Jason Heyward’s debut season with the Cubs was not filled with offensive highlights – there was The Jason Heyward Game, though! – but the glove certainly came every bit as excellent as billed. From the very first moment in Spring Training, Heyward was showing off his incredible instincts in the outfield, his rocket arm, and his tremendous range.
Heyward’s defensive highlights were too numerous to recount, and he was a deserved winner of the Gold Glove. For me, I have three favorites that immediately come to mind, though. There was the time he went into the stands in St. Louis to make a catch and help extend Kyle Hendricks’ then no-hitter. There was the time he threw out James Loney at the plate from center field (also a Kyle Hendricks start) when he had absolutely no business getting the ball there in time.
For me, though, the best play Heyward made all year (one of the best defensive plays of the year for the Cubs, in fact) came early in the season in San Francisco, and, because of the way it played out, it became easy to forget when you think about Cubs defensive highlights. Why? Because, at the time, no one was really caring all that much about how incredible the play was – it ended with Heyward on the ground, writhing in pain after sliding headfirst awkwardly into the wall:
When the play happened, sure, there was a moment of “WOW! WHAT A PLAY!” But it was immediately superseded by concerns that the Cubs’ huge outfield addition had just wrecked himself for the rest of the season. Heyward left the game, and fortunately missed only three games thereafter as he recovered.
Now that we know he was ultimately OK, we can look back and appreciate just what an impressive catch that was. Not only did Heyward have to cover a massive amount of ground, he had to do so while track a ball that was scalded at 103mph, per Statcast. Then, he had to lean out while looking over his shoulder to catch the ball while still maintaining some sense of where the wall was to at least try not to annihilate himself.
Truly, it was an incredible catch, and one that you’re happy took place into a padded wall in San Francisco, as opposed to the bricks at Wrigley Field.