Trying to get Davidson junior third baseman Jay Heafner to toot his own horn is as difficult as it is for opposing pitchers to get him out.
Heafner has wreaked havoc on Southern Conference pitchers all season and finds himself with the second highest batting average in the country at .451.
Currently, he leads the Southern Conference in batting average; slugging percentage, .705; and on-base percentage, .530. Heâ€™s in the top five in four other categories.
â€œI try not to think about it too much, because whatever youâ€™ve done in the past, you canâ€™t dwell on it,â€ said Heafner. â€œYou have to think about the next game.
â€œI think about stuff thatâ€™s happened and it may give me confidence, but I try not to dwell on it too much,â€ he said.
In an era where athletes are often driven by personal accolades and their own egos, Heafner is an exception.
In a genuine, non-cookie cutter way, Heafner insists itâ€™s all about the team.
â€œItâ€™s a team game and the team we have is very team-oriented,â€ he said. â€œIn order to have success and for us to hit on all cylinders; I canâ€™t focus on myself.â€
The Wildcats (26-21, 13-14 SoCon) are currently in sixth place headed into this weekendâ€™s series versus Furman, with the conference tournament looming next week.
Heafner, who started playing baseball as a four-year old at West Lincoln Optimist, and his teammates are ready after breaking a 13-game losing streak in the Southern Conference Tournament last year.
â€œWe want to have a really good showing. Last year we played all right in the tournament, but this year I think we can really make some noise,â€ Heafner said. â€œIf we can mix some pitching in with our good hitting I think weâ€™ll be fine.â€
In life, where you have to crawl before you can walk, Heafner did his fair share of crawling as a freshman.
Despite being an all-conference performer at West Lincoln, Heafner struggled to adjust to the college game and finished with a .234 batting average.
â€œComing in as a freshman, it was tough. Not only adjusting to pitching, but adjusting to the pace of the game,â€ he said. â€œThen balancing out my time between on the field and in the classroom.â€
Of 39 hits, 36 were singles
While having to deal with plenty of disappointing moments in his first year, Heafner believes his first season laid the foundation of the success heâ€™s now having.
â€œI think that was a major part of what has helped me now. Learning to deal with failure and adjust to different pitchers and things like that,â€ he said.
Was there ever a time where he lost confidence? Maybe, but if there was he certainly doesnâ€™t talk like it.
â€œI wasnâ€™t at the end of my rope or anything. I knew I could do better with a little bit of work and effort,â€ he said. â€œI knew things would turn around. I knew it wouldnâ€™t be a problem,â€ Heafner said.
Hard work pays off
Work was exactly what Heafner did. During the summer, he would hie on over to the Lincolnton YMCA, where he would hit the weights 4 – 5 times a week.
When fall rolled around, Davidsonâ€™s strength coach Evan Simon had the Wildcats working out four days a week.
On the diamond, Heafner heeded the advice of Wildcats hitting coach Chris Moore, himself a two-time all-American and four-time Southern Conference selection at Western Carolina.
â€œHe does a really good job of keeping things simple. If we get in a slump, he tells us to keep swinging,â€ Heafner said. â€œHeâ€™s a really good playersâ€™ coach.â€
The results are nothing short of spectacular, as Heafner has posted 11 homeruns, 58 RBIs and 32 walks. Heâ€™s also dabbled in the pitching arena, leading the team in saves with five.
With one more season remaining before Heafnerâ€™s pro dreams are possibly realized by potentially getting drafted, itâ€™s not something the unselfish star focuses on.
â€œI try not to think about that at all. With me only being a junior; itâ€™s unfair from my standpoint and my teammates,â€ he said. â€œI canâ€™t individualize everything because that would just diminish everything we have as a team.â€
After being named conference player of the week twice and player of the month, Heafner was recently named to the Golden Spikes Watch List.
The Golden Spikes award is given annually by USA baseball and the Major League Baseball Playersâ€™ Association, in recognition of the top amateurs in the country. Heafner was the lone player from the Southern Conference and only one of 40 in the country.
While Heafner credits former coach Bobby Dale Reynolds, who is a local legend and Post 100 head coach, Reynolds believes Heafner deserves all the credit.
â€œJay is the ultimate self-made player. He did this from himself working hard. He wasnâ€™t given God-given athleticism. Heâ€™s done this through hard work, determination and being a person who knows exactly what he wants,â€ he said. â€œHe expects no less than the best. He attacks the game and tries to better himself. Heâ€™s a coachesâ€™ dream to have on your team,â€ Reynolds said.
Reynolds calls Heafner a â€˜shadow of how I used to play the game.â€™
Perhaps the ultimate compliement Heafner could receive is Reynolds hopes his own 13-year old son Drew mirrors Heafner, both on the field and in his character and positive attitude.
â€œEverything that happens to Jay is well-deserved. Those kind of players donâ€™t come along everyday,â€ Reynolds said.
by John Mark Brooks