Major league baseball players Tyler and Scott Heineman, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, should already be playing in ballparks across the country this month.
Tyler, a catcher, who finished last season with the Miami Marlins and had signed with the San Francisco Giants and Scott, an outfielder, who plays with the Texas Rangers, were sent home from spring training on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This was two weeks before Opening Day.
A recent news story suggested that major meague baseball could start up in May with all 30 teams playing in Arizona, without anybody in the stands. Will that happen?
“Right now, I am doing everything I can to stay ready so that once we are told [to] report to Arizona, I will be ready to go,” said Tyler, a UCLA grad. “We as players want to get back on the field and continue to do what we love as soon as possible.”
Scott, who played at the University of Oregon, added, “Nothing is set in stone or even close to being set in stone with the virus not being under control. That being said, I love that major league baseball is trying everything they can to get the season going.”
“We understand that health and safety are imperative and most important right now,” said Tyler, “which is why we respect the decisions made to stay home and will continue to do so until we are told otherwise.”
Said Scott, “The number one priority is the safety of the fans, players, coaches and others involved that make baseball run smoothly.”
Both brothers hit home runs in the big leagues last year after moving up from the minors.
Scott debuted on August 2 after playing on the Nashville Sounds. He ended up playing 25 games for Texas (in the outfield and at first base) and hit .215 with 6 doubles, 2 home runs and 7 RBIs.
His first home run was on September 3, the same day that Tyler was called up to the majors from Triple-A New Orleans. Tyler’s first homer was on September 26 against the Mets’ Zach Wheeler.
On September 27–the same day his brother once again homered against the Yankees–Tyler caught for 15 innings in a 5-4 loss to Philadelphia. The game lasted five hours and thirteen minutes.
The two players were asked how they have managed to train and stay sharp, given that all the gyms and facilities have been shut down for several weeks.
Tyler said, “It’s very fortunate that we have each other to do everything with. We have a personal gym where we lift, so that is a blessing.” Tyler is also adept in slight-of-the hand magic and can be found on Youtube. (Visit: Youtube.com/watch?v=pclSj4e2uw).
Scott said that he’s finding different ways to stay sharp, including reading a lot more to stay mentally sharp. “When I was growing up, I didn’t always have access to a car or a way to get out of the house so it reminds me of that time – and I am finding some fun ways to get better every day.”
“Whether that’s improving my hand-eye coordination by throwing a ball against the wall in my backyard or competing against my dog in a running competition,” he said.
Hitting major league pitchers would seem to be a skill that could get rusty fast, without some sort of practice.
Scott offered some alternatives: “You can’t simulate facing a live pitcher and get the same benefit without actually doing it, but there are still many ways to improve hand-eye coordination. Whether that’s hitting sunflower seeds or almonds in the backyard with the smallest bat you can find or juggling three balls at a time. There are always ways to get better if you stay creative.”
“We are staying as ready as possible,” Tyler said. “Of course, timing with live pitching is not available. But we will be ready when the time comes.”
With at least a two-month gap and maybe more since their last practice together, how difficult is it to connect with teammates?
Tyler said he’s been in touch with a couple of the players and everyone is safe, “that’s the most important thing. And they are dealing with it the best that they can.”
“Our manager, Chris Woodward, along with the rest of the staff have done an incredible job touching base with all of the players to make sure we are doing okay and to see if we need anything,” Scott said. “We have a team Zoom account set up where we can touch base at any time with all the guys on the team, along with a group chat message that blows up my phone every day, so we are keeping it fun.”
Striving to maintain a positive attitude, Tyler said: “We can use this shut down as an opportunity to get better, both mentally and physically, so that when everything resumes (whenever that is), we will hit the ground running.”
“I want to give my best to everyone out there and I hope we are all doing what we can to stay healthy and safe,” Scott said. “God bless.”
On Easter, the Heineman brothers (whose father, Steve, is a retired Santa Monica Police lieutenant) made a special trip to Santa Monica first responders, delivering food they had secured from Baby Blues, Spumoni, New York Bagel & Deli and Krispy Kreme.
Steve and mom Kathy Lingg, continue to live in Pacific Palisades, and loved traveling around the country to watch their sons playing major league baseball last summer.
During the off-season, the brothers teamed up with another former Palisades athlete, Wade Clement, and raised money for Team Prime, which allows special needs kids to play high school sports, coached by their peers.
They also learned that some neighbors in Pacific Palisades were bummed because it appears the entire youth baseball season has been cancelled here and in Santa Monica. So, they made a video (below).