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Bulls Bonus Q&A: Chris Heintz

Posted Jun 30, 2010 by Scott Carter

Updated Jun 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM

USF hitting coach Chris Heintz spent Tuesday still getting acclimated on his second full day in his new job.

Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee threw his third consecutive complete game – the first Seattle pitcher to do that since Randy Johnson in 1998 – in beating the Yankees, 7-4.

Heintz’s all-time favorite baseball is one thrown by Lee in 2005.

“My most memorable moment [in the majors] was playing in my first game at Cleveland,’’ Heintz said. “It was an ESPN Sunday Night game, and I got my first hit off Cliff Lee.

“He wasn’t a Cy Young Award winner yet, but it adds to my story. At the time, he was just a good young pitcher. Now, everybody considers him one of the best in baseball.’’

Heintz, 35, has the baseball at home as a treasured keepsake from his 13-year playing career. He hopes his time in the majors – he played 34 games with the Twins from 2005-07 – and nearly 1,100 games in the minors can help him make an impact in the dugout at USF.

Heintz played for the Bulls from 1993-96, helping USF make three trips to the NCAA playoffs. He was hired Sunday by USF head coach Lelo Prado after serving as a coach and manager in the Twins’ minor-league system the past two seasons.

Here is a Q&A with Heintz:

Q: You spent a lot of time around young players in the minors. Did you know you wanted to go into coaching after your playing career was over?

A: I definitely felt toward the end of my playing career that I’d like to stay in the game as a coach. That was something that seemed like it would be a natural transition. I was fortunate I was able to get a chance to do that with the Twins.

Q: You played at USF long before Coach Prado came here as head coach. How did you get to know him?

A: When I was still playing, I would work out at USF in order to prepare for spring training. So, when he took over the team, I went in and introduced myself and asked if I could continue to do that as part of my preparation. He thought that would be fine. Ever since, I’ve had a relationship with him that has grown over the years. I’ve worked his camps in the winter and, with my wife [Stacey] working there as an assistant softball coach, I’ve developed a personal relationship with Coach Prado.

Q: What made this position appealing enough to you to give up your job as manager of the Twins’ Gulf Coast League affiliate?

A: It was an easy decision to make; it was hard to talk to the Twins about it because they were very loyal to me. There were so many positives about it for my family and just to be home and be back as part of the program that I played for. I really couldn’t pass it by. The new stadium, the new facilities … hopefully they provide the momentum for us to get to where we’re competing for a Big East title and NCAA regional bid on a yearly basis. That’s the goal.

Q: What was your most memorable moment as a player at USF?

A: It was in 1996. We had a really good team. We got to around 7th or 8th in the country and had a real good chance in the regionals at the University of Florida. Unfortunately, we lost to Florida in 15 innings. But we had a real good chance of going to Omaha. I still have a lot of good friends off that team and that’s definitely the highlight of my career, just that whole year in general.

Q: You made the majors after 10 years in the minors. A lot of players call it quits after a few seasons in the minors. What kept you playing?

A: I just really loved everything about it. I loved going out there everyday competing, and deep down I felt I could make it if I hung around long enough. It was truly a blessing after 10 years to get a chance. Even if it took 10 years and it didn’t amount to a lot of time, it was worth all the struggles.

Q: You grew up in Clearwater and played at Countryside High. During your time in the majors, did you ever get a chance to play at Tropicana Field?

A: I traveled to the Trop twice as a member of the Twins, but I never actually played in a game there.

Q: Do you see the landscape of USF’s program being much different than when you played there?

A: I don’t think so. I think they are still trying to compete with the Gators and the Seminoles and the Hurricanes. You’re trying to reach that level and sustain it. We’re going to try and do that. We are going to try and be a perennial conference contender in the Big East and a perennial NCAA tournament team.

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