This is the second and final part of a telephone interview conducted with the mother of top Yankee prospect Slade Heathcott. We talked about the allegations against her and Slade, his adjustment to pro-ball, and who his favorite team was growing up, among other topics.
PA: Have you read or heard any allegations that were totally untrue?
KHJ: There was a lot of them, but the big one for me was the drugs. I've never in my entire life - I don't do drugs, I don't drink hardly at all, maybe a drink, like most other adults, on a rare occasion. I don't drink regularly whatsoever, and I've never even had a cigarette before. That was heartbreaking. I've never taken drugs. I'm probably one of the biggest anti-drug persons around. I despise them. I don't even like taking aspirin. That was heartbreaking what was posted on several places; I would call that a lie. And Slade never did drugs. He wasn't an alcoholic or a drug addict like people are making him out to be.
Like most kids will do, he happened to drink a little too much sometimes, and it wasn't like a daily thing. It was only at parties; he would party and have too much to drink. That was a big issue with me. There was an article that said things, like that he didn't grow up in a nice house with a picket fence. That irritated me because we always had nice homes; the kids always had everything that they needed. I've never completely been out of my children's lives at all. But there were things said about Slade, everything from assault to drunkenness. It's just been repeated. It's awful to even hear it.
Have you ever had any trouble with the law?
I don't have a record at all. I've not been in trouble, I've never been in any kind of trouble. It's crazy what people say. I mean, I don't have a record. I've never been in any trouble in my life. As far as being arrested and all that, no, I have never been in trouble in my entire life. I've never even had a speeding ticket. Seriously, I got pulled over one time when I was 17 for speeding and they gave me a warning. The only time I've ever even been pulled over. It's irritating to see things like that.
How is Slade adjusting to pro baseball?
I think he's doing exceptionally well. He's had to grow up very, very fast. He was 18 years old and I took him down when he signed. We went down, I spent two weeks with him, we signed his contract and everything. I try to go down there as much as possible; I go down there once a month, or month and a half or something for a couple weeks at a time, just to try to help him, so he'd have some kind of family around. He's had some tough times with it. Last year was tough, especially because the minor leagues are mentally and physically tough on these guys. It's not easy.
I think a lot of people don't understand what they go through and how hard it is for them, and I think for his age and for the position he's been put in, I think he's done amazingly well. He's done fantastic. He's struggling a little bit with his swing right now, so he's very aggravated with himself with that. But he has every reason to be very proud of himself. He probably wouldn't agree. Mom and the rest of the family are all very proud of him. He gets a lot of comments on how well grounded he is, and how well he's doing, and I always get comments when I go down to Tampa to the facility, everyone comments on how much they love Slade, how well he's doing. He's been a real joy, the coaches have enjoyed him, people at the facility have enjoyed him. When we were in Tulsa last year, we got a lot of comments from the people about how much they enjoyed having him there. He's always had that kind of effect on people. People enjoy being around him. For what he's been through, I think he's adjusted extremely well.
How often do you talk with or see him?
Last year I went to a few series out in Charleston. