Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This past Friday, Slade Heathcott finally made his debut with the Big League club – getting the start in center field and batting ninth in the order.  It had been a long road for the 24-year-old who had been drafted in 2009 out of high school.  He’s suffered a number of much-documented setbacks along the way, but May 22nd will always mark the culmination of his perseverance in realizing a dream.
He made the most of his opportunity.
Heathcott found himself in the Bronx the result of Jacoby Ellsbury’s most recent DL stint, and his first at-bat came in the third inning against the Texas Rangers’ Colby Lewis, who had shut the Yankees out to that point.  With the count even at 2-2, Heathcott lined Lewis’s next offering in the gap between left and center.  Head down and running all-out, in spite of the center fielder cutting the ball off before it could reach the wall, the Baby Bomber dove head-first (the only way Heathcott knows how to play) safely into second base for a double.  He would finish the night 2 for 3 and make a couple of nice catches – chasing down fly balls in the outfield.  In spite of the loss (it would end up 10 – 9), the day was a success for Slade, his family and friends.

A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Slade’s grandfather, Byron Cogle.  It was my intent to put together a Father’s Day piece featuring Cogle and Slade.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to talk with Slade yet, and the article remains part of my “to do” list for BYB.  Still, my half-hour discussion with Byron remains one of my favorite interviews because of its sincerity.  Mr. Cogle genuinely exudes pride in his grandson, telling me that Slade “is living my dream” and explaining that Heathcott’s heart is what makes him so different from the millions of other boys that hope to one day play professional baseball. 
As Slade stood upon second base last Friday, the camera panned over to his family in the stands.  I immediately spotted Byron, camera in hand and wearing a Yankees cap.  I watched his reaction as they replayed his grandson’s hit.  While those sitting with him stood and celebrated, Byron initially kept his camera pointed at Heathcott, then with a big smile on his face, pounded the bar in front of him with enthusiasm.  MLB’s video of the moment can be seen here.

Because of my interview with him, I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Cogle’s contact information on my phone, and sent a text to his email:
“Congrats Byron!! You must be so proud!

His reply just seconds later:
“Buddy I am on cloud nine”

It was a great moment for Slade’s family, and I was honored that Byron would even reply to me from his place in the stands.
Heathcott started Saturday’s game as well, picking up another hit and getting his first MLB RBI.  It was during this game that the broadcast team of Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill praised Heathcott, pointing out the injuries he has overcome as well as commenting on the picture-perfect swing that Slade has.  But, it wasn’t comments about Heathcott that caught my attention so much as what they mentioned about Bernie Williams.

In their discussion about the many attributes Bernie brought to the table, Kay pointed out that it was Williams who “broke the ice” for the Core Four.  He made the argument that because Bernie was brought up and became a success, it made it easier for Yankees management to bring up other minor leaguers (Jeter, Posada, Petitte and Rivera) in following seasons.  Had Bernie not turned into the star he became, the organization might have hesitated with putting others in “the show”. 
That got me thinking about what Slade Heathcott might mean to our club.  We all know that GM Brian Cashman treats his minor leaguers like lepers – using them primarily as trade bait to acquire older veterans.  Lately, players like Heathcott only get their shot if one of Cashman’s aging interests happens to come up lame.  The fact remains that Heathcott does now have his shot – his golden ticket – and it honestly might be a golden ticket for others still at Scranton, Trenton, Charleston, etc…

Skill-wise, it would be unfair to compare Heathcott to Bernie.  After all, Slade just has two games under his belt.  But, in terms of what Heathcott might mean to the team’s future, they could be very similar.  Should the outfielder do well enough to “stick” at the Major League level, will that provide more “leniency” in how other minor leaguers like Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, or Ramon Flores are treated?  Can it at least open the door a crack for them to make it to the show?
Only time, and Heathcott’s performance, will tell.  It is impossible to read Brian Cashman’s mind, God knows I’ve tried to understand his reasoning on a number of matters to no avail. 
Regardless, I’ve been following Slade Heathcott’s career for some time now and am a huge fan.  He plays the way I think the game should be played – a combination of grace and grit, letting nothing get in his way.  I have a feeling we are going to be watching Slade patrol our outfield for years to come, and I hope that like Bernie, he opens the door for another Yankees golden age.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

You've made BYB the fastest growing Yankees fan site in history. Now shop at the Bleeding Yankee Blue store!  Follow me on Twitter @BleednYankeeBlu and LIKE Bleeding Yankee Blue on Facebook!  Also, don't forget to check out the BYB Hub.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting on Bleeding Yankee Blue.