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Rookie shines in MLB debut

Tue., April 6, 2010

Hall of Famer Hank Aaron chats with Jason Heyward.  (Associated Press)
Hall of Famer Hank Aaron chats with Jason Heyward. (Associated Press)

No one had a bigger blast on opening day than Jason Heyward.

Billed as the majors’ next phenom, this Braves prospect bridged baseball’s past and future Monday when he caught the ceremonial first ball from Hank Aaron.

Then with the Atlanta crowd chanting his name, the 20-year-old Heyward mashed a three-run homer on his first swing in the big leagues.

Nice job, rook.

Albert Pujols launched two home runs, Roy Halladay looked every bit an ace and Barack Obama pulled out a White Sox hat to make his presidential pitch.

Obama drew a loud ovation when he continued a tradition that started 100 years ago with William Howard Taft – the presidential first pitch. He warmed up with some practice tosses at the White House but really, the lefty could use a little more time in the bullpen.

Obama double-pumped, rocked on the mound a few times and made a high-and-wide flip to the plate that Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman snared. It probably helped, too, that Zimmerman was coming off winning his first Gold Glove.

At least Obama, whose smooth stroke on the basketball court is well documented, put more oomph into it. Last year, he barely reached the plate at the All-Star Game.

A White Sox fan, Obama waited until he got to the mound to pull on his Chicago cap.

Toronto pitcher Shaun Marcum took a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Texas before it got broken up. His effort was even more remarkable because he missed the entire 2009 season with elbow trouble.

Too bad for the Blue Jays, they were beaten in the bottom of the ninth inning.

All over, the weather held. Rather than the dreary, upper 30s temperatures that often dampen openers, it was a beautiful day to play ball. In Milwaukee, this was the earliest the Miller Park roof was open for a regular-season game in its 10-year history.

Mark McGwire made a more quiet return. Back in baseball after admitting he took steroids, Big Mac drew little reaction in Cincinnati when he was introduced as the new hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In New York, there were a few boos. After seeing their club crippled by injuries last season, Mets fans heckled – of all people – the team trainers. Tough crowd!

Cubs manager Lou Piniella didn’t seem real pleased, either, when the umpires’ call went against him on a dropped fly ball. After a postseason dotted with missed calls, there are sure to be more shouts this year for extra instant replay.

Beckett extended

Pitcher Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a four-year contract extension through the 2014 season. A baseball official says the deal is worth $68 million.

The MVP of the 2003 World Series for Florida and a key part of Boston’s 2007 title, Beckett pitched the opener for the Red Sox on Sunday night. He allowed five runs on eight hits in 42/3 innings in a 9-7 victory over the New York Yankees.

Tags: baseball, MLB

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