Heathcott Changing His Mindset

SCRANTON, PA - A lot has been made in recent weeks about how healthy Slade Heathcott has looked and how great a shape he reported in this year at Spring Training. While those two factors have been huge indeed there's been another reason why he has looked so good in 2015 thus far and he says it has a lot to do with his changing mindset.

For most baseball players April is a sign of a new beginning but for Slade Heathcott that new beginning came in the offseason. He has dealt with many injuries in his career causing him to play in only nine games last year for the Treton Thunder. For the first time in seemingly a long time Heathcott has broken camp with a team. Usually he would stay behind in Tampa and rehab but this year, perhaps for the first time in his career, he is feeling 100 percent at the start of the season and he says he has put his history of injuries behind him.

“If you’re looking into the past or the future you aren’t locked into the current situation, and I think that’s a key for me as a person and as an athlete,” Heathcott said.

Since his first round selection back in 2009 Heathcott has had five surgeries but his most recent knee surgery took the biggest toll on him mentally and it changed his outlook on life in general. Rather than dwelling on his own misfortunes he started reading a leadership book and he found out that he was going to be a father too. All of those things made him thankful about everything he has in life and he now realizes how negative he was before the injuries.

“You only get out what you put in and the negativity wasn’t helping,” he said rather philosophically.

He also spoke about being in the best shape of his life and how he changed his workout routine based on the fact that he wasn’t sure if he would ever play baseball again.

“I told myself if that’s the case I’m going to do everything possible to give myself the best chance to come back," he said. "That’s when I changed my diet, my sleeping pattern and my workout to make every workout I do relate back to the game.”

He worked in the offseason to ensure he was sleeping better, going for at least eight hours each night, but as the season progresses he knows this will be a new challenge.

“I have to get on a schedule where I’m up early getting my reading in and stretching, and getting ready to play before I [even] get here.”

Changing his workout routine, his sleep patterns, his eating habits, and just his lifestyle in general are all major changes. One big rudimentary change to Heathcott, however, one that ties everything together, is he is seeking to eliminate all negativity and all excuses.

“Winners get the job done regardless," Heathcott said boldly. "A guy like [Derek] Jeter, he just wins, no excuses. [Guys like him] figure out how to get the job done.”

Another thing Heathcott is trying to do is get negative words out of his vocabulary all together.

“Saying the season is a grind, the word 'can’t', and all excuses,” he listed as things he will no longer be saying.

He thinks it could be something that the team does together eventually, to eliminate negative words. He likes the idea of eliminating excuses because it puts the focus back on the individual and that’s the best way to get better.

The changing of his mindset and his offseason workouts has had a great effect so far on Heathcott this spring as he hit .333/.450/.545. The Yankees noticed his great spring and awarded him the James P. Dawson Award, given annually to an outstanding Yankees rookie in Spring Training camp, and it's a big reason that despite being seemingly destined to head back to Double-A Trenton to start his 2015 campaign that he finds himself opening up in Triple-A.

On the field Heathcott feels no pain in his knee which has given him a lot of confidence too. While he’s in Scranton Heathcott would like to improve his mental approach at the plate as well.

“As a hitter you aren’t going to hit the ball hard if you’re chasing pitches.”

He’s focusing on his approach at the plate and not trying to give away at-bats. His approach is simple; if he sees a pitch he likes swing at it, if not let it go. That approach is a good one for Heathcott. In 2013 he had an on base percentage of .327 in 399 at-bats and that on-base percentage needs to be a lot higher if he wants to see the Bronx this year.

But that was also two years ago and if Spring Training is any indication he has a great chance of seeing a lot of improvement given the fact he is trying to reinvent himself in nearly every aspect of the game and in his life.

Heathcott has a lot of competition in the outfield with Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin. All three should play every day but those two are probably ahead of Heathcott on the depth chart given the fact that both are on the 40-man roster and Heathcott no longer is. Manager Dave Miley, however, is very happy to have the opportunity to coach a player like Heathcott.

“He’s a player," Miley said. "He has abundance of tools. I love watching him play because he plays the game the right way.”

With a new mindset for Heathcott and a healthy body, if he can stay healthy this year a big year could be on the horizon.

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