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Heyman off to hot start

Former Oregon State commit Grant Heyman feels right at home during his first minor league season with the Hillsboro Hops


Even though Grant Heyman has been playing professional baseball for several weeks now, he is still — at least metaphorically — pinching himself.by: COURTESY PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Hillsboro Hops outfielder Grant Heyman tracks the flight of a ball during Tuesday's game against the Everett AquaSox. Heyman is off to a hot start this season with a .318 batting average.

“It still hasn’t completely hit me yet that this is my job,” the Hillsboro Hops outfielder said earlier this week. “It’s still a little surreal, but I still wake up every day just excited, pumped up.”

That enthusiasm has been showing early on during the Hops’ second season in Hillsboro. Through 19 games last season, they were a paltry 4-15, but they sported a 12-7 record through Tuesday this summer. Players up and down the roster have been contributing to the success, but Heyman has certainly been chipping in his fair share.

Appearing in all but one of those first 19 games, the College of Southern Nevada product was batting .318, and he had supplied 21 hits, 10 runs and 11 RBIs to the offense.

Those numbers are not shabby at all for a 20-year-old — who stands a strapping 6-foot-4 and has athleticism and speed to burn — in his first pro season.

“It’s been fun to watch, just him go up there and figure out how the guys are pitching him, and them making adjustments off of him, and him making adjustments off them and (continuing) to have success,” Hillsboro manager J.R. House said.

Indeed, Heyman is proving an increasingly adept study at figuring out this hitting thing. A talented three-sport athlete from Pittsford, near Rochester in upstate New York, Heyman was drafted by Toronto in the 11th round in 2012 out of Pittsford-Sutherland High School.

He opted to attend the University of Miami instead, but his first and only baseball season with the Hurricanes was a challenging one, and he didn’t spend much time on the field. Playing in 24 games, he started eight and hit just .175.

“That’s why I left. There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity,” Heyman noted. “I think what was big for me at junior college was just playing every day. Whether I went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I was in the lineup the next day.

“I think that was big for me, just playing a lot, because in high school I played three sports.”

Indeed, Heyman, who did not even play summer baseball in high school, said he made the move to Southern Nevada to prove he could play. He seems to have made his point, as he blossomed at the junior college in Henderson, which counts Washington Nationals standout Bryce Harper among its former stars.

In his only season with the Coyotes, Heyman started all 52 games he played, batting .377 and putting up 66 hits, 41 runs and 43 RBIs. And he did all that without the benefit of a metal bat, as Southern Nevada plays in the Scenic West Conference, a wood bat league.

“The wood bat league helped,” Heyman said, referring to his transition from college to the pros. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment, so I’ve been using a wood bat all year. It just feels natural in my hands.

“Just being able to play every day I think was what really helped me jump right into this and get it going.”

Heyman was rewarded with conference player of the year honors and an eighth-round draft selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The chance to jump to the professional ranks this time around proved too good to pass up, so Heyman landed in Hillsboro — perhaps a sign he was meant to play in Oregon, as he had signed with Oregon State last fall.

Once again, Heyman has proven to be a quick study. He took a pitch to the shin in his first game with the Hops but that did not seem to rattle him much.

Two days later, in his second game in a Hops uniform, he collected the first two hits and two RBIs of his professional career. Poignantly, he did so on Father’s Day while using a bat with his father’s name, Kent Heyman, engraved on it. Somehow, the wires had gotten crossed on that Louisville Slugger order, and the father’s name wound up on the bat instead of the son’s.

With his dad listening — Kent Heyman played college baseball and has been following every Hops game on the radio — Heyman delivered the first of what could be many hits in his pro career.

“Having his name on my bat during Father’s Day, I thought that was pretty special,” Heyman said.

On the defensive side of the ball, House described Heyman as a bit of a work in progress, but Heyman said he is committed to getting the job done in the outfield as well.

And clearly, he possesses the ability to become a standout there as well. During the Hops’ first homestand, in one game he made a spectacular catch — look it up on YouTube — despite running face-first into the fence, narrowly missing cracking his head against a post. Since then, padding has been placed around the outfield fence posts.

Of course, this early on, it’s impossible to tell where Heyman will eventually land. With his talent and a measured approached to performance, though, his climb could just be starting.

“Hopefully he can just continue to be the same guy that he is on our team all the way through his career,” House said. “Hopefully he can hit in the middle of the lineup and put up good numbers and produce offensively and be a good outfielder.”

But right now, Heyman doesn’t seem overly vexed about that. He is busy counting himself among the lucky ones.

“I just remember walking up to the box,” Heyman recalled of his first game. “I’m like, ‘I’m being paid to do this. This is crazy.’”

Crazy, yet real.




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