7/22/2014 7:31 P.M. ET
Heyward named Braves' Heart and Hustle Award winner
By Mark Bowman and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Along with being blessed with tremendous athleticism, Jason Heyward has endeared himself to fans with the all-out effort he brings to the stadium on a daily basis. His insatiable desire to compete has put the Braves right fielder in a position to receive a respectable and deserving honor.
Heyward has been selected by the Major League Players Alumni Association as the Braves' representative for this year's Heart and Hustle Award. This award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.
"It's a tremendous award," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think he hits all of the criteria, the way he plays the game and the way he carries himself on and off the field. We have a good representative."
Heyward entered Tuesday leading all Major Leaguers with 27 defensive runs saved. He produced one of his most impressive gems on June 15, when he raced to the right-field wall and robbed Mike Trout of extra bases with a catch he made while crashing into the wall.
When Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca asked him how he made that play, Heyward simply said, "Because I wanted to."
Fans, alumni and active players will vote to select this year's overall winner. Previous winners include David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, '07), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Trout (2012) and Dustin Pedroia (2013).
The winner will be announced on Nov. 18 at the 15th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. These clinics impact more than 15,000 children each year at 110 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.
PLAY Campaign stops at Turner Field
ATLANTA -- Kris Medlen had a Q&A session with the children who participated in the PLAY Campaign event on Tuesday morning at Turner Field. They participated in numerous on-field activities, led in part by Braves trainers Jeff Porter and Jim Lovell.
There was also an educational station in the home dugout, where participants learned about the importance of a healthy living from what they eat to how often they exercise. Porter has been a part of the program for more than 10 years and remains passionate about it.
"All I have to do is look in the mirror," Porter said. "I'm serious. I'm 59 now and trying to keep weight off and get weight off. I've got a sore knee and I can't run like I used to and now all I can do is walk. I just tell them the truth. Just get out and be active."
The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) created PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) in 2004 to raise awareness for child health issues in the United States, including obesity. PLAY has traveled to all 30 Major League ballparks and held more than 150 events to reach thousands of kids nationwide since it began.
A representative from the Taylor Hooton Foundation, a non-profit organization that teaches and promotes awareness of the negative effects of steroid use, was also on hand to educate the kids about the dangers of using steroids. The foundation is named after Taylor Hooton, who committed suicide at age 17 after suffering depression related to steroids.
Porter asked Medlen, 28, to come speak with the kids, something that struck a chord with the starting pitcher. Already the father of a son nearing 18 months in age, Medlen has had to adjust to the idea that he is advancing into adulthood.
"It's weird," Medlen said. "I said something like, 'I don't think I'm that old, but I think to you guys, I am.' I was 20, and me and Tommy Hanson were living in Danville, Va., with our roommate, who was graduated from college and was 22, we were just like, 'Gosh, he's old.' But the older you get, a couple of years is not that big of a deal."
Medlen had several years on the kids, who asked him questions ranging from the toughest hitters he has ever faced (Baltimore's Adam Jones and San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval) to when he began playing baseball (as a 5-year-old). Afterward, Medlen autographed caps and T-shirts and took photos with the children.
"When it comes to giving kids advice, I have a hard time being serious with them. I'm great with kids, because I'm a kid. I'm going to joke sometimes," Medlen said. "I have a hard time having a serious conversation. I struggle with that when it comes to talking to kids. I'm a kid, and I'm good with them."