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Catcher impresses D-backs camp with magic

Heineman draws audience including Lovullo, Hazen with card tricks
@SteveGilbertMLB
March 1, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tyler Heineman still remembers the first time he pulled off a card trick in the clubhouse. It was 2015, and the D-backs non-roster catcher was in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball and looking to bridge the language barrier. Heineman’s dad had taught him a few card

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tyler Heineman still remembers the first time he pulled off a card trick in the clubhouse.

It was 2015, and the D-backs non-roster catcher was in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball and looking to bridge the language barrier. Heineman’s dad had taught him a few card tricks as a kid, and he decided they might be a good icebreaker.

“I showed them a very simple trick and they freaked out,” Heineman said of his teammates. “I was like, ‘Man, I really like the reaction.’ So, I went home that night went to YouTube and tried to learn some basic magic stuff and continued to do it and got better reactions, and that got me hooked. Over time, you read books, you watch DVDs, you listen to shows and stuff like that where people talk about card manipulation stuff, and it just became a hobby.”

Using the word hobby to describe his act is kind of a misnomer.

After all, it’s not easy to capture and keep the attention of a bunch of professional baseball players, especially during the early mornings that come with Spring Training, but as soon as Heineman pulls out a deck of cards, a crowd will quickly gather around him.

“I just got my mind blown for 30 minutes,” D-backs right-hander Joey Krehbiel said. “This is going to be an everyday thing, so I hope he’s got a bunch of tricks, because I’ve got the days.”

That shouldn’t be a problem as Heineman is now able to spin about 20 of his go-to tricks into 100 different variations.

Word of Heineman’s act quickly reached the office of manager Torey Lovullo, who asked for a private showing. So impressed, Lovullo later called Heineman into the coach’s conference room to put on a show for the coaching staff, the front office and eventually general manager Mike Hazen.

Heineman is used to being asked to perform, with his wife’s friends often asking to see the tricks during parties and get-togethers, but he hasn’t turned it into a side business -- yet.

“It’s off the charts,” Lovullo said. “I try and drag him into the coach’s room as often as possible to do his thing. It’s probably hard, because he’s on display for all the players and then he’s got to be on display for all the coaches. But we certainly enjoy it. It brings a certain degree of laughter to the room, which I love, but the card tricks are really good. Like, he’s got a future in it.”

For now, Heineman is focused on his baseball future. His chances of making the Opening Day roster are slim given that the D-backs will likely carry Alex Avila, Carson Kelly and John Ryan Murphy to start the year with veteran Caleb Joseph possibly starting out in Triple-A Reno due to his Minor League options.

A standout at UCLA, Heineman was selected by the Astros in the eighth round of the 2012 Draft. After five years in the Astros organization, he spent the past two with the Brewers before signing with the D-backs as a Minor League free agent.

While there are a lot of games in baseball each year, there is also a ton of downtime spent in clubhouses, buses, planes and hotel rooms. For Heineman, working on his card tricks became a way to pass the time, and he devoured books, DVDs and YouTube videos.

“The more that you dive into it the more intricate things become,” he said. “It becomes a very big test of time and a lot of repetition.”

Heineman will put on his show in the clubhouse, but practice is strictly in private because he doesn’t want to give away his secrets, even as teammates continue to watch for slip-ups that never seem to happen.

“It’s fun for me,” Heineman said. “Everyone likes magic. Everyone likes trying to figure out things that seem impossible if they’re staring right at you. It’s kind of just a fun thing that people enjoy seeing. And then when one person enjoys it, they bring more people and they try to figure out how to do it.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.