LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- On Wednesday, Jason Heyward experienced one of those near-perfect days that might have been even more exhilarating had it occurred during the regular season. But there was still a sense of excitement in the Braves right fielder's voice as he talked about scaling one outfield wall and clearing another in dramatic fashion during a 5-5 tie with the Yankees at Champion Stadium.
"At this point right now, it kind of feels like the regular season," Heyward said. "We're down to the last six games right now. You want to be ready to go and you want to have those kinds of defensive plays and ABs already in your mind. I wish it was the regular season, but it kind of feels like it anyway."
Heyward showed off his tremendous ability as he reached his glove over the right-field wall to rob Raul Ibanez of a home run in the third inning. The 22-year-old then showed a flair for the dramatic when he hit a game-tying two-run homer off George Kontos with one out in the ninth inning. To cap off his memorable day, Heyward made a diving catch of Gustavo Molina's two-out sinking liner with runners on second and third base in the 10th inning.
"He did a little bit of everything," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He showed us what he can do. He gave us a little appetizer for the season. He's been working so hard. If you follow him every day and don't look at the box scores, you see it. You see the aggressiveness that he's showing at the plate."
Along with producing encouraging plate appearances more consistently than his .209 batting average this spring might suggest, Heyward has impressed with the range he has shown in right field and on those occasions when he has been able to prove he can still handle the center-field position, if necessary.
But Heyward certainly hadn't done anything as impressive previously as his third-inning catch, which saw him race toward the right-field line, vault to the top of the wall and snare Ibanez's home run bid.
"It was one of those that you'd like to think you can catch off the bat, and then it kept going," Heyward said. "He put a good enough swing, and the wind held it up enough for me to get there."
Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy provided a more descriptive account of the defensive gem that aided his outing.
"My first instinct was, 'Oh, there's a home run,'" Beachy said. "Then I look at Jason to see if he's going to even turn around, and instantly I knew he was going to catch that ball. He made that play look easy. He made it look like a four-foot picket fence."