Senior Spotlight: Freeport pitcher picks up an old hobby to pass time during quarantine
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 | 12:37 PM
Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s taking long walks around Freeport with his family, he’s playing video games with friends and he even picked up an old hobby of collecting baseball cards. His collection isn’t a small one either.
Heilman said he has three-ring binders full of 8,000 to 10,000 cards, and during this quarantine he pulled the best one of his collection.
“I’ve just been going crazy during this quarantine, I’ll tell you that much,” Heilman said. “It’s like there’s nothing really else to do so you kind of just pick up some old hobbies and you just go with it. I think it’s a blast. I mean I pulled a Frank Thomas autographed rookie card in a Topps hobby box. So, I was pretty happy about that.”
Over the past few seasons, Heilman has been a key to Freeport’s success. Last season, he led the Yellowjackets to a WPIAL Class 3A No. 1 seed when he posted a record of 9-2 and a 0.67 ERA over 73 innings. He also struck out 107 batters.
Their run to the state tournament was one Heilman said he’ll never forget.
“That was a wild ride; it was really fun and the whole community kind of rallied behind us,” Heilman said. “I think it was certainly unexpected by a lot of people, but our team thought we could do it. I mean thinking it and doing it are two different things. So, it was kind of cool to put our thoughts into action.”
Last season made Heilman even more excited for his final high school campaign alongside his classmates, before it was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. But even that hasn’t stopped the Mercyhurst recruit from working on his craft.
“I’m staying in tune pretty well, at least to the best I can,” Heilman said. “So we’re definitely keeping everything in check right now. I’ve been focusing on getting better with my changeup. I only threw it a handful of times last year, and I want that to be a strong pitch in my arsenal.”
What’s your best memory from playing baseball for Freeport?
It has to be the section title game against Deer Lakes.
After last season, what were you looking forward to most for your senior season?
I was looking forward to having the crowds and the community behind us again. A lot of people in the school were coming up to me and talking to me about baseball and saying they were excited to come out to the park and show their support. So, I was really looking forward to that.
If you could face any hitter, who would it be?
I’d have to say Ronald Acuna Jr. He’s the definition of a five-tool player.
With the game on the line, would you rather be on the mound or at the plate?
I’d say on the mound because I pride myself on not letting the elements affect my performance. But that being said, I’d like to be at the plate with the game on the line too.
What’s your strikeout pitch?
What’s your favorite sports moment as a fan?
It has to be the Wild Card game with the Pirates and the Cueto chants.
What have you been doing while you’re stuck at home?
Just doing a lot of batting practice with my brother, and I’ve been playing some video games with friends. During the school year, with sports and homework and all that, you don’t get much time to do that. So it’s kind of cool to just play video games with friends.
What stuck out about Mercyhurst for you?
It was one of a select few schools that I saw myself going too, even if I wasn’t playing baseball. A lot of the schools had great baseball programs and great academics. But, with Mercyhurst, I felt like I belonged when I stepped on campus. I just saw myself fitting with the team, academically, and being involved with the student life.
Do you have any idea what you want to major in?
Something in business.
If you could choose anyone to give a commencement speech at your graduation, who would it be?
I think it has to be David Ortiz.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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