From Joel Sherman today on Yankees prospect Slade Heathcott -
Before he left his teenage years, Heathcott had pointed a rifle at his stepfather, experienced a gun pointed at him during a drunken escapade, lived out of his pickup truck for part of his high school years with his father in jail and his mother having left town, enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous and received $2.2 million as the Yankees’ 2009 first-round draft pick, 29th overall.
But Heathcott will tell you the key date of his teenage years — his life — was April 4, 2010.
He will mention the date several times in a conversation in which he calls an reporter nothing but “sir” and never loses eye contact. He will talk with a passion about April 4, 2010, that will, by comparison, make beating out a routine grounder in a meaningless game or running into a wall in batting practice seem devoid of emotion.
April 4, 2010, was the day Heathcott entered Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa and, he says, surrendered to Jesus Christ, beginning a transformation from “making dumb, immature decisions” to “trying every day to be, well, the All-American guy.”
Boy, do the Yankees need that version of Slade Heathcott, All-American.
Then there are those troubling incidents from his youth that have made Slade Heathcott a human red flag.
“He has a huge upside but also a lot of risk,” an NL personnel man said. “I am happy he found God and wish him the best, but given the past, it is scary because those demons are always lurking. I am rooting for the kid, and if it all comes together he could be the next big player for the New York Yankees.”
Heathcott comes from dysfunction. He describes his stepfather, Jeff, as in a bad phase on drugs during Heathcott’s junior year in high school. It was during that time when Heathcott pointed a rifle at his stepfather in the family home. He cites “immaturity and terrible decision makings” to explain the alcohol stupor that led him to get lost, break a window in a home, slash his upper arm doing so and have the house owner pull a gun on him.
He talks about that immaturity a lot to describe trying to find the answer in a bottle, a condition that followed and haunted him in his early time with the Yankees — which is why the organization hooked Heathcott up with Sam Marsonek, a former first-round pick of the Yankees who admits to a similar background before finding God.
Heathcott entered Alcoholics Anonymous and, soon after — on that fateful April 4, 2010 — the church.
“That,” Marsonek recalls now in a phone conversation, “was the moment that God changed his heart. He gave [Heathcott] direction, guidance and purpose to where it is not just about Slade anymore. Before, he was a reckless kid starving for attention. He didn’t get it at home growing up. Once he found out what he was here for, it changed his focus from himself to trying to serve the Lord.”
Plenty of scoundrels have used religion for cover or found temporary salvation before descending back to their demons. Nevertheless, Heathcott now is nearly three years into this transition, and so far the transition has left the Yankees believing a talented kid will be able to handle New York, The Show, The Major League Life.
Hey, it worked for Josh Hamilton…so far. That said, some may debate that dependency is dependency, whether it’s on food, gambling, drugs, sex, booze or religion. And, it’s a character issue that is better fixed at the root cause than by making a swap – subbing something for another. And, if it cannot be addressed, then cut bait and let someone else deal with it.