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What It's Like to Raise a Big Leaguer

Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Jason Heyward is 20 years old, not even three years removed from his high school graduation, yet he’s quickly become the most exciting rookie in Major League Baseball. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, with tremendous all-around skills and uncanny plate discipline for a big man, he's drawn comparisons to everyone from Hank Aaron to Albert Pujols. These days, it's hard to imagine how 13 teams passed on Heyward in the 2007 draft before the hometown Braves took him with the 14th pick.

Parents wondering what it takes to raise a big leaguer, let alone a well-adjusted young man, might want to spend a few moments with Eugene and Laura Heyward, who met in college at Dartmouth and have stressed education as much as athletics with Jason and his 14-year-old brother, Jacob. Here are just a few things needed to raise a big leaguer these days:

Time and Energy

Eugene Heyward gets up at 3 a.m. to work early hours as an engineer for the U.S. Air Force so he can shuttle his sons to practices and games. Because of the distance between home, work, and baseball, along with the notorious traffic of greater Atlanta, it's not uncommon for him to spend six hours a day in the car. Jacob, like Jason before him, does his schoolwork in the car. The family's 1999 GMC Suburban has more than 300,000 miles on it. "That car smells like baseball," Eugene Heyward says.

Love of the Game

People look at Jason and assume he also played basketball and football—or perhaps should have. After all, Eugene Heyward played basketball at Dartmouth and one of his uncles played at UCLA for legendary coach John Wooden. Jason played basketball briefly around the age of 11 or 12 before realizing it cut into his year-round baseball schedule. (He's been playing 65 baseball games a year since the age of 8.) As for football, that was never an option once Jason's father heard of Pop Warner coaches giving kids diet pills to lose weight. "I would never do that to my child," Eugene said.

Practice

There's a common thread in the childhoods of many successful performers. There's the girl who kept shooting baskets in the dark, the boy who would not put his guitar or saxophone away, or the future best-selling novelist who filled dozens of notebooks with stories. That's also the case with Jason Heyward, who loves the slow, mundane nature of baseball practice. "He loves practice and that's weird," Eugene Heyward says. "If you love practice, everything else is easy."

Lots of Fun

For years, Eugene Heyward would ask his son if he was still having fun playing baseball. That stopped during Jason's junior year of high school when he looked at his father as if he were crazy. If baseball ever stopped being fun, the Heywards would not have pushed the issue. "If Jason didn't want to do this—and we always tell Jacob 'If you tell us tomorrow you don't want to play, we have a list of things we could be doing that's not going from ballpark to ballpark,'" Laura Heyward says. "It's really the person—the kid—do they want to do it? Are they having fun?" "If you're not loving it, you're not going to be your best," Eugene Heyward says. "That makes it easy."

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Home, Sports Performance, Outdoor Recreation, Youth Fitness, Family, Baseball

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