One of the best things the Herald Journal does for the community each year is being a large part of the Scholar-Athlete program, which recognizes White County high school seniors for their top student-athlete performance in the classroom and in sports.
New York Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman would have been an honoree if the same program was going in neighboring Cass County during his senior year at Logansport High School, which was in 1997. Heilman was an A-B student throughout school at Logansport and continued that into college.
In college, Heilman earned two degrees in his four years at Notre Dame University in 2001 while setting school records in pitching in the process. He graduated with degrees in management information systems and philosophy, offering quite a broad spectrum in education.
“School is important. Definitely going to Notre Dame, school came first,” Heilman said. “It was important for me to get my education and finish up school. You never know what’s going to happen in life. God forbid if something happens and I get hurt and can’t play baseball, I don’t have to worry about being able to find a job or worrying about what I’m going to do.
“It’s nice to be able to have that kind of security and safety net.”
As for what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a big league pitcher, Heilman wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” he said. “I’d probably be working at some financial company somewhere.”
Heilman met his wife of four years this December, Kerri, during their freshman year of college. The two now have a home in Chicago.
Heilman was arguably the best pitcher ever at Notre Dame, just as he was at Logansport.
As a senior at Notre Dame, he went 15-0 in 15 starts, which included 12 complete games and three shutouts, and finished sixth in the nation in ERA with a 1.74 ERA. He compiled a 43-7 record with a 2.49 ERA in his four seasons with the Irish. In 83 games, 43 starts, he tossed 26 complete games with six shutouts.
He is one of only 15 Division I players to reach 40 career wins. He led the nation with a 1.61 ERA as a freshman pitching out of the bullpen. He set the Big East single-game record with 18 strikeouts on April 15, 2000 at West Virginia. He was named the Big East’s Pitcher of the Year in 2000 and 2001. He played for Team USA in 1999. He was named a first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine all four years at Notre Dame.
Heilman served as a keynote speaker at the annual Notre Dame Baseball Opening Night Dinner on February 6, 2006 along with Charlie Weis.
Heilman said the lifestyle of a professional athlete is “definitely pretty hectic.”
“We’re on the road a lot,” he said. “It’s fun because you get to see a lot of new cities and get to see a lot of different places all over the country. It makes it interesting. But at the same time we’re flying into cities after a game, we might not get in until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning and then you’ve got to try to get something to eat. It’s definitely a very different lifestyle than most people think.
“You usually get to the park about three-and-half, four hours before the game. By the time you get a work out and get all the stuff done you need to get done before the game, it can be a long day, especially if we go into extra innings. But it’s fun, a lot of travel, not too many days off. It makes for a long season but we have a lot of things that keep it interesting. We have a great group of guys here, and it’s fun to come to the park and hang out with everybody and just be around and soak up the whole experience.”