BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the Texas Rangers are on the eve of taking on the American League rival Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series this weekend, the trip from Arlington, Texas to the Jays’ home-away-from-home Buffalo is a homecoming for one Ranger.
Jonah Heim, a homegrown talent and 2013 Amherst High School grad, is making his first return to the Queen City for a baseball game since his final high school game with the Tigers.
“It’s crazy, I never really thought it would happen,” Heim said on a Zoom press conference on Thursday afternoon. “I thought maybe I would have a chance when I was in Triple-A, thought that would be cool, but to be in the big leagues it’s going to be an amazing experience to have my whole family there.
“It’s definitely some unfortunate circumstances that led up to this, but being able to play at home in the major leagues with my family all there is amazing.”
Heim was drafted right out of Amherst in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. After spending three years in the Orioles minor leagues, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays organization, where he finished out the 2016 season and played the entirety of the 2017 season. In December of 2017, Heim was traded to the Oakland Athletics, and after putting in two more years in the minor leagues, he finally got his Major League call-up on Aug. 24, 2020.
Since being called up, Heim finished out the rest of the shortened 2020 season with the A’s. He then got traded to the Texas Rangers in February.
Throughout all of the twists and turns that come with a life in professional baseball, Heim says he couldn’t have done it — both the ups and the downs — without the support of his family.
“It’s been awesome. I wouldn’t be here without my family, they’re my life. Just their support has been unbelievable. Spending seven years in the minors hasn’t been easy, and you can’t get through that without family support so them being behind me and supporting me has been amazing,” Heim said.
With the Blue Jays playing their home games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field until the borders reopen, Heim is finally able to achieve something that he never really thought possible: play in an MLB game at Sahlen Field, his hometown stadium. Just thinking about it is enough to give someone butterflies.
“I wouldn’t call them butterflies, I’d just call it excited energy,” Heim said. “Growing up going to the stadium and watching games as kids, it’s definitely going to be a dream come true in a way.
“I never knew I had this dream, but to get to play here, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
And it’s a dream that his entire family is excited to witness, in person. When asked which family members will be at Sahlen Field for this weekend’s games, Heim laughed and said:
“I think it’s the better question who isn’t going to be there. I’ve had so many texts and DM’s on Instagram asking when I’m playing to come to the game, the support around here has been awesome. I can’t wait to get out there Friday and take in the atmosphere, but I’m pretty sure my entire family is coming, I know even some family from out of town are coming in so it’s going to be big.”
As an avid attender of Bisons games when he was a kid, Heim said he is most excited to experience the atmosphere of Major League Baseball in Buffalo, and recalls a specific memory of being at a Bisons game when he was 8 or 9 years old.
“I remember going to a game and watching the players warming up in the bullpen and thinking it was waaaay too fast for me. It’s funny looking back now because that’s what I do for a living,” Heim laughed. “I just remember going to games and the atmosphere, hoping one day getting to play there. I never got to play there in the minors so what better time than the big leagues right?”
The Blue Jays host the Rangers in a three-game series this weekend. First pitch for Friday’s night’s game is set for 7:07 p.m. at Sahlen Field.