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Saturday, June 15, 2013
Two of 'em? Yep. Within seconds, I'd gotten text messages from two separate friends, ostensibly sitting in two different sections of Salem Memorial Ballpark on Friday night. Both messages said the exact same thing: Holy Bleep.
That happened to be my reaction up in the press box, as well.
"How far did that ball go?" Salem Red Sox general manager Todd Stephenson asked me as we headed to our cars late Friday night.
"Which one?" I said.
Let's be honest: The only reason to follow sports is for the Holy Bleep moments. Shayne Graham splitting the uprights in Morgantown. David Freese doing what David Freese did in the 2011 World Series. Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Matt Ryan lofting a pass in the rain that fell into the hands of ... OK, so Holy Bleep moments can be as devastating as they are invigorating.
Either way, they are the reason we watch.
Atlanta Braves prospect Robby Hefflinger gave us two of them Friday night. The first one - the one Stephenson was inquiring about - came in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader. The Lynchburg outfielder turned on a 3-2 fastball and sent the pitch soaring to left.
Salem leftfielder Brandon Jacobs didn't even budge.
The ball cleared the wall and the netting beyond the wall. This much we know. What we don't know is which tree it screamed into. We're still unsure.
Regardless, we're hopeful that everybody who lives beyond those trees has good home-owners insurance. This includes those living in Iowa.
Hefflinger, though, did not rest his case. In the fifth inning, he connected on a curveball from the same pitcher and hit one of those majestic, no-doubt moonshots to left-center.
You know the ones, right? They're the ones make the home crowd say "Ohhhhh..."
And make dudes text Holy Bleep.
The best part of all of this is that Hefflinger, coming into this year, wasn't supposed to be a Holy Bleep player. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2009 - hardly a bonus baby. He'd struggled in two previous stints with Lynchburg, prompting demotions both times.
Suddenly, the 23-year-old is the Carolina League home run leader. Not by a little, either. His 17th and 18th homers on Friday night gave him six more than anybody in the circuit with two days left in the season's first half (Salem hosts Lynchburg in a 1 p.m. doubleheader today, if you want to check this guy out).
Hefflinger is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. I'm not buying the latter. He is built a lot like former Pulaski County and Virginia Tech tight end Jeff King, whom the Arizona Cardinals list at 6-3, 260.
He's big. And he's determined. Hefflinger was so bent on improving this offseason that he played winter ball in Panama to get some more at-bats.
Hefflinger credits that experience for helping him start the season strong. But he also credits his high school batting coach, Nathan O'Hanlon, who developed a bond with him his sophomore year.
"Every morning we were in the cage hitting, 6:30 in the morning," said Hefflinger, who grew up in Georgia. "And that kind of built up a big relationship. And now every time I'm home, every day, I go over to baseball practice and help him out, talk to him.
"Our relationship is really good. He's a close friend of mine now, and we go hunting in the offseason. He texts me, 'Hey, good game,' or 'What'd you do today?' Stuff like that. I'm always keeping him informed."
Hefflinger checked his phone after the game Friday night. No immediate messages from O'Hanlon.
Hefflinger, though, said he expected one to come within an hour or so, just as soon as O'Hanlon checked the box scores that night.
My guess? The message would be two words long.
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