ATLANTA -- When former professional baseball player C.J. Stewart needed to find somebody to help his initiative to help the inner-city youth of Atlanta to learn the game of baseball, he turned to a former pupil who has risen to become one of the most heralded prospects the game has recently seen.
Before the Braves and White Sox played an exhibition game at Turner Field on Friday night, Stewart announced that Jason Heyward will serve as the honorary ambassador and spokesperson for L.E.A.D., which bills itself as the first instructional play program for inner-city youth.
"I've been involved with C.J. a majority of my life," said Heyward, the Braves' 20-year-old phenom who will serve as their right fielder this year. "When you have an opportunity to come into what I'm coming into, I think whenever you have a chance to give back, you should."
Stewart, who began serving as Heyward's coach six years ago, also now has a partnership with the Jr. Braves for the L.E.A.D Middle School baseball development league that will begin play later this month. This will provide the youth a chance to participate in clinics led by Braves coaches and gain financial support from the Braves Foundation.
"We are focused on teaching young men important life lessons through baseball while exposing them to opportunities in professional sports, both on and off the field," Stewart said. "The Braves organization matches our commitment to positively impact Atlanta's inner-city youth."
Since L.E.A.D.'s inception in 2007, 100 percent of the ambassadors have gone to college. To learn more about this nonprofit organization, visit www.lead2legacy.org.
McLouth scratched with hamstring strain
ATLANTA -- Just days away from escaping what has been a frustrating Spring Training, Braves center fielder Nate McLouth strained his right hamstring.
About an hour before the start of Friday night's exhibition game against the White Sox at Turner Field, the Braves scratched McLouth from the lineup and said that he would be further evaluated on Saturday.
"I didn't know about it until this afternoon," Braves manager Bobby Cox said after Friday's 7-2 loss. "I guess it had been bothering him a little bit, but nothing major."
McLouth told the club's medical staff that he awoke on Friday morning with discomfort in his right hamstring. After being acquired from the Pirates on June 3, the 28-year-old center fielder strained his left hamstring on two different occasions. The ailment forced him to go on the disabled list in August.
McLouth began this year's exhibition season with just one hit in his first 38 at-bats. But after compiling some at-bats and regaining his timing during some Minor League games, he entered Friday with six hits in his previous 12 at-bats.
With his early struggles, McLouth had already opened the door for Melky Cabrera to begin the season as the club's leadoff hitter. If McLouth is forced to miss time during the early portion of the season, Cabrera will also assume his role as the starting center fielder.
If Cabrera is playing center on an everyday basis, Matt Diaz will receive regular playing time in left field. This could provide either Eric Hinske or Omar Infante a chance to occasionally see some playing time in the outfield.
Hanson set to handle season workload
ATLANTA -- Tommy Hanson has heard about the concerns that were created when he completed 56 more innings than he had during any previous professional season. But as he enters his sophomore season, the Braves right-hander feels no reason to be worried about his durability.
After limiting the White Sox to one earned run in four innings of Friday night's 7-2 loss at Turner Field, Hanson declared himself ready for the upcoming season. He will make his first start on Thursday night against the Cubs.
"I'm definitely ready for the season," said Hanson, who surrendered three hits and recorded four strikeouts. "I think today was the best that I've felt all spring, as far as my arm and my body. I felt really good."
Hanson began his final exhibition start by surrendering an infield single that was bobbled by third baseman Chipper Jones. Two outs later, Paul Konerko snuck a ground ball through the left side of the infield. From there, the Braves' 23-year-old hurler retired nine of the last 11 batters that he faced.
"That's as good as he can throw, to be honest with you," manager Bobby Cox said. "He had some strikeouts and threw a lot of strikes. He had command of everything. I thought he was outstanding."
Hanson, who combined to complete 194 innings with Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett last year, didn't allow more than two runs in any of the six starts that he made during this exhibition season.
"I'd say the main thing I'm happy about is how I feel," Hanson said. "I feel like I'm ready for the season. I feel like I can go out and go deep into games. Also, command of my pitches ... I feel really good about that."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.