A pair of brothers, a pair of MLB journeys

February 5th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- was pounding Triple-A pitching and moving closer to achieving his life-long dream when he stepped to the plate on July 27 in New Orleans.

Heineman, a rising outfield/first-base prospect in the Rangers' farm system, had an eight-game hitting streak and was batting .388 for the Nashville Sounds. That night, the Baby Cakes battery wanted to bring that to a halt.

Their catcher was older brother , who was trying to get noticed in the Marlins organization two months after getting purchased from the D-backs. Both were chasing the same Major League dream.

This time Scott won. His fourth-inning home run helped lead the Sounds to a 4-2 victory over the Baby Cakes.

“It’s funny,” Scott said. “We had two three-game series against them last year, and he only caught one of the three games. Both games I hit homers. Obviously, he took some heat: ‘Both times you are behind the plate your brother homers? Are you tipping him pitches?’ He was like, ‘Nah, he put a good swing on it.’”

The moment was special, but there was more to come. Before the season was over, parents Steve Heineman and Kathy Lingg -- a retired Santa Monica police lieutenant and an Emmy-nominated television producer -- would see both sons complete their remarkable journey to the Major Leagues.

It’s a great story with the next installment coming this year in Spring Training, with Scott, 27, still playing for the Rangers and 28-year-old Tyler now in the Giants organization.

“Yeah, it has been emotional for sure,” Steve Heineman said. “To see them be so dedicated to it and to know what they go through day in and day out. They love the game. It’s a big part of our lives. It was amazing to see.”

Scott celebrated the home run by having dinner with Tyler and their agent Dan Horwits after the game. Horwits passed along some scuttlebutt for Scott gleaned from Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.

“He said there was nothing set in stone, but there is a 99 percent chance I was going to get called up in a few days,” Scott said. “We didn’t want to put too much into it. But with my agent pretty confident and having talked to [Daniels], it was exciting.”

The call came on Aug 3. Scott joined the Rangers while Tyler remained in Triple-A for a fifth season and fourth organization. Tyler put all that aside and celebrated the news about his younger brother.

“It awesome,” Tyler said. “Somebody asked me if I felt jealous or envious. Not one part of me. Playing professional baseball, you see how hard it is to get to the big leagues. I was just proud and super excited.”

Envy? Jealousy? Those feelings were left behind on the youth fields of Los Angeles, where the two brothers forged a close bond growing up, playing together and competing against each other.

“We definitely had our differences,” Tyler said. “We would fight and compete to get better of the other person. I always wanted to show him that I was the best one. I was tough on him. I always demanded perfection from him, because I always demanded perfection from myself."

Scott said he was fortunate to have an older brother leading the way.

“Everything I did, he had already done,” Scott said. “In terms of him preparing me, it was off the charts. We wanted to be better than the other. It pushed us.”

Tyler’s experiences even showed Scott where to go to high school. Tyler and sister Emily went to Windward School, a prestigious college preparatory competing in the smallest division among California high schools.

It was hard to get noticed there, even for a standout catcher. Scott, after his freshman year, transferred to Crespi Carmelite, a larger Catholic school with a powerhouse baseball program.

Both Heineman boys went to Pac-12 schools. But Tyler, who had some interest from Harvard, walked on at UCLA in 2010 while Scott, two years later, received a scholarship from Oregon.

“UCLA recruited me to be their bullpen catcher,” Tyler said. “They said, you can walk on, be our bullpen catcher and try to work your way up. I played eight games my freshman year. My sophomore year, I basically split time with the other catcher. My junior year, I played every day.”

That season marked the first time Scott and Tyler faced each other on a baseball field. Scott was a freshman when Oregon took two of three games in a series at UCLA. Scott went 0-for-11 at the plate while big brother was 4-for-10.

“I took a lot of heat for that,” Scott said. “With your brother behind the plate and you going hitless... What’s going on?”

That season, Tyler, the former walk-on, was named to the All-Pac 12 team and as a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award for best collegiate catcher. UCLA went to the College World Series, then Tyler was taken by the Astros in the eighth round of the MLB Draft.

Scott had his own trials at Oregon. He was a three-year starter and an All-Star in the 2013 Cape Cod League, where he played for the late John Altobelli on the Brewster Whitecaps. But he missed 34 games as a freshman with a foot injury and almost all his junior year because of shoulder surgery. The Rangers took Scott in the 11th round of the 2015 Draft, but he had to undergo foot surgery before playing his first game.

