Heggen leads Mavericks charge
MISSOULA, Mont. - "I'll tell you what, when I first saw Slade it was in our warehouse," said Missoula Mavericks manager Brent Hathaway of his starting catcher. "He was in 8th grade and he wasn't even sure if he was going to come out and play for the Mavericks that year or not and you could tell at that time that he was going to be a real fine player." Last year as a 16-year-old was Slade Heggen's first year as a Class 'AA' legion player. He was top three in the team in home runs, doubles, triples and stolen bases. And Heggen's only been getting better so far this summer. "I'm finally starting to come and fill out as a player," said Heggen. "I was starting to get stronger and I started lifting more and things just kind of came together." "Well last year he basically caught," says Hathaway about Heggen's progression. "I mean he played the position and he played it very well. This year you can tell that he is our leader on the field." With Heggen's overall speed on the bases and athleticism in general, it's not uncommon for people to be surprised that his position is catcher. "I kind of love that people don't know a lot about the position because it's not very fancy," laughs Heggen. "I'm not viewed as one because I'm not thick... I'm not giant and I don't have giant shoulders. And I can move, I can run you know. And that's just such a stereotype that I love breaking through because catchers are one of the hardest positions on the field because they've got to deal with some of the craziest pitching in the world." "Everything he does at the position is quality," said Hathaway about Heggen's abilities behind the dish. "I mean he's a great receiver. He handles the pitchers well. On balls in the dirt, everything stays in front and throwing to bases... He continues to get better and more impressive all the time." Besides his success at the American Legion level, Heggen has spent a lot of time traveling to national tournaments and showcases all across the country and he's been doing extremely well. "Going down to these events like the Metrodome in Minnesota and doing well and hitting well is huge because they're like okay this kid can actually play against our competition that we see in California," said the 17-year old Missoula Loyola student. Now not only is Heggen expected to be selected in nest year's Major League Baseball draft but the Division One baseball offers are rolling in from programs like Duke, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Washington State and even Oregon. "I kind of have the ability to choose where I want to go and it's something that I never even thought I was going to have the luxury to do. So it's really cool." Heggen says the only thing better than getting scholarship opportunities from baseball is the fact that he's going to be able to continue to play the sport he loves at the next level. "Baseball has always meant... It's just been my life, ever since I was a kid. Every other sport I tried to just reaffirmed my love for the game." "You've got to play this game with basically an attitude of no fear," says Hathaway. "And you know that you're going to fail more than you're going to be successful." "It is a game of failure," agrees Heggen. "It's taught me in life that no matter what you can keep working and the sun comes up every day."