David Heintz didn’t touch a baseball for nearly five months.
A remarkable feat within itself for a baseball player.
“After (Tommy John) surgery, when you can’t pick a ball up for four to five months, that’s the longest,” the 2011 Bishop McLaughlin graduate said of the surgery he had his senior year after he committed to the University of Tampa. “But this past year was the first time I felt fully healthy headed into the season and felt all the rehab had paid off.”
It more than paid off as the 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher went 10-0 with a 2.12 ERA, 61 Ks, 19 walks and no homers allowed for the 54-4 Spartans that fell short of defending their Division II baseball national championship title. Heintz was part of the championship team in 2013 when he went 4-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings as a reliever. But he credits this past season’s success to the faith coach Joe Urso showed him.
“I will always be grateful to coach Urso because he didn’t have to still give me a scholarship after surgery,” Heintz said. “I actually didn’t know what would happen and (this past fall) was the first time I was able to really let a few (pitches) go and not be afraid (of re-injuring myself). Finally, my first and only concern was getting outs.”
Heintz was named to first-team honors on the Sunshine State Conference team, but now returns for his fourth season as a redshirt-junior to make a dynamic 1-2 duo with fellow-starter and Durant-grad Trey Oest, who was 9-0 with a 2.43 ERA and 45 Ks.
“I always thought David was a front-line guy, but coming off the surgery I didn’t know what to expect,” Urso said. “He worked hard to get back and when Trey needed time off with tendinitis, David stepped up into the Friday starter spot seamlessly. Headed into next season, we feel like we have two No. 1s to throw at a weekend series.”
Urso said he recruited Heintz not only on his physical size, but his curveball. However, Urso says Heintz have developed tremendously as a pitcher, including perfecting a changeup and now throwing a hard slider that reaches 92 mph.
“The numbers speak for themselves, but if he stays healthy, then he has the size and arm strength pro scouts are looking for,” Urso said of Heintz’s chances at being drafted after next season. “He is the perfect example of a kid coming back from Tommy John surgery and being successful.”
Originally, Heintz never knew Tampa Spartan baseball existed until friends told him and he saw that they’d been very successful, including six national titles, the latest Heintz helped win. But as he became more of Urso’s gameplan, he realized Tamps had been and will be successful. That means lofty goals for the starting pitcher and his teammates.
“The way they coach, the way Urso recruits, they’ll always have a great team,” Heintz said. “It’s unbelievable what they’ve been able to do and what we’ve done in the past few years. … We don’t really have boundaries when it comes to goals. We feel we have a shot to go back to North Carolina (home of the Division II World Series) and we hope to make it out on top this season.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.