By Taylor Grafft
In his final season as a Liberty Hill Panther, senior Tristan Heidelberg is making sure he makes the most out of his experiences with the baseball team and is hoping to help lead them to a State Championship before it’s all over.
Heidelberg prides himself on using his strong arm, quickness and mental toughness to help guide the Panthers through the postseason. Liberty Hill picks up its postseason journey on Thursday, May 15, in a best-of-three series against Stephenville in the Regional Quarterfinals.
Heidelberg arrived in Liberty Hill in eighth grade from Oklahoma, but is still a native Texan and was born in San Angelo. He says that baseball has always been his first love and has changed his life immensely.
“If it weren’t for baseball, I would’ve missed out on many opportunities to have fun with my friends,” said Heidelberg. “But more importantly the bonds I made with these friends, through all my years of playing. One in particular is a lifelong friend who lost his mother to cancer. Though he still lives in Oklahoma he is like a brother to me. We turned to baseball to stay strong and to keep going. She loved the game and the way we played it, so we know we made her proud.”
Heidelberg arrived on the Panthers’ varsity team last season and says that this season has a different feel than in previous years because of chemistry and experience.
“We have more experience and more confidence,” Heidelberg said. “When you have this much experience playing with the people around you, you trust one another a lot more. A lot of the guys, including myself have played with one another for many years during the summers.”
Heidelberg’s father played baseball in high school and his sister plays softball so athletic ability runs in his family. Heidelberg says that in order to have success at the plate and in the outfield, you have to be confident. Heidelberg starts at centerfield for the Panthers.
“Patience and confidence at the plate are two words I think you must have to be successful at the plate,” Heidelberg said. “In the outfield confidence in yourself to make the catch is the most important. If you start thinking about ‘what if I drop this ball’ then you are going to drop it.”
Heidelberg says that he has always been a hard worker when it comes to striving for greatness. He says that his work at improving is never finished and that he constantly focuses on setting high expectations.
“I try to work to get better at the things I see that need improvement,” Heidelberg said. “I prepare for games by doing the same things, same stretches and throws. A saying I picked up from a couple of our basketball guys a couple years back was, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t break it’. (Before games) I focus on the task at hand and trusting myself to play to the best of my ability.”
Heidelberg also plays basketball and was a captain on Coach Barry Boren’s Runnin’ Panthers team in the fall.
“Basketball helped prepare me for my baseball season,” Heidelberg said. “It helped me get into great condition and helped my speed as well.”
Leading up to their games against Stephenville this week, Heidelberg and his teammates know that they all have a common goal and desire to achieve the ultimate prize.
“We do know that our game has to be on point, but we try not to do too much,” he said. “We stick to what we have been doing all year and what got us here. We need to just play our game and fight for the win.
“We have a lot of experience driving us, we have played with each other for along time and it’s helping us get to our ultimate goal, a State Championship,” he added. “The feeling after you know that your season is over is one that is never forgotten. That feeling runs fresh through all of us and none of us want to end our season like that, so we are playing to win our last game of our high school careers, and the only way to do that, is with a State Title.”
Heidelberg said that balancing school and sports has always been tough, but you just have to put in extra effort.
“School work was tough to balance over the years, a lot of late and long nights, same with bus rides, getting home super late and still having (homework) to do, but I wouldn’t have traded my sports in for anything,” Heidelberg said. “There’s not a lot of free time for the athletes at Liberty Hill, which contributes to our success, but I can say first hand that it’s tough to balance, you just have to work at it.”