When Tyler Heineman found out that MLB was officially coming back, he was working out with his brother, Scott. The Heinemans knew what a shortened MLB season could mean for both of their careers, but they tried not to get too excited. They knew how many hurdles remained, not just in wrapping up negotiations, but in getting through an unprecedented summer camp and the start of a season played during a pandemic.
There have been hiccups, significant ones. Six of the 30 MLB teams are not playing tonight because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Miami Marlins and a potential one with the St. Louis Cardinals, but thus far, the Giants and Texas Rangers have avoided serious issues. That means Tyler and Scott Heineman will share a big league field for the first time Friday night.
This moment seemed likely for much of the month. Tyler, who caught one of his brother's at-bats in a spring game, became the favorite for the starting job when Buster Posey opted out of the season. Scott had a big month in Rangers camp. But last week, shortly after both were put on Opening Day rosters for the first time, Tyler said he still had to temper his excitement.
"The focus for both of us is to take it a day at a time," he said. "Every day it's kind of make-or-break for us, so we want to take it like that and make the most of the opportunity that we have on that day. When it comes to a week from now, if we're both still up and playing, yeah, it's going to be an incredible experience and one that we won't forget for sure."
It's understandable that the brothers didn't want to get too far ahead of themselves. Tyler, a 2012 eighth-rounder out of UCLA, didn't make his MLB debut until he was 28. Scott, taken in the 11th round out of Oregon three years later, got to the big leagues a month before Tyler last season. They both are still trying to establish themselves, and this season there's been a role reversal.
While Scott played much more as a rookie, he has just three at-bats through the first week for the Rangers. Tyler has been Gabe Kapler's starting catcher and has reached base in eight of his first 20 plate appearances.
The special moment comes with a bittersweet twist. There are no fans this season, so the brothers' parents and sister, all of whom live in Los Angeles, won't be able to attend. When the Giants played the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, Tyler saw his wife for the first time in nearly a month, but he did not visit the rest of his family because everyone agreed that continuing to quarantine was the best move.
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That's the kind of year this is, but in the middle of it, there should be a pretty cool moment at Oracle Park. The Heineman brothers will share a big league field, making good on a dream they've had since childhood.
"We've butted heads, we've been each other's best friends and workout partners," Scott told the Dallas Morning News. "The dream has always been to get to this level, to square off against one another and maybe one day be on the same team. It's hard to even reflect on it because it's so special."