For Mount Vernon Nazarene College junior pitcher Andy Heimbach, Wednesday was no ordinary day for the Wheelersburg, Ohio native. When the 1999 Major League Baseball draft began at 1:00 p.m., time seemed to creep slowly by.
Heimbach, along with several family members and friends, eagerly waited for the phone to ring. After one prank call and several from people wanting to know if he had been drafted yet, the wait was finally over when the phone rang just shortly after 4:00 p.m.
"Do you have red socks?" asked the caller on the other end of the line. Heimbach was not sure how to respond, but soon learned that the Boston Red Sox had just selected him with their eighth round pick - the 259th selection overall.
"I was really glad when the call finally came," said Heimbach. "As the afternoon went on, I started to get a little nervous. I am pleased about where I was selected, and the Red Sox are a quality organization."
"I am absolutely thrilled for Andy," said MVNC head coach Keith Veale. "He has worked hard to continue his development as a player and as a person. I have seen him mature more as a person this year in particular. I think that has transpired into a higher level of confidence on the mound."
"Being drafted in the eighth round is within the realm of where he was being projected," Veale added. "Andy had an outstanding, actually, incredible year which allowed his stock to rise. He has a lot of tools: a fastball in the 90s, two breaking pitches that at times are unhittable, and a fast-developing change-up all of which he throws for strikes."
Heimbach, who was just the fifth player from an Ohio high school or college to be selected in this year’s draft and only the third NAIA player, posted a 13-2 record with a 1.54 earned run average in 1999. In 93 1/3 innings of work, he struck out a school-record 141 batters and issued just 16 walks. Opponents hit just .140 against him, and he also became the all-time leader for all levels of collegiate baseball with 16 career shutouts.
For his efforts, the former All-Ohioan from Wheelersburg High School was named the American Mideast Conference, NAIA Great Lakes Region, and National Christian College Athletic Association National Player of the Year. He topped all that off by being chosen as the 1999 NAIA National Player of the Year on Tuesday.
Heimbach becomes the 11th MVNC player to be drafted and the first since Marty McLeary was selected by Boston in the 10th round of the 1997 draft. Only three other Cougar players have been drafted higher than Heimbach: Tim Belcher (#1 overall in 1983), Gerry Wetherell (5th Round in 1985), and Joe Lazor (5th Round in 1986).
Heimbach must now make the tough decision about whether to sign with the Red Sox or return to MVNC for his senior season. "Being drafted is exciting," said Veale. "If he signs, I will be thrilled for him. If he comes back to school, I will be elated. It is really a win-win situation."