Scott eventually took off, reaching then-Triple-A affiliate Round Rock in 2018 while being selected as a Pacific Coast League All-Star and the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year. But he required offseason surgery on his left shoulder and missed the first half of last season.

“He has had different battles than I’ve had,” Tyler said. “His has been injuries in college and high school. A lot of stuff, but he’s a mentally stronger person because of it.”

Both Tyler and Scott try to look beyond baseball. A few years ago, the Heineman family found and embraced Gabe Marshall, a young boy in Kansas City who had a brain tumor. They took Gabe to his first Chiefs game as a Christmas present in 2016. The following summer, when Gabe lost his hair due to the cancer treatment, Scott showed his support by shaving his head.

The past two winters, Scott and Tyler have hosted the Prime Time Charity Casino Classic. Team Prime Time provides intervention programs for at-risk children from low-income areas of Los Angeles in academics, athletics, leadership training and the arts.

Others attending the event included Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas. The Heinemans’ event, held Jan. 9 in Santa Monica, involved a night of poker, craps, blackjack and other games. The inaugural event in 2019 brought in $80,000, and it wasn’t because Tyler is a master at performing card tricks and magic shows.

He is, but…

“The side we are really excited about and interested in and love is the athletics part,” Tyler said. “Kids with disabilities are able to play in a league against each others with mentors. It allows them to get the experience of what being on a sports team did for us.”

For Tyler, that meant being given the chance to play professional baseball. But his career slowed down after reaching Triple-A in 2015. He was a switch-hitting catcher with good defensive skills, but without the big arm or power bat. He played in the Arizona Fall League, the Dominican Winter League and went from the Astros to the Brewers, then the D-backs and finally the Marlins last summer without getting the call.

“I’ve had logjams with different organizations,” Tyler said. “Always good enough to stick around, but not performing well enough to push anybody out of a job.”

He wasn’t expecting the call last summer. The Marlins gave Horwits advanced warning Tyler wouldn’t be a September callup despite hitting .335/.400/.590 in 73 games at Triple-A. So, as the final game approached, Tyler shipped his car and almost all his equipment back to Los Angeles and prepared to rejoin his wife Elizabeth.

“I had just two bats with me for the final game,” he said.

Everything changed when Marlins catcher Chad Wallach, on the injured list with concussion symptoms, wasn’t ready to be activated for September. Almost at the last minute, Tyler was told he going to the big leagues.

“It was overwhelming,” Tyler said. “I cried. It shocked me, because they told me I wasn’t going. Once they called me and told me, I got overcome with emotion.”

Tyler went up Sept. 3. His father had planned to go to New York to see Scott play for the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Instead, Steve and Kathy detoured to Pittsburgh.

They missed seeing Scott hit his first home run on Sept. 3 against the Yankees, but they were at PNC Park the next day when Tyler had his first MLB at-bat against the Pirates. Steve was also at Citi Field on Sept. 26 when Tyler hit his first Major League home run against the Mets.

“It was amazing, unbelievable, in a way,” Steve said. “They were always good baseball players, but I was just hoping they would go to college and have fun. People would ask me about the Major Leagues... That was ridiculous.”

The mission now is to stay there, so this will be a crucial Spring Training for both brothers.

Tyler was granted free agency in October after being outrighted by the Marlins. He signed a Minor League deal with the Giants -- his fifth MLB organization -- and he will have a chance to compete for a backup spot behind Buster Posey.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from the best,” Tyler said.

Scott is on the Rangers 40-man roster as the fourth outfielder and backup first baseman on the depth chart. The Rangers could still add another outfielder, but a right-handed hitter who hit .307 with 19 home runs, 82 RBIs and .463 slugging percentage over 149 Triple-A games the past two seasons deserves strong consideration.

“I am crazy excited,” Scott said. “I have worked my tail off this winter. I feel really prepared. I’m excited to get it going.”

The brothers will be in spring camp on opposite sides of Phoenix. The Giants train east in Scottsdale, and the Rangers are in Surprise and the West Valley. Scott and Tyler will try to stay in touch daily and be as supportive as possible while dealing with their own separate challenges.

“The good thing is we have been through it,” Scott said. “Baseball is such a difficult sport. We are obviously praying for one another to be at our best. But when we talk, it isn’t so much about the stuff we can’t control. It’s just more being supportive of each other.”

Tyler said it is simply about wanting the best for his brother while remaining professional about the job.

“This is what we wanted and worked for since we were kids,” Tyler said. “So go out there and put our best foot forward to make the team. We have been training for years and years for this opportunity. It’s important for us to stay focused on that.”

For now, the Heinemans' sequel awaits to be written.