He has gone from dealing with off-the-field demons to hitting game-winning home runs. New York Yankees‘ Slade Heathcott has already battled a lot in his lifetime, but the soon-to-be 25-year-old — his birthday is tomorrow — is making up for lost time.
The Texas High School star’s promising baseball future earned him a scholarship to Louisiana State University. The Yankees drafted him in 2009 with the 29th pick, and Slade opted to go pro instead of stay with LSU.
Flash forward to 2015, Heathcott is called up by the Yankees in September and in his first big league game since late May. He would go on to deliver the game-winning home run for the Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays Sept. 14.
I wrote about that game being the kind of emotional lift the Yankees could use. At one point on the verge of being no-hit, Heathcott delivered a win for the ages and for a team desperately trying to keep up with the Toronto Blue Jays.
That game-winning home run was huge for the Yankees, and even bigger for the young hitter. For Heathcott, it wasn’t just that he made it to the show and he came through with a big hit. Heathcott was realizing a type of euphoria only those that have battled similar demons and overcame all the related adversity could know. He was suddenly on cloud nine that night in Tampa Bay when he got to round the bases.
The current year has been a trying one for Heathcott with injuries, however this adversity is but a microcosm to the kind of battles Heathcott has faced in his life.
Growing up can be tough years for kids but that’s an understatement for Heathcott. His father spent time in jail, his mother had left town, he had a gun pointed at him during a drunken outburst and for a time had lived out of his car. Heathcott battled alcoholism and even admitted to pointing a rifle at his stepfather.
On the eve of a trip to the Dominican Republic to play ball, Heathcott blacked out and lost his passport. It was this that prompted the Yankees to send him to Alcoholics Anonymous, and shortly thereafter Heathcott turned to religion which he cites for helping turn his life around. That was five years ago; now he looks to do damage on opposing pitchers.
Heathcott has dealt with injuries for the majority of his short career, including major surgeries on his shoulder and knee. The Yankees continued to stick with him as he makes an impact on the pennant race today, and he look to establish the kind of career which injuries and off-the-field issues at one point looked to derail.
In limited time with the Yankees, he has shown a fearlessness in the field and at the plate, and though injuries have affected his arm strength and running speed, his strong work-ethic, passion for the game and ultimate desire to turn his life around has given him the shot he has earned at an MLB dream.
In his 14 MLB games, Heathcott is batting .391 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Though it appeared not long ago these moments might never come, it’s a great story and Heathcott is worth rooting for.
Happy Birthday Mr. Heathcott.