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Braves Outfielder Jason Heyward Ready For Big Season, Work Ethic Paying Off

Jason Heyward is a special player. While it may seem like he's been around for quite some time, the kid is still only 22-years and continues to adjust to Major League Baseball. On Opening Day he was hitting home runs, not playing beer pong and staying up late cramming for final exams, like you'll find most guys his age doing.

Expectations were raised even higher in 2011 after a phenomenal rookie season. Despite the strong start to the year, multiple injuries kept him from playing at the level he is capable of when healthy. Thanks to being raised the right way by his parents, working hard every single day and keeping a positive attitude, Heyward is more than ready to have a big season, as baseball scribe Peter Gammons reports.

"With the help of my parents, I realized that the only way to cope with disappointment is to overcome it with hard work," Heyward says. "Performance comes from work and dedication, belief and strength. Words and excuses get you nowhere."

So, following up a rookie season in which he was compared to Aaron with a year in which his shoulder would not let him answer suspicions, Heyward has quietly worked to get back to where everyone thought he was headed when he felt that pop last March. Work, not words.

"I know a lot more now than I did then," Heyward says. "Especially what it takes. Go work, and when you're tired, work some more. It's all so I do what I love to do, and that's play baseball."

And the Braves know full well that a healthy Heyward is far more significant of a return than anyone or anything they might have received in the trade or free-agent market.

Should Jason Heyward play up to his potential in 2012, the Braves immediately become one of the favorites in the National League. This is a team that came up one game short last year and one can only think how things would have turned out with a healthy No. 22 in right field.

With players reporting to Spring Training in less than a month, all eyes will be on Heyward, his re-tooled swing and his shoulder. It may just be the biggest story of the upcoming season.

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