Chris Kenney isn’t much of a picture taker.
But Thursday night, when the scoreboard at Marlins Park in Miami rolled the starting pitchers and her son’s name appeared, she was quick to grab her cell phone and snap a photo. The image is a bit blurry, and you can’t really make out ANDREW HEANEY, but she considers it a keepsake.
Your son doesn’t make his Major League debut every day.
A bunch of other phones captured similarly meaningful moments from Heaney’s big-league debut. Thirteen of the native Oklahoman’s family members made the trip to Florida for the game.
“We filled an entire row,” Chris said.
Every player isn’t so lucky.
The good fortune started with his wife’s family. After spring training, Andrew was assigned to the Double A affiliate in Jacksonville. It just so happens that Jordan Heaney has family there, so her mom, aunt and grandma thought it would be fun to make a trip to Jacksonville.
“We’re going to come and visit the family,” they told Jordan, “and then we’ll see him and see you.”
“Don’t set your plans,” Jordan told them. “There’s no telling where he could be. He could go up to Triple A.”
But as the season went on and Andrew stayed in Jacksonville, Jordan’s family decided to go ahead and plan a trip. They’d drive from Oklahoma City to Jacksonville.
“Sure enough,” Jordan said, “two weeks ... before they left, he called — ‘Hey, I’m going to Triple A.’”
Jordan called her family with the news. They were excited about Andrew being called up to New Orleans but disappointed about their foiled travel plans. After thinking about it, though, her mom, aunt and grandma decided to go ahead and make the drive. Jordan would still be in Jacksonville tying up loose ends, so they’d help her, then drive back to Oklahoma City with a detour to New Orleans.
Last Saturday, they left Oklahoma City.
Sunday night, Jordan called with news.
“He’s been called up to Miami,” she said.
The Marlins announced that Heaney would be starting Thursday against the Mets, so Jordan’s family decided to stay in Jacksonville a few days, then make the five-hour drive to Miami.
“For us, it worked out great,” Jordan’s mom, Jennifer Ore, said.
Andrew and Jordan have been together since their junior year at Putnam City High, where he starred in baseball and she did the same in golf. Since they’ve been together so long, he is more like a son than a son-in-law to the Ore family. He has gone on family vacations with them. He has stayed at their house. They even have pictures of him caddying for Jordan in one of her golf tournaments, the ORE name on the back of his caddy bib.
Still, had the timing been different, it’s likely that no one from Jordan’s family would’ve been able to be there.
“We got really lucky,” Jordan said.
And not just with her family. The fact that there were four days between his call up and his start gave Andrew’s family a chance to show up en masse. His mom. His dad. His step mom. His sisters. His brother-in-laws. A nephew. An uncle.
It doesn’t always work out that so many family members can get to a player’s debut. One of Andrew’s good buddies, Anthony DeSclafani, got called up by Miami and made his debut in Los Angeles less than 48 hours later.
His family lives in New Jersey.
“They got it done,” Jordan said, “but I don’t envy their stress at all.”
The only stress that Andrew’s cheering section had was the game. Even though he’s taken the mound at ballparks all over the country, seeing him walk out to the mound at the start of the game Thursday night was different.
“It was very emotional,” his mother-in-law said. “It was a lot of goosebumps, a few tears. Just a very proud moment.”
Andrew struggled early, giving up a two-out bomb to David Wright that bonked off the home run sculpture in left-center and throwing 23 pitches in the first inning. The high pitch count continued the next two innings, but the Mets scored no more runs.
In the fourth inning, he settled into a rhythm.
He went six innings, giving up four hits, striking out three and walking one. He surrendered just that one run, which was all the offense that the Mets needed. Even though the Marlins lost 1-0, manager Mike Redmond said after the game that he was pleased with his rookie starter’s resiliency.
That’s the thing his mom, Chris, will remember most from Thursday night.
“His calm. His grit,” she said. “When he’s sitting there in the first inning, that game could’ve gone either way.”
She has seen him have rough patches before, give up four or five runs in an inning, and then come back for three or four strong innings. Still, that was at Oklahoma State or in the minors. This was different.
This was the big time.
But if Thursday night is any indication, it looks like Andrew Heaney is big time, too.
After the game was over and the postgame obligations were finished, all of Andrew’s family joined him on the field. There were hugs and high fives and smiles. No one grinned any bigger than Andrew.
“I don’t think the smile left his face until he went to sleep,” Jordan said, laughing.
And, of course, there were lots of pictures taken down on the field. Some of just Andrew and Jordan. Some of them with his side of the family. Some of them with her side of the family. Finally, everyone gathered together for a big group shot.
Small is the number of baseball players who make it to the big leagues.
Even smaller is the number who get a family photo like that when they do.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.