He is an imposing figure on the hill. At 6-4, 255-pounds, Adam Heidenfelder is a behemoth of a power pitcher. His strikeout ratio is well, striking. And his 17 is his lucky number.
Heidenfelder, a 17-year-old MacArthur righthander, has already struck out 17 batters twice this season.
"When I step on the mound I'm very comfortable," Heidenfelder said. "I like to just pound the zone with fastballs and be very aggressive. But I feel I can throw any pitch in any count with confidence. Especially when I know I can spike a pitch and our catcher Bobby Kollmer will block it. It's easy to pitch when you have a great defense and a catcher who takes care of the runners."
He struck out 17 in six innings Monday in a 9-2 win over Calhoun, Long Island's defending Class AA champion. And he struck out 17 in a win over Bellmore JFK March 30 in a Nassau crossover game. In that one, Heidenfelder allowed a leadoff single, then struck out 12 in a row. His next start is tomorrow at home against Port Washington in a matchup with Bryce Keller, a hard-throwing righthander.
"I'll never forget his first appearance as a sophomore," MacArthur coach Steve Costello said. "This is a kid with supreme confidence. I don't mind when a pitcher shakes off a pitch -- but he shook off the third pitch of his varsity career.
"We watched him on the junior varsity early last year and he was just dominant," Costello said. "We were pitching rich on the varsity but there was no way we could keep him on the JV striking out 17 a game and at times 15 in a row. He was just too good."
Costello laughed at the recollection of Heidenfelder and his first batter.
"When he came off the mound, I asked him why he shook off the curve," Costello said. "He said, 'Coach, I really like my fastball.' I had to agree -- he was overpowering."
Heidenfelder's fastball has topped at 93 miles per hour and he's consistently in the 88-90 range. He is 3-0 with 43 strikeouts in 20 innings and an ERA of 0.90. As a team, MacArthur is 9-2 in conference (10-3 overall), good for second place in Nassau AA-III.Heidenfelder is drawing interest from all over the country, including Michigan, Boston College, Maryland, Hofstra and Virginia to name a few schools. He is an all honors student.
"We've had great pitchers here and never had this kind of interest,'' Costello said. "Talent wise and ceiling wise he's as good as anyone we've had at MacArthur. Schools that have never called here are interested in him."
MacArthur has had more Diamond Award honorees, given to Nassau's top pitcher, than any other school. Costello sees Heidenfelder joining the Diamond list that includes other former MacArthur pitchers, such as Josh Barry, Jesse Tuozzo, Tyler Savin, Randy Leak, Doug Hecker, Chris Sinacori and Jeff Tyler. "He comes right at hitters," Costello said. "He steamrolls them. We put him in closer situations and he was unfazed by the pressure. He was used in spots that didn't necessarily have to be in the seventh inning and he was like the terminator."
Heidenfelder credits a strong mindset that he developed as a young pitcher for his success. He has a quiet demeanor off the field but once he takes the mound he can turn the switch.
"I had the same pitching coach, Rod Stephan, from when I was six years old and he had a major influence on my approach and my mental toughness," he said. "And composure and aggressiveness is so important when you pitch."
Heidenfelder carries added motivation each time he pitches. Inscribed under his hat are the names of two very important people who passed on recently. He said his grandfather, Otto Heidenfelder, who never missed a game, died in Ocober of 2010 and his Levittown North Little League coach Hubie Perez, who taught him to play the game with respect and have fun died unexpectedly in September.
"I believe they are looking down on me," he said. "And I know they're proud. Family is very important and they're people who had everything to do with my love for baseball."