Jacob Heyward hopes to follow All-Star brother to the majors
AUGUSTA — Jacob Heyward is following a different path than his All-Star brother early in his baseball career, but he hopes it also leads to The Show.
When Jason Heyward took his first swing in the majors, a three-run home run on Opening Day in 2010, Jacob was just 14 years old and a freshman in high school in their native McDonough, Georgia, 30 miles south of Atlanta.
The 14th overall pick by the Braves in 2007, Jason ended up becoming Atlanta’s top prospect and earned comparisons to the legendary Willie Mays. Since then he was voted to the All-Star Game as a rookie, won four Gold Glove awards, signed one of the largest contracts in baseball history and was a part of the Cubs’ first World Series title in 108 years last season.
The Heyward family is full of members with great accomplishments. Jacob and Jason’s parents are both Dartmouth graduates, and their father’s uncle Kenny Washington was also a part of John Wooden’s first two national championship teams at UCLA in 1964 and 1965. After seeing Jason rise to become a star in the majors, it was only natural that Jacob was working on becoming a professional as well.
“I think it just became normal life for me, just being a young kid and being around him and the success he had,” Jacob said. “I took it all in as normal; it didn’t feel any different or out of the ordinary until I realized where I’m at now, it was like, wow, he was one of those guys. It’s a blessing. It was just a great thing he did and he really put in the work to do it.”
The Braves drafted Jacob out of high school in 2013, but he passed and decided to play baseball for the University of Miami. As a sophomore in 2015, he batted .327 to help the Hurricanes advance to the College World Series. He homered and had a walk-off single against Arkansas to help Miami stave off elimination just for a game in Omaha.
Heyward batted .242 with a .403 on-base percentage as a junior, and he helped Miami return to the College World Series last season. The Giants couldn’t pass on the talent attached to his name. San Francisco selected him in the 18th round in last year’s MLB Draft when the Hurricanes were still in super regionals, and he signed after the team was eliminated.
The 21-year-old Heyward then went 36-for-109 in rookie ball, hitting 12 doubles, five triples and a home run with 25 RBI down the stretch in his first taste of the professional level. Jacob then spent the winter training with his brother out in Arizona, and he spent some time before minor league with the Giants at spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Heyward was assigned to Single-A Augusta to start his first full-season in the minors. Quite the perfect situation for him this year, just over two hours away from his family near Atlanta, and working on an opportunity to play at the big league level for an organization that has won three World Series titles this decade.
“It’s cool. It’s great to be an organization that knows how to win and knows what they’re doing. That’s why I thought it was a great choice, an opportunity that I had coming out of college to play for the Giants,” Jacob said. “And I think that everybody here knows what they’re doing, and everybody here has control of the situation. Everything they try to do with you on and off the field is to put you in the best position to be a big leaguer.”
So far, he is just 3-for-22 and has struck out 12 times for the GreenJackets. He hit his first home run in Columbia two weeks ago.
Even though he’s taking a different route in an attempt to reach the majors than his brother took, Jacob maintains the same set of values as Jason. He said the best advice his brother gave him was to keep playing hard and keep his focus on the daily routine of making the improvements as a player.
“I just want to come out here every day, work hard with my teammates,” Heyward said.