Yesterday turned out to be quite the day for the Yankees’ first round draft pick from 2009. When the Yankees drafted Slade Heathcott, there were all kinds of rumors about how other teams had passed on the outfield prospect due to “character issues” and a “troubled past.” Speculation swirled that his parents had been jailed for drug offenses, but the Yankees seemed reassured that Heathcott would not be a problem and was worth the risk.
Yesterday, Gene Sapakoff of the Post and Courier finally got to the bottom of the story, which turned out to be a lot uglier than initial indications. I strongly urge you all to read that article if you haven’t, it is well worth the read, but I will give you a quick synopsis. Heathcott was quickly drawing comparison’s to Josh Hamilton. A tough home life led the teenager to escaping with alcohol, a problem that became apparent early on in his professional career. The Yankees got Heathcott to go to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and hooked him up with a high coach and former professional pitcher, Sam Marsonek, who took the young kid under his wing. Heathcott seems to have really turned around, and has been killing it in Charleston this year, both offensively and defensively.
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Hopefully, this story will continue towards a feel-good ending, much like Hamilton’s seems to have, however, it did hit a bump in the road last night. The Charleston RiverDogs were playing the Greenville Drive (interestingly, the Drive is the Red Sox affiliate). After a rain delay, Heathcott was up to bat and on the second pitch was plunked in the shoulder. He immediately turned around decked Drive catcher Christian Vazquez and soon both benches had cleared into a brawl. You can see the brawl caught via Youtube here, if you so desire. Looking at the reaction from Heathcott, you have to imagine that the catcher said something, most likely dealing with the article released earlier in the day. Regardless, a big suspension is on its’ way for one of the RiverDogs best players, and there is no doubt he will deserve what he gets. As far as the game went, both the Drive pitcher and Heathcott were immediately ejected and the Drive choose to pull Vazquez and another player. The RiverDogs went on to win, picking up their third straight victory in what has been a tough season for them so far.
While the brawl may detract from the morning’s story about Heathcott, it is probably being made into something bigger because of the timing. I have little doubt that there is some correlation between the events, though if this becomes a common occurrence it will not bode well for Heathcott’s future in baseball. The fact of the matter is, while Heathcott may have turned things around, it is still early and he is going to have a long way to go if he is going to be the next “against all odds” baseball story. It sounds like he has the commitment and the Yankees are trying to give him a support system to help him along the way (they have made a big investment in the kid after all). My inner optimist thinks this could be a good thing for Heathcott in the end, he knows that the spotlight is on him and he is going to need to learn how to deal with that and whatever anger issues he has from his past. Better he learn from these mistakes early on and before the spotlight gets too big. I hope he does, as it sounds like he will be a fun player to watch.