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PHOTO: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman On Sports Illustrated Cover This Week

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Sports Illustrated's Feb. 28 issue features Atlanta Braves stars Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman on the cover, the first time either has made an appearance. The issue's feature article is a story on the pair's rapid rise through the Braves' farm system and their standing as the cornerstones of the team's future. 

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The article isn't out yet, but here's the intro:

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There comes a time in most of our lives when we seek to assert our distinctiveness from even those closest to us, to individuate. For Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, that time is now.

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Freeman and Heyward met at a high school All-American game in August 2006, and the two became close friends a year later, shortly after the Braves drafted them 64 slots apart. (Heyward was the 14th overall pick, Freeman the 78th.) They differed in many ways. Heyward-Georgian, a first child, African-American-was polished, described by teammates as a 40-year-old in a teenager's body. Freeman-a Southern California native, the youngest of three brothers, Caucasian-was loose, if no less disciplined when it counted.

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But they both had powerful lefthanded swings, and Freeman and Heyward bonded over much more than that as they marched together, in near lockstep, through Atlanta's minor league system.

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Braves players have made the SI cover only three times in the past decade -- and two of those were by Hank Aaron. The other was that embarrassing-in-hindsight Jeff Francoeur cover. Here's a gallery of most of the all-time Atlanta Braves covers, though it doesn't include at least one in which Aaron is the most prominently depicted player.

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ht Talking Chop

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.