03/31/11 7:06 PM ET
On first Opening Day, Freeman stays cool, calm
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
After Heyward opened the second inning of Thursday's 2-0 win over the Nationals with a shot over the right-center-field wall at Nationals Park, he returned to the dugout and heard Freeman simply say, "Again?" Heyward also homered on Opening Day last year and now stands with Kaz Matsui as the only Major League players to homer in the first at-bat on Opening Day during both of their first two big league seasons.
"It was pretty impressive to see it from the side angle like that," Freeman said. "He hit the ball hard. You've got to, to hit it out in this weather."
Showing the calm of a seasoned veteran, Freeman said he didn't allow himself to be overcome with the excitement surrounding his first Opening Day in the Majors. The 21-year-old first baseman credits the opportunity to spend last September with the big leaguers.
During that month, Freeman showed his potential when he notched his first career homer at the expense of Roy Halladay.
"I wasn't even nervous at all," Freeman said. "It was weird. It felt just like another game. That month last year I think really helped me out today. It felt just like another ballgame."
Before going hitless in three at-bats Thursday, Freeman said he never felt the need to heed the advice of Chipper Jones, who had suggested the young first baseman should make himself sick before taking the field.
"I didn't need to do that," Freeman said. "I just went out there and felt like it was another game to be honest with you. I took in all of the Opening Day moments. It was pretty special to see the band come out and all of that stuff. I had a lot of fun, especially getting that win."
Freeman pulled a sharp grounder that found Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche's glove in the second inning and then drilled a Livan Hernandez pitch to deep left-center field in the fifth. He flew out to left again in his final at-bat in the seventh.
"I faced Livan last year, so I knew what he was going to do to me," Freeman said. "I just went up there with a plan. I did hit the first one hard. The second one, on another day, I felt it could have gone somewhere. But I felt good up there and confident. I just went up there and swung and hit some balls hard."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.