There was a time when Tyler Heineman and Scott Heineman were just kids on the diamond, playing the sport they love in Santa Monica Little League.
And they’re still just kids on the diamond, to an extent, but now baseball is a business and the stakes are undoubtedly higher.
The brothers, sons of former Santa Monica police lieutenant Steve Heineman, are pursuing their professional dreams amid growing anticipation for the upcoming Major League Baseball season.
Tyler left Wednesday for spring training with the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Florida. Scott will report March 5 in Surprise, Arizona, to participate in camp with the Texas Rangers organization.
The former Pac-12 players hope the training sessions they’ve held in recent months pay off as they vie for roster spots within their respective clubs.
Tyler, 24, has the benefit of previous experience. A Windward School standout who was a walk-on catcher at UCLA, he played most of last season for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
Tyler said he’s been told the competition is open for the Astros’ back-up catching position, which is also coveted by Max Stassi, Roberto Pena and Alfredo Gonzalez.
“Max probably has a leg up because he has some major-league experience,” Tyler said. “But going into camp, that’s a job that’s open. I’ve been told, ‘If you perform well and impress us, it could be yours.’”
Drafted by the Astros in the 8th round of the 2012 draft, Tyler hit .285 with three home runs and 30 RBI this past season in 78 combined games with Fresno and the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound righty acknowledged that he doesn’t have astonishing power or gaudy statistics, but he said reliability is his strong suit.
“I’ve proven myself to people that I’m consistent, that I do perform,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of taking it to the next level and showing the major-league staff that I can perform at a big-league level.”
The journey into the minors is just beginning for Scott, 23, who played collegiate baseball at Oregon following a standout athletic career at Encino-Crespi Carmelite. After being taken by the Rangers in the 11th round of last year’s draft, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound outfielder spent about six months rehabilitating his surgically repaired left foot.
“I’m just looking forward to going into spring fully healthy,” he said.
Scott, who hit .290 with four home runs and 23 RBI with the Ducks last year, said he’ll likely play in center field and right field to start his pro career. But he added that he’ll continue working on his infield skills to make himself a more versatile prospect as he attempts to climb the ranks.
As he’s practiced and worked out over the last few months, he’s focused on proper nutrition and hydration while finding a balance between field time and rest time.
“I’m doing whatever I can to make sure I’m at my best every day so I can perform to the level I need,” he said.
Scott said it was extremely helpful to have Tyler around as he geared up for spring training.
“He knows exactly how to prepare,” Scott said. “There are definitely days when I’m training and he’ll tell me, ‘You don’t need 150 swings today. Make sure you’re showing up fresh. You don’t need to overwork it.’ He knows where that barrier is.”
Scott and Tyler both recalled playing in Santa Monica Little League with talented athletes like Tyler Skaggs, now a pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels, and Washington Nationals pitching prospect Lucas Giolito.
“We’re all trying to make it up to the big leagues,” Scott said. “We’re pushing each other.”