In baseball, being a pitcher means being responsible to set the tone of a game and lead the team from the mound. Along with the pressure to take down batters, constantly using the upper body and shoulders makes pitchers more prone to arm injuries. In the case of junior pitcher David Heintz, overcoming an injury to make it to the top of the Spartans roster was what started his journey playing for UT. With a father in the military, Heintz and his family were stationed in many different places when Heintz was a child. While stationed in Korea, Heintz began playing tee ball at the age of three. His love for the game grew over the years as he ventured back to the United States and played baseball through middle school and high school, also playing a few years on an AAU travel team.
Attending high school in Tampa, FL, Heintz got his offer from the University of Tampa after a scout from St. Petersburg College attended a game where Heintz reached a pitch at 93 mph for the first time, and called up Spartans’ Head Coach Joe Urso to share the news.
“Three hours after I had finally reached 93 mph, I got a call from Urso saying that he was interested in getting me down on the field for a tryout,” Heintz said.
Accepting the offer to play as a Spartan, Heintz suffered an elbow injury right out of high school and had to undergo surgery, forcing him to redshirt his freshman season. “Being injured was a downer,” Heintz said. “ I was at school and baseball was my escape from that. It was tough not being able to contribute to the team and being happy if I threw the ball thirty feet.”
Going through rehab three days a week and progressively working on strengthening his rotator cuff and elbow, the coaching staff worked with Heintz to steadily help him get him to come back. “It actually worked out pretty good in the end,” said pitching coach Sam Militello. “While he was rehabbing, we were able to go slow with his mechanics and development and I think that played a really big part for him in creating a slow but solid foundation in his delivery of a pitch.”
Heintz was well enough to play his sophomore season and made his pitching debut that year.
“My first college debut, I was extremely nervous. I hadn’t thrown a game pitch in over a year,” Heintz said. “Not only did I have to get back into the swing of playing, but I had to do it at the highest level and was nervous about how my arm was going to feel.”
The rest of the season was up and down for Heintz as he was not happy with the way he was playing in the beginning of the season. Yet, towards the end, he was hitting at the highest velocity he ever had, contributing to the team going to the 2013 Division II World Series that year.
“I didn’t know much about UT out of high school,” Heintz said. “Buddies of mine would always tell me what a good program it was and how they won a lot, so to actually win a World Series the first season I was able to participate was an incredible experience.”
Now a junior and veteran on the team, the current season is all about keeping himself healthy on and off the field. “During the season you try to stick to a routine, you know when you’re going to start so you have the seven days between starts to workout, keep up with rehab and running, and stick to the physical and nutritional part of it while doing schoolwork, it’s more maintenance,” Heintz said.
As far as being a leader on the mound, Heintz works with the other pitchers to attack and take down batters at the plate. “Heintz has been in the program for four years and knows the program in and out, a lot of the guys follow him. He leads by example and shows some of these other guys that come in what it takes how to go about the process everyday,” Militello said.
Along with being an example to the other pitchers, Heintz has also aids his other teammates in taking home wins.
“Dave is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever played with,” said senior captain Stephen Dezzi. “We came in as freshmen and I always remember him being super quiet and the type of guy that works hard with his head down. He’s an absolutely bulldog on the mound.”
With a possible future of opportunities getting drafted and going on to play professional baseball after UT, Heintz is living in the now and taking his team to another World Series.
“The focus right now is getting back to carrying a national championship,” Heintz said. “I try to stay in the present moment as much as possible even though future thoughts come up. I realize that maybe this could be my last year of college baseball so I want to enjoy these moments while I can.”
Regina Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org