Heim returns to Buffalo; Gallo talks HRD exit

July 16th, 2021

Like anyone who doesn’t return home very often, Jonah Heim has a list of comfort-food spots he needs to hit.

He’s already been to Jim’s Steakout for a chicken finger sub -- mild sauce, lettuce, tomato and mayo -- a favorite for both him and his wife, as well as The Original Pancake House for breakfast. Later this weekend, he’ll likely dine postgame at Giancarlo’s Sicilian Steakhouse and take his father-in-law to Duff’s Famous Wings for a birthday meal.

Trips to Buffalo, N.Y., are exceptionally rare for Heim during the baseball season, but this year, the opportunity was created for him. As the Blue Jays remain stateside during the pandemic, their temporary home created a unique homecoming for the Rangers’ rookie catcher.

“It’s something crazy,” Heim said. “Never actually thought it would happen in the big leagues.”

Sahlen Field is typically home to the Buffalo Bisons, Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate. When Heim was a youngster growing up in the area, he enjoyed going to Sahlen Field to watch the Bisons play.

He recalled once seeing a bullpen session in which the speed of the balls being thrown and caught amazed him.

“Now, to think back, that’s what I do for a living,” Heim said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

He added that this weekend’s series will feature “more family out there than I can even count,” including his entire immediate family and plenty of out-of-towners. His former travel coach, Justin Santonocito, plans on being in the seats for every game.

The support of those closest to Heim helped make his rise to the Majors possible. And thanks to the Blue Jays’ temporary relocation, a big league dream lived out at home is now possible, too.

“It’s definitely gonna be a dream come true, in a way,” Heim said. “I mean, I never knew I had this dream, but getting here being a player -- it’s definitely a dream come true.”

Gallo’s first Derby might not be his last

Some of the buzz entering this year’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby was due to its location: Denver, the Mile High City, where the elevated altitude was expected to help baseballs soar into the seats. One of the altitude’s unsung attributes, though, was its ability to tire out the Derby contenders.

“It is a little bit tougher in Colorado, altitude-wise and swing-wise,” said Joey Gallo, a first-time Derby participant. “I think that kind of took a toll on a lot of guys.”

Gallo wasn’t using the playing conditions as an excuse for his first-round exit, after he lost a nail-biter to the hometown favorite, Trevor Story. But he knows he wasn’t alone in feeling the effects of the thin air.

After Gallo was eliminated, Shohei Ohtani, the No. 1 seed, asked the Rangers slugger how he felt.

“I was like, ‘It’s tiring, man. You’re gonna have to pace yourself out,’” Gallo said. “He came back in and he was looking at me like, ‘Yeah, it’s really tiring.’”

Before the event, Gallo told reporters he wanted to participate in “at least one” Derby, and now that box is checked. Understandably, he was disappointed with his early exit, and perhaps that could motivate him to try again.

“It is a fun show, man. They do such a great job of hyping it up and making it this big event,” he said. “I think maybe one day in the future, I’ll have to try it again and try to redeem myself a little bit.”