Thursday Lunch: In Memory of Scott Heinig

Posted: April 21, 2011 in baseball, davis, ca
Tags: , , , ,

By Nick Gallaudet

Almost six years after I walked off a baseball field for the last time as his teammate, Scott Heinig died. Growing up in a small community, Scott and I grew up playing baseball together. Both of our fathers were umpires for Davis Little League, and we continued playing together through high school Anyone who has ever played baseball knows the special relationship formed by teammates. There is an unbreakable bond forged on the diamond, and it’s a bond that is never really broken. Every time you see one of your former teammates, it seems like just yesterday you were playing flip in the outfield before practice. I loved every single one of my teammates like a brother and losing one of them shook our community to the foundation.

 

I am not a spiritual person and losing Scott left me with a lot of questions. Why him? Why now? A teammate of ours, Kiel, said that “this couldn’t be less fair,” and he’s right. In all the years I knew Scott, I never heard him put anyone down and every time I saw him, I was greeted with a handshake and smile. You don’t have to spend a lot of time in Davis to understand that I wasn’t the only one Scott treated with respect. Everybody I’ve talked to since his passing had exactly the same thing to say: every time you were with Scott, it was a good time. Scott was also every bit as good a baseball player as he was a person. Scott was a natural; he could pitch, he could hit, he could do it all, but he never let that go to his head. He worked harder than anyone on the team, he earned the right to be called the best, and his teammates noticed; Scott was voted team captain of the UC Davis baseball team his senior year. That’s why it’s so hard to accept what happened. Scott was 22 years old and he had so much in front of him. He was coaching at Davis High; he was giving back to the community that had given so much to him.

 

Since he passed on Sunday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him. Every time I talk to someone about it, I trip over my words; I can’t find the right way to express how I feel, because honestly, I don’t know. The only sentence I can seem to spit out is that it just doesn’t seem real. It can’t be real; this doesn’t happen to such good guys, it doesn’t happen in real life, the charismatic town hero suddenly passing. It’s amazing seeing the community pull together, but I can tell that people are reeling the same way I am. How do you honor someone who has given so much to a city? Friends of his are making shirts and bracelets to remember him, but how do we really pay homage to a guy that has touched so many lives in such a positive way? How do cope with such a tragedy?

 

Baseball is usually how I deal with problems in my life. No matter what is troubling me, when I play baseball, everything plaguing me suddenly disappears. For those three hours on the diamond, my mind is blank, consumed only with whether or not the pitcher is spotting his curveball, or if the leadoff hitter is going to try to lay down a bunt, but this week, my escape has been overrun with thoughts of Scott. It’s hard to forget about someone when 90% of your memories of him involve baseball. In my game last night, all I could think about was the impromptu memorial on the pitcher’s mound at our high school field. I could see the flowers left at shortstop by his slow-pitch softball teammates during their first game without him. I could see his goofy smile every time I closed my eyes. There was no escape that day.

 

The last time I saw Scott, he had just smashed another double off the fence in our slow-pitch softball game. He was far and away the best player in the league, and everybody knew it, but that didn’t stop him from playing every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series. That’s how Scott was, his team could be losing 15-0, but he would still go out there and go through his routine, have a quality at-bat, work the fundamentals, and give everything he had. He always had a respect for the game that had given so much to him, no matter what. Something clicked in my head last night, after I had struck out on three pitches in the first inning. While I was sitting in the dugout and my head wasn’t in the game, I was thinking about the last softball game we played and how he had given 100% in a game that no one would remember, and I asked myself how I could be okay with the fact that I just threw away an at-bat. I know I could never hope to be half the player Scott was, but that moment, I knew that as a baseball player, it was my job to respect the game the way Scott had. It was an insult to the game I loved, and the memory of my baseball brother not to leave everything I had out on the field every time I played.

 

Scott, you will be forever missed, and I wish you could see how many people you’ve touched during your all-too-brief life. It will be impossible not to think of you every time I step out on the dirt, but I’m okay with that. You were a role model, you played the game the way it was meant to be played, and you lived life the way it was meant to be lived. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to understand why you were the one to die, but rest assured, you will never be forgotten, and every time I put on a pair of spikes, I will give it everything I have, because I know that’s what you would have done.

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