TAMPA, FL Many children grow up with dreams of playing
the game professionally. However less than 11 percent of NCAA college
athletes are drafted by a Major League Baseball team and less than
1 percent of high school players are drafted into the professional
Cherokee Nation citizen Zachary Slade Heathcott is part of the
less than percent after being drafted by the New York Yankees out
of high school.
"I had the privilege, out of high school, to be drafted by the
Yankees," he said. "I ended up taking the opportunity and I signed
in August of 2009."
Heathcott reported to the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie-level
Gulf Coast League and played a few games before injury and surgery
shortened his season.
He returned to the diamond mid-2010 playing for the Charleston
RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League. He hit for a .258
batting average, but at the end that season he underwent surgery
on his shoulder. He said he returned to Charleston for the 2011
season and improved his batting average. In June he was promoted
to the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League.
However, he only played in one game due to a shoulder injury and
missed the remainder of the season.
Nation citizen Slade Heathcott high-fives a New York Yankees
teammate during a 2015 game. The Yankees drafted Heathcott
out of high school.
Heathcott hustles out of the batter's box after a hit in a
2015 game. In 2015, he played 17 games for the Yankees with
30 plate appearances with a batting average of .400.
Knee injuries plagued Heathcott through the 2012, 2013 and 2014
seasons. However, he said, within the past two years, his injuries
have subsided and things are "looking up."
"I think I have had five surgeries now," he said. "I'm finally
getting everything under control in the last two years."
Heathcott said he has been injury free for the past two offseasons
and that allowed him to make his Major League debut in early 2015.
"I think my first game was May 20 in Washington, D.C.," he said.
"Having gotten the call was awesome. I've been fortunate enough
to have my son with me at the time. That was something I was thankful
for. It was a very exciting time. Obviously, there are guys and
players that have played their entire life or grew up watching baseball
players and wanting to be in their shoes. For my case, to go through
all the injuries and face all the hurdles that have been thrown
at me, I've been blessed in that way. Because of all the injuries,
I actually enjoyed the magnificence of the situation and I was very
appreciative. All the injuries made me appreciate the whole process
In 2015, Heathcott played in six games for the Yankees before
being sent back down to the minors due to an injury. According to
baseball-reference.com, he played most of the year with the AAA
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders where he hit .267 with 27 RBIs
in 64 games. He was again called up by the Yankees in September
and finished the 2015 season on their active roster. In all, he
played 17 games for the Yankees with 30 plate appearances while
As of publication, Heathcott was in spring training with the
Yankees without a guaranteed spot on their active roster. He said
he was healthy, but injuries are always on his mind.
He said his Cherokee heritage and a positive mindset keeps him
"A Cherokee is who I am," he said. "That's what I stand for.
I always have a deep tie to it. If there is a will there is a way.
I have been to a point in my career where I was told my career might
be over and to realize the mental side of it. With the right process
and with the right mentality, we can do anything we want."