That was the nickname for Neal Heaton during his days at the University of Miami (1979-1981). Heaton was drafted 2nd by the Cleveland Indians (39th overall) in the 1981 draft and played for seven teams from 1982 until 1993. While his major league career record of 80-96, 4.37 era and 699 strikeouts do not accurately reflect his "heat" or potential; Heaton was actually the first UM player ever to be selected to a Major League All-Star game, 1990 (though did not play).
It was in college that Heaton was known to throw fire. The two-time All American won 42 games as a Hurricane and had 23 strikeouts in one game against Indiana State on March 10, 1981. He has had his #26 retired by the UM baseball team and elected to the UM Hall of Fame in 1992. With Coach Ron Fraser running the team like a "minor league show", attendance at Mark Light Stadium on the campus of UM was packed every night, especially when "the Heater" was on the mound.
At 6'1" and 200 lbs, Heaton was the "stud", "the sure thing", "a can't miss", a left handed fireballer who threw 93 mph. Originally drafted by the N Y Mets in 1979, they offered him a insultingly low signing bonus of only $ 35,000, and after rejecting it flat out, Heaton opted to attend Oklahoma State University in Stillwater OK. It was not very long until Ron Fraser (UM Coach) picked up the phone and coaxed Heaton into coming to Coral Gables.
Just one year prior to that unrelated event, in March 1978, I had visited the U and decided that is where I was going to spend "the best four years of my life". Living on fraternity row, which was right across the street from Mark Light Stadium, home games were "party time" in and out of the stadium. Many times we would sneak in during the between inning commotions (orchestrated by head coach Fraser, termed the P T Barnum of college baseball by Sports Illustrated in 1977) and watch our Hurricanes win day in and day out.
Back then . . . baseball was king in Coral Gables, Heaton was the stud on the mound and I did my best to survive the "best four years of my life".
Varied Colors - 1961
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