August 15, 2022

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'It's just a lot of joy': Heim homers in first game after daughter's birth

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PHILADELPHIA — Jonah Heim was destined to hit a home run on Tuesday night against the Phillies.

At least that’s what everyone kept telling him after he and his wife, Mackenzie, welcomed their second child, Luxx Blakely Heim, on Thursday.

“Everybody’s like, ‘You’ve got to hit a homer; baseball knows you’re going to hit a homer,'” said Heim, who was playing in his first game back from the paternity list. “So I was just kind of joking around with my wife like, ‘Hey, I was told I have to hit a homer, so expect a homer.'”

Heim made good on his promise in the fourth inning of the Rangers’ 6-4 series-opening win, teeing off on a two-strike slider from Phillies starter Ranger Suárez. Heim jumped all over the pitch, pulling it down the left-field line at 106.4 mph off the bat and wrapping it around the foul pole.

The Rangers catcher flashed a smile as he crossed home plate, then let out a noticeable exhale as he returned to the visitors’ dugout.

“I think when I did it, everything flashed — the birth of my first son [Noah] and then the birth of my daughter — it all kind of came to me,” Heim said. “It’s a hard feeling to explain. It’s just a lot of joy. Takes me back to being a kid and just enjoying every moment. It’s so surreal.”

Though Heim obviously didn’t get a ton of sleep and hadn’t seen live pitching in six days, Luxx’s birth helped him regain some perspective during an otherwise hectic week.

“It just kind of takes your mind off of baseball and lets you go out there and have fun and enjoy the moment,” Heim said. “When you’ve got a little one at home, you kind of just get your mind free and it lets you play loose and just have fun. That’s what I was trying to get back to, just going out there and have fun and letting the game come to me and just enjoy myself.”

Rangers manager Chris Woodward had a much simpler explanation for Heim’s solo shot.

“He’s got the daddy power,” Woodward said with a smile.

Kidding aside, Heim’s impressive night extended far beyond his game-tying homer in the fourth. He also notched a leadoff single — on a 104.6 mph line drive, no less — in the sixth inning that kicked off Texas’ decisive three-run rally. That came after he worked an eight-pitch walk in the first inning in his first plate appearance since April 27.

“He’s making it look easy,” Woodward said. “But it’s not easy, especially when you haven’t seen pitching.”

For Heim, it was simply a matter of picking up where he left off. He’s hitting .364 with a 1.172 OPS — a number that would lead the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (Mike Trout leads all qualified players with a 1.143 OPS).

“He’s been good all year,” Woodward said. “I think, just, the consistency of his at-bats is probably the best we have right now.”

“If I knew,” Heim said, “I’d bottle it up and keep it forever.”

The Rangers wouldn’t mind doing the same with the formula that has led to their three-game winning streak.

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