Players' Weekend all about friends for Heineman

Rangers outfielder will sport 'Skaggs' and 'Big Mike' on his jerseys

August 22nd, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Outfielder will honor the memory of two special friends during Players’ Weekend when the Rangers play the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Heineman will be wearing “Skaggs” on the back of his jersey on Friday night in memory of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Then, Heineman will switch to “Big Mike” on Saturday and Sunday in honor of Mike Huetter, his best friend growing up in Santa Monica, Calif.

“I wish I didn’t have to wear either jersey,” Heineman said.

That’s because both have passed away. The memory is painful, but Heineman was close to them and said he will never forget what they meant to him.

“The fact that I am wearing the names of two guys that I love and grew up with, and consider family, I think it’s pretty special,” Heineman said. “I feel like they will be with me on that day and I’m not just playing for myself and my team. I am playing for something bigger. That’s pretty cool.”

They all grew up together just outside Los Angeles. Heineman and Skaggs competed against each other in the Santa Monica Little League. Heineman doesn’t mind pointing out that his team emerged victorious twice in the championship game. His dad, Steve Heineman, was the coach. Skaggs’ mother Debbie was a longtime softball coach at Santa Monica High who didn’t miss her son’s games.

“My dad and his mom became really close because my dad was my coach of my Little League and Debbie was a phenomenal softball player, “Heineman said. “She was always at the park. Tyler and I became really close.

“In Little League, you get a bunch of kids who are there to have fun and enjoy the Little League experience, and you have guys who are really dedicated. Those guys bond together to get better. That’s how we got close.”

Skaggs was selected by the D-backs in the 2009 MLB Draft. Heineman was a few years behind him and went to the University of Oregon, getting drafted by the Rangers in 2015.

At the time, Heineman’s older brother Tyler, who played at UCLA and was now in the Angels' organization, was working out with Skaggs and others at Pepperdine University. Scott Heineman was invited to join them and he kept coming back every winter since then. Skaggs was there, too.

“We were together working out in the offseason, talking baseball, talking life. I learned so much from him about everything,” Heineman said. “He was a pretty special person.”

Heineman was sitting in the Triple-A Nashville Sounds clubhouse on the afternoon of July 1 when he heard the news. The Angels were in Texas to play the Rangers that night when Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room.

“I was in shock,” Heineman said. “I didn’t really believe it to be true. Immediately, I called some of our close friends who were in that workout group and found out that it was true. He was such a big part of my life. I love him and miss him, wearing [his name] on the back of my jersey will be like he is on the field with me.”

That was not the first time Heineman received heartbreaking news. Three years earlier, Michael Huetter was discovered dead at the age of 23 while housesitting for a friend and his family.

“He was my best friend growing up,” Heineman said. “We did everything together, I think from age 10, we were playing ball. Went to the same middle school and the same high school. His brother was best friends with my brother. That was a tough. He was a good, really good player, but he had some other interests. He could have had some opportunities to play ball, but he went to USC for film.”

To have two close friends pass away at such a young age can be a life-changing experience.

“I think it makes me look at the big picture more,” Heineman said. “We put baseball on such a pedestal. But when things are going well, there’s always the perspective of looking at the bigger picture of how lucky I am to be alive and fortunate because you never know.

“Both of these guys were special to me and I wanted to make sure they are remembered this weekend.”