academy In Chicago?
With the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy, Black kids on the West Side of Chicago will now have their opportunity to build a powerhouse similar to the one that produced Heyward. The East Cobb travel team Heyward played for is the East Cobb Astros, a national powerhouse based in Georgia. The Astros have produced dozens of MLB players, including fellow MLBbro Brandon Phillips.
The JHBA sits on a 10-acre site in North Austin, a predominantly black neighborhood.
“I want all the kids to get the right fundamentals and, if they love the game, to keep playing,” Heyward said. “But, if not, we would like to expose them to front-office jobs, media jobs, coaching jobs, all that kinds of stuff, as well.”
“There’s so much opportunity to create a place to host tournaments, to host a league, to have a travel-ball team have that as their home base facility-wise,” Heyward told the Chicago Sun -Times.
The high cost of travel ball has been well documented, but one of the keys to a quality travel baseball program that often gets overlooked is access to state of the art facilities.
“But just give all the kids in the community a place to get excited about going to play. I remember what that was like for me playing in East Cobb, being from McDonough, Henry County, just out of Atlanta.”
Heyward Still Wants To Play, In LA?
The Cubs released Heyward with props for meritorious service. Despite now trying to earn a spot with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s clear that Heyward’s heart remains in the Windy City, and the love runs much deeper than his role as a player.
Upon leaving the Cubs, most assumed Heyward would retire after 13 impactful seasons in the game. However, the guy Hank Aaron once considered the future of the game, wants to prove that he can still add value to a contending team, so the 32-year-old Gold Glover joins the Dodgers this spring as a non-roster invitee.
“I know I can still play. I know I still want to do it,” Heyward told reporters. “They (Dodgers) have a reputation for doing things in a special way, getting the most out of everyone involved. For them to reach out to me and want me to have an opportunity to be part of that process, that made it that much easier.”
According to reports, Heyward is reportedly going to receive “every opportunity to win a job this spring,” per Dodgers beat writer Juan Toribio.
Regardless of how much time he spends playing pro ball on the west coast this season, it’s clear that he’s also committed to the next phase of his life as an influencer of the game at the grass roots level back in Chicago.
“I spent my time here as a Cub, as an athlete in this city,” Heyward said via MLB.com, “and being able to be rooted on by a lot of people. But that’s always going to come to an end, right? The playing side of the game — for this city or another. But either way, this will always be here.
“There will always be new kids. There will always be new families. And to me, that’s something that’s always going to be passed along. I’m just so happy and excited to see what that brings — the opportunities, the fellowship. It’s something for this neighborhood to be proud of.”
With American-born black players on a sharp decline for decades now, making up roughly 7% of major league rosters, MLB has not had many transformative solutions for their inability to attract black athletes. This program has a great plan to introduce more black talent to America’s pastime. MLBbro Jason Heyward is doing his part to produce future MLBbros not only on the field, but in the dugout and front office.
The Chicago Cubs officially released veteran outfielder Jason Heyward on Wednesday. The baseball world knew this was coming as the Cubs had already given the MLBbro outfielder a warm sendoff at Wrigley Field, honoring him during a game in late September.
A true leader in the clubhouse, Heyward was once proclaimed by the late great Hank Aaron to be the next Black baseball star when he broke through with the Atlanta Braves in 2007. In his later years, he was beloved by the city of Chicago for his connection with the city and his contributions to the 2016 team that broke a 108-year World Series drought.
Heyward posted a ,245 average, .700 OPS over seven seasons with the team and had one more year and $22 million remaining on the 8-year contract he signed in December 2015). Heyward’s MLB journey is full of roller coasters and ups and downs, but his reputation as the consummate professional has been steady and the driving force behind his 13-year career that is probably coming to an end. The 32-year-old outfielder will go down as one of the best teammates and defensive players of his generation.
Rewinding The Clock: MLB’s Next Generation
When discussing the great young players in the game, Heyward used to be one of the first names that would come up. You’d hear about Buster Posey (who edged Heyward for Rookie of the Year), Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado. As these guys took off like rocket ships, Heyward went from being in that conversation to just being a guy.
