Called Up Monday, Athletics' Heim Finds Himself Making First MLB Start Tuesday

Switch-hitting rookie Jonah Heim is getting the call as the A's starting catcher Tuesday night in Texas. It's been a whirlwind couple of days for Heim, who was brought up from the taxi squad Monday to be the A's backup catcher.
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Seven years and two trades after spurning an offer from Michigan State to sign a professional baseball contract with the Baltimore Orioles out of high school. Jonah Heim got the call Monday.

Well, sort of. Actually, he was walking by Oakland manager Bob Melvin’s office when the manager called him in. He had Heim sit, then handed him the lineup card. Heim had to look at it for a minute before he realized is name was on the card as one of the extra players.

He’d made the big leagues. As part of the taxi squad, he had been going on the road with the club. What Melvin had done was show him that everything had changed; he was on the 30-man roster.

And Tuesday night he’s lineup, batting ninth in the second game of a series against the Texas Rangers. 

“I called my dad right away; (he was) trying to hold back tears,” Heim said Tuesday in video conference call. “It’s been a long time coming, and I don’t think he’s stopped screaming. Hopefully he’s in a better place today. We’ll see how he is.”

In a normal year, John Heim would have caught the first flight out from suburban Buffalo to get to Texas. In the year of the pandemic, though, the closest father and son will be is the television screen.

“That’s obviously disappointing,” Heim said about his family not being able to be there for his debut. “But we understand what is going on in the world right now with COVID. They’re definitely going to be watching, they’re going to be cheering. And they’ll have as many people over to the house as they can.”

Heim came to the A’s in the 2017 trade that sent second baseman Joey Wendel to Tampa Bay. He had a breakout minor league season last year, hitting .310 between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Las Vegas, then had a .320 average with five RBI in 14 games in spring training. A switch-hitter, he will mostly start against right-handed pitching, Melvin says.

Heim, who has been working at the alternate site in San Jose when the A’s have been at home, said most of his work in San Jose has been as a left-handed against right-handed pitching.

And because he’s been going on the road with part of the taxi squad, he’s caught all of the A’s pitchers during workouts and taken swing as a regular part of batting practice.

“I’m real excited,” Heim said. And he’s looking forward to playing in a game; at the alternate site, it’s been nothing but simulated games. And that’s not the same.

“It’s a little different, obviously,” he said. “Facing your own guys is a little tough. There aren’t any live at-bats, like in game settings. It’s still enough to get your work in and stay fresh.”

And having that time with the members of the big-league pitching staff should come in handy now as he’s going to be sharing time with Sean Murphy behind the plate.

“When you have a good relationship, you get on the same pack with the pitcher) and the game flows nicely,” he said. “I just really try to keep everything in front of me.

“When you have a guy like BoMel (Melvin) out there giving you signs, it’s like a whirlwind. Your manager is going to hold you accountable, which is what you want. When you have a (manager) like that, it’s all that you can ever ask for.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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