The Nanaimo NightOwls’ new pitching coach visited Vancouver Island for the first time this month and had a look at Serauxmen Stadium. The baseball diamond doesn’t resemble what it’s expected to look like on opening day next summer – it doesn’t even have any outfield fencing right now.
And yet coach Gorman Heimueller can imagine what it might be like when there’s baseball under the lights – the kind of “magical” atmosphere that takes him back to his childhood, going to L.A. Dodgers games with his dad, a ball glove on one hand and a hot dog in the other.
“That’s something that’s never left me. That little boy in me still is there,” said Heimueller, who turns 66 this week.
He comes to the NightOwls with big-league credentials, having pitched his way to Major League Baseball in the 1980s, when he spent parts of two seasons with the Oakland Athletics. Since his playing days, he’s been a pitching coach or coordinator with four MLB organizations and has three World Series rings.
Every year, Heimueller has worked with players drafted out of college, but the NightOwls will be his first experience coaching at the college level.
“Coaching’s coaching. I kid that I can still communicate with the young players as long as we don’t talk about music,” joked the pitching coach. “You can’t fake caring about somebody and if you do, the kids pick it up in a second and your credibility’s shot.”
The idea of working with college players who have pro aspirations is appealing for Heimueller. He’ll draw from his personal experience of playing college ball, never getting drafted, being told he wasn’t good enough, yet persevering to get to the big leagues by doing everything he could to “realize a dream.”
Heimueller, who never had an overpowering fastball, said he tries to instill in players that it’s up to them to try to determine what they can and can’t do; it’s not up to a pitching coach or a baseball organization or a radar gun.
“The guy with the bat that’s trying to get a hit off you, he’s going to let you know if you’re good enough or not … If you keep getting them out, you’ll be successful,” Heimueller said.
He said he’s going to enjoy working alongside manager Greg Frady next summer when the NightOwls take the field for their inaugural West Coast League ball season. Heimueller said it will be fulfilling to him to see players get better individually and as a team.
“Everybody wants to be in the big leagues, everyone wants to move up, but ultimately, I want to help them be the best they can be, whatever it is,” he said.
The NightOwls’ inaugural WCL season will start in late spring. For more information, visit http://nanaimonightowls.com.