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Baseball is a unique sport

With the major league baseball season beginning this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how unique the sport, known as America’s pastime, really is.

First of all, baseball is the only team sport where the playing surfaces are not uniform.

All football fields, soccer fields, basketball courts and hockey rinks are virtually the same size, but baseball fields, at the little league, middle school, high school, minor league and major league levels, are virtually different from town to town or city to city.

You can tailor your ball park to the kind of team you have. If you have a singles and doubled hitting team, you can move the outfield fences back, and if you have a home run hitting team, you can move them in.

I don’t think any ball park would have held the long home run launched by Atlanta Braves 20-year-old rookie right fielder Jason Heyward in his first major league at bat in the Braves season opener against the Chicago Cubs Monday at Turner Field in Atlanta. He also singled in a run later in the game.

Heyward’s three-run blast went to deep right center and landed in the Braves bullpen giving them a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the first and they went on to post a 16-5 victory.

Catcher Brian McCann also hit a home run, and shortstop Yunel Escobar drove in five runs.

Prior to Monday’s opening game against the Cubs, I had heard a lot of good things about Heyward and other Braves newcomers.

Those newcomers include left fielder Melky Cabrera, obtained from the New York Yankees; first baseman Troy Glaus, who had great power numbers for the St. Louis Cardinals before missing last season due to injury, and closer Billy Wagner, a great major league saves performer with the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and New York Mets.

As a switch hitter with good speed, Cabrera seems to be a perfect fit as the team’s leadoff hitter.

I thought it was a great moment Monday when Braves Hall of Famer and major league baseball’s all-time home run leader Henry Aaron threw the ceremonial first pitch to Heyward in pregame ceremonies.

It was kind of like Aaron, a true gentleman and one of the game’s all-time greats, was welcoming Heyward, whose future should be very bright, to the Braves family.

I would personally like to see the Braves have a great season and make the playoffs, and with young players like Heyward and McCann and productive veteran stars like third baseman Chipper Jones and pitcher Tim Hudson, I really think they can.

It would be a great send off for veteran Braves manager Bobby Cox, who has had a great career and is bound for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The optimism of local Braves fans I have encountered around town is really bright.