Originally the Braves’ first-round selection in the 2007 MLB Draft out of Henry County High School in Georgia, Heyward began his minor league career as a prodigy at age 17. Heyward soon became one of the top-rated prospects in all of baseball for his multifaceted skill set and debuted as Atlanta’s starting right fielder Opening Day, 2010 with fanfare and expectations on 100.
He was projected to be the second coming of Darryl Strawberry, Willie McCovey or Willie Mays and was even given the nickname “J-Hey Kid” (Mays was known as the Say-Hey Kid) after hitting 18 homers and finishing 20th in the MVP balloting and second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He homered in his first MLB at bat, which in hindsight is probably the worst thing he could have done, because from then on people expected him to become an overnight Hall of Famer.
After seven solid seasons in Atlanta, Heyward was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and had a career season, finishing 15th in the MVP voting. If Black baseball fans in Atlanta were slowly losing touch with the team that was known for its Soul Patrollers in the 90s, Heyward’s departure was the last straw.
“Get one thing straight. I didn’t choose it. I got traded,” Heyward told The Shadow League back in 2015. “So that’s between teams, but for me, I like St. Louis a lot. It’s been a great experience so far. I like the mindset and the mentality we bring. It’s a one day at a time attitude and we never give up and we never feel like we are out of any game.”
Despite his success in Da Lou, J-Hey took less money to sign a long-term deal with the Cubs. His blossoming combination of solid hitting and better defense in the outfield was supposed to be thecornerstone of Chicago’s North side success for years to come.
His slash line of .248/.280/.347 with 281 RBI in his first 710 games of a 744-game stint, didn’t add up to his salary, but what gets overlooked by many in professional sports is his veteran leadership behind the scenes that balanced out the struggles that fans see on the field.
Nothing illustrated this point more for Heyward than Game 7 of the World Series back in 2016. J-Hey called a team meeting during a rain delay to rally his teammates to a championship.
Just think of how much his teammates respected him to lock in after his speech – despite Heyward batting .104 (5-48) over 16 games in the postseason. This is the example of leadership and the respect he commanded in the dugout as a liaison between the manager, coaches and players. Championship teams need that one player. Heyward was that guy for years.
“What I’ve taken most from it is, how do we handle failure?” Heyward said in a September press conference. “Because that’s a big part of life, obviously, but it’s a big part of this game. We’re always going to fail more times than we succeed. And I know that’s cliche, but how we handle those things, that comes back your way.”
Despite his offensive struggles this past season, his leadership and professionalism were appreciated by Cubs President, Jed Hoyer, according to NBCSports.com. Heyward was nominated in 2021 and 2022 for a Roberto Clemente Award as well.
“He’s a guy who had a lot of [veteran] players that influenced him as a young player in Atlanta, and he kind of pays it back now,” Hoyer said, referring to, among others, his current manager, David Ross. “He’s really good with those [young] guys. Everyone always talks about Jason being such a pro, how he handles all of his business off the field, how he prepares for games, how he prepares in the offseason. Everything he does is kind of first class in that regard.”
Shadowed By The Hype: MLBbro Royalty
It was probably unfair for folks to limit Heyward’s “star appeal” by putting him in a box and defining him as merely a baseball player who hasn’t lived up to the billing. Heyward is actually an American success story and when speaking with him, it’s obvious in his eloquence that he’s not only intelligent and insightful, but respectful to people and the game of baseball. Say what you want about his baseball steez and the fact that he never had that breakout 30-homer, 30-steal, 100 RBI year, his worth as an MLB player and the way he represents the African-American community is invaluable.
Heyward is the son of Dartmouth graduates and was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey. His pops, Eugene, is from South Carolina, and mother, Laura, is from NYC. They are an Ivy League love story having met at Dartmouth. Eugene played basketball and majored in engineering and Laura studied French. Eugene’s uncle, Kenny Washington, played basketball for two John Wooden-led NCAA championship UCLA teams in 1964 and 1965. Jason’s younger brother Jacob was also a right fielder who played college baseball for the Miami Hurricanes.
The Heywards moved to the Atlanta metropolitan area in Georgia soon after Jason was born. The pressure of being a hometown product and playing in the shadows of so many great African-American Braves players of the past added to the already massive challenge of adjusting to big league life. As if Heyward needed any more over-the-top expectations, Hank Aaron of all people,hailed him as the future of baseball.