Comfortably Zoned in a Vat o’ Pine Tar

April 8, 2021 at 3:05 pm (Comfortably Zoned in a Vat o' Pine Tar)

Once again, I’m teasing the upcoming book I’m writing with the great George Grimm.

Ed Hearn

November 2015

Ralph Tyko welcomes Ed Hearn, former catcher for the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, and currently a motivational speaker. Topics include, the Mets 1986 championship season, success vs. significance, and going from the “penthouse to the outhouse,” and back.

Ralph Tyko: Tell us about your path to the major leagues.

Ed Hearn: I was an athlete in high school and had many opportunities in baseball and football. I had offers from West Point and several ivy league schools.

I was drafted in the fourth round by the Phillies. So I signed with them and was sent to Helena, Montana, for Rookie ball, about 2,500 miles away from my home in Florida. I was 17 years old, right out of high school and that was the beginning.

Ralph Tyko: When did you know you were being scouted?

Ed Hearn: I began to be scouted in my sophomore year. Andy Seminick, the old Philadelphia catcher, found me playing near Melbourne, Florida, and followed me the last two years in high school. In my senior year,  I probably had 18 to 20 scouts at every game  until I was failing miserably in hitting and then they kind of disappeared. But Andy stayed with me. Then my mom suggested that  I get my eyes checked and sure enough I had developed astigmatism and got glasses and eventually started to hit more like a senior who’s being scouted should hit.

So they brought in national scouts,  who were there to compare you to other kids they had their eye on. And then they would compare notes and read all the reports and come draft day make their pick.

The scouts are all over the place and occasionally someone slips through the cracks and you have a very late draft pick turns into a hall of famer.

Ralph Tyko: You had Ivy League schools after you, so not only were you considered a good athlete, but you’re also a very bright guy.

Ed Hearn: Well, we were raised to do our best in everything we did. My parents emphasized that we should maximize the gifts we’re given. And apparently I had the marbles, as my parents used to say

The priority was certainly on the academic side, but my dad was an athlete through high school and my mom had also played some sports in school, but they never went beyond that. But they understood the importance of activities outside of school work because there’s a lot to be learned from sports and they exposed us to a lot of different opportunities and allowed us to choose what we wanted to do.

Ralph Tyko: How did you find out that the Mets had called you up?

Ed Hearn: I had been in the minors for eight and a half years. I was playing Triple-A ball in Tidewater and it was after a game in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Our manager, Sam Perlazzo, called me into his hotel room after the game, and he knew that I had been in the minors for quite a long time so he was happy to give me the news that I was going to the big leagues.

Ralph Tyko: You didn’t like your first baseball card, you thought you looked a little gruff.

Ed Hearn: That’s a good description. Being a rookie and nor being seasoned in the ways of major league baseball, someone in Wrigley Field asked me if I wanted to take a photo and then when I later saw the card, I remembered the exact situation and having no idea that it was the Topps guy and that it was for my rookie card. Had I known I might have cleaned myself up a little better and come up with a better pose, But I’m just very thank full to have a rookie card.

Ralph Tyko: You were called up in 1986, is there anything about that magical year that stands out for you?

Ed Hearn: That year has been well documented and the post season was phenomenal. Its been ranked in the Top Five by most of the sports writers

Everybody remembers the ground ball through Bill Buckner’s legs when the Red Sox were one strike away from winning it all. But prior to that we faced the Houston Astros in the playoffs, and we had our hands full with them. We went 16 innings in Game four, back then it was only a five-game series. And Mike Scott, a former Met was pitching for Houston and he had developed a really nasty splitter and he cheated with it. And if we had not won Game four, we would have had to face Mr. Scott again in Game five, and quite frankly he had our number. We didn’t want any part of that next game. And on the other side the Red Sox came close to not making it because the California Angels had them on the ropes.

Ralph Tyko: Tell me about the momentum change in Game six of the World Series.

Ed Hearn: Momentum is not only a part of baseball but of life as well.

You can get on a roll in every aspect of life but momentum in sports is something that can be very powerful, especially when the 10th man, the crowd gets behind you. One of my most vivid memories of Game Six was seeing the Red Sox families sitting behind home plate on the third base side. They were all just ecstatic that they were finally going to win a World Series. And the Mets families were on the first base side and they looked like they were in a morgue, but then it just totally turned around.

So we had that momentum going into Game seven but there was a momentum buster, and it’s called rain! Having that day between Games six and seven hurt our momentum. We fell behind early in Game seven as well. But we came back much sooner. But after winning Game six like we did we wanted to play the next game right away, and not sit for a day.

Ralph Tyko: If I can just make an editorial comment, that was a very deep team. To say nothing of their skill. You had Strawberry, Gooden, Mitchell, Hernandez, Carter, Knight, Danny Heep, Hojo, it was just a terrific team. And as a lifelong Met fan I just want to thank you. It was incredibly exciting.

Do you still wear the ring.

Ed Hearn:  I wear it when I feel I’ll be around other people who will enjoy it. And because it’s not a common thing to see I’m very liberal about putting it on somebody’s hand and letting them take a picture with it. To me it’s a symbol of something that happened in my life and I was blessed to be a part of that team.

Ralph Tyko: You were traded in March, 1987 along with Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo to the Kansas City Royals for David Cone, and  Chris Jelic. It was a deal that former Royals owner called the worst trade in team history. How do you feel about that?

Ed Hearn: I’ve been hearing that for more than 30 years. But that’s the kind of challenge that we all face, things that happen out of our control. John Shuerholz, who was the Royals’ GM at the time told me a few years ago that all of their scouts told him that Ed Hearn was the man. And Ed Hearn was the man, but Ed Heard can’t control when he gets hurt. There are things that happen to all of us in life that we can’t control but we have to have the courage to do the things we can do.

Ralph Tyko: You’ve had some bad luck physically in your career and after. You hurt your arm and had to leave baseball. How did you deal with that?

Ed Hearn: I’ll give you a little background. I was traded to Kansas City after the World Series, to be with that young pitching staff. But then two weeks into the season I blew my shoulder out and had major reconstructive surgery and spent the next two years battling back. But my career ended very abruptly and as I was making the transition into the real world, I began feeling really awful. So I went to the doctor and next thing you know I had seen three doctors and I was diagnosed with end-stage Renal Failure. I’ve had three kidney transplants and I’ve been on medication for that ever since. They also found that I had a severe case of sleep apnea. It was a rare central nerve apnea.

I tell people it’s a good description of my life, from the penthouse to the outhouse and back. I lost my opportunity for big wealth in baseball and them I lost my health and that was tough.

But I still had those intangibles inside of me of what it takes to overcome adversity. You don’t become a big leaguer without learning to hit life’s curves and get back in the batters box.  Baseball is a game of failure. If you fail as a hitter seven out of ten times, you’re a Hall of Famer.

So we’re accustomed to learning how to deal with failure and having to get back up off your butt and get back in the game. You may strike out three times and get up in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to turn the game around.

When I was going through the health problems I told myself that I had to fight back and I had to fight to get my feet back under me, to get my foundation. And my foundation was my upbringing

I began to read and listen to tapes and I began to recover from my loss and I tell people that you don’t truly grow as a person when you’re in the penthouse of your life. It’s all about success and significance. You experience success in the penthouse but when you’re in the outhouse of life, when life throws you curves and knockdown pitches those are the moments in life that matter.

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