Rarely in Major League Baseball history have two brothers played in the big leagues at the same time. The Heineman brothers, Scott and Tyler, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, gained this elite status this summer.
On August 2, outfielder Scott was called up by the Texas Rangers and he played 25 games through September 28, batting .213 with two home runs. (Circling the News, October 23.)
Then on September 4, catcher Tyler was moved up from Triple-A New Orleans to the Miami Marlins. His first major league hit came on September 25, a pinch-double off New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom (the 2018 Cy Young winner). The next day Heineman slugged his first home run, a two-run shot off Zach Wheeler.
On September 27–the same day his brother homered against the Yankees–Heineman was the Miami catcher for all 15 innings in a 5-4 loss to Philadelphia. The game lasted five hours and thirteen minutes.
Circling the News asked Heineman if he was exhausted, and he said, “It was exactly where I wanted to be. So tired wasn’t an option. I was running on fumes and adrenaline. You know you’re tired, but you take it to another gear.”
Tyler, 28, played five games for Miami, going 3-11 for a .273 average plus two RBIS.
He said that catching and reading scouting reports on batters is “a part of the game that I love. You work on game calling and swing patterns. It’s all controllable. There’s a lot of information you have to process and process fast.”
For example, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, who has a career batting average of .305, seems to have more problems hitting fast balls that are up and on the inside corner.
Fans have all seen pitchers shake off a catcher’s call. Is that smart?
“They may be going against the scouting reports, but it’s about how they’re feeling–the sequence they see in their mind,” Heineman said. “It’s never personal. It just may mean we’re not on the same page.”
Heineman, now 5-11, 205 pounds, was a super athlete as a child. Even though he played baseball with the Santa Monica Little League, he also made a traveling hockey team when he was eight.
By the time he entered Windward High School, he was still playing baseball, but he was also a goalie on the Junior Kings.
His father Steve told him, “You’re good, but if you want to play a sport in college, you should pick.”
“That was about the time kids start growing,” Tyler said, noting that his rival goalie on the team had a growth spurt and “covered” more of the goal, which meant Heineman had less playing time. “I was only about 5-6 as a sophomore,” he said.
For Tyler, it was all about playing time, so he decided, “I’m just going to do baseball.”
He started catching in seventh grade because the coach said, “We need a catcher, does anyone want to try it?”
“I can do that,” said Heineman, who capitalized on the hand-eye skills he acquired as a goalie–tracking a fast-moving puck is much like tracking a fast-moving baseball.
Windward is not considered a major baseball school or has Heineman described the school, “It’s more of an artsy school that has sports.”
Still, his athleticism was apparent and UCLA recruited him as a walk-on. “They said I would be the bullpen catcher as a freshman and that ‘You’ll earn your playing time.'”
Heineman said that college helped him develop a work ethic that helped him reach the major leagues. “If I had been drafted just coming out of high school, I wouldn’t have had it,” he said. “At UCLA I wanted to outwork everyone just to play baseball. We [teammates] constantly pushed each other. I pushed them because they didn’t want to lose their spot.”
By the time he was a junior, Heineman was starting to gain interest from major league teams, and he realized he could play in the major leagues. “Success breeds confidence and confidence breeds success,” he said, and added “Failures cause you to doubt yourself, but in the sports realm, I think of the quote ‘Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.’”
Heineman’s junior year, he was named All-Pac-12 Conference and was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to college baseball’s best catcher.
The Houston Astros selected Heineman in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB draft and he left college after his junior year. Did he have any regrets about that? “No, but I promised my parents I’d finish my degree [he’s about 20 credits short].” He did admit that he was sorry he missed playing for UCLA’s national championship team in 2013. “I thought, ‘Dang, if I were still there, I would have been catching.”
Heineman has spent eight years in the minors, playing for far-flung teams in Lancaster, Corpus Christi, Helena, Colorado Springs, Biloxi, Reno and finally New Orleans this June. In July, the Baby Cakes played the Nashville Sounders and Tyler was able to play against his brother Scott.
“That was cool, I had to do a scouting report against my brother,” said Tyler, who hit .336 with 13 home runs in 73 games for New Orleans before joining the Marlins.
Heineman’s hobby is magic and he’s good at close-up magic. He picked up the hobby five years ago when he was playing baseball in the Dominican Republic in the off-season. He demonstrated some clever card tricks for the Circling the News reporter.
You can see Tyler in the Arizona Diamondbacks locker room performing card tricks. (Visit: Youtube.com/watch?v=pclSj4e2uw). You can also meet him and his brother and watch him perform magic this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Trade Fest II in the Santa Monic Civic Center, 1855 Main St.
Heineman is now training with his brother for the 2020 season and is working on corrective exercises. Given his playing position, he is quad dominant, which means “my posture is not that great. I have to work to strengthen my back muscles.”
About playing in the major leagues, he said, “It’s how bad you want it. People who are good have talent, but the work ethic is the key thing. I try to soak up as much information as possible and it gets me better and better, each day, week, month. I don’t want anything to deter me from my training.”