Monday, June 24, 2013

Rookie of the Future

Back to some baseball, as our "season" here ends, shifting our lives to the north.  Luckily, we have two "Advanced A" professional baseball teams here, playing at the beautiful Roger Dean Stadium which offers an incredible "deal" for us seniors, their "Silver Slugger" package. A ticket to every Wednesday night game (either the Jupiter Hammerheads, a Marlins farm team, or the Palm Beach Cardinals, a St. Louis farm team -- alternating playing a visitor team from the Florida State League) -- all such games for the grand total of $25.00, which includes a hot dog and a soft drink. If we were here the entire summer that works out to a little more than $1.00 a game!  The first year we joined this aging group of fans, we were given a free Silver Slugger tee shirt with an ad for a urologist on the back (talk about targeted demographic advertising!).  But regardless of the price, the real bonus is baseball played by upcoming professionals.  Of course, many of these young players never make it to "the show" but occasionally we get the opportunity to see some great ballplayers of the future.

I remember watching Mike (now Giancarlo) Stanton a few years ago, thinking, this youngster has awesome potential and now he is a proven major leaguer.  We even had an opportunity to see him again a couple of weeks ago as he was on rehab assignment.

Last Wednesday we saw a young pitcher, Andrew Heaney, who really impressed me. He's been hurt with a strained latissimus dorsi, a particularly debilitating injury for a pitcher, and is just starting to come back into form. He is a lefty (quality lefties are a big plus) and he already has great control. His fast ball was clocking at 93 maximum, usually in the low 90s, but he was working the ball mostly at the knees.  His off-speed pitch, either a cutter or a curveball was in the low 80s.   He allowed but one hit and one run, an inside the park "homer" that was handled by his teammates like a bunch of Keystone Cops.  The runner shouldn't have scored.  His fast ball began to elevate a little by the 5th inning and although those pitches resulted in fly ball outs, I guess his pitch count was getting there, and as he is just coming off several weeks of inactivity, he was yanked for a reliever by the 6th.

Nonetheless, one can see his obvious talent. He follows another famous lefty Jupiter Hammerhead alumnus, Cliff Lee, who pitched here in 2001. He too relies on control -- and is about the same size as Andrew Heaney, who's listed at 6-2 and 190. But he looks much thinner than that and needs to work on building himself to his advertised weight for stamina and to further develop his off speed pitches.  I'll go out on a limb and predict he will make the majors in 1-2 years, maybe sooner depending on the Marlin's pitching needs.  It was a pleasure to see him work the other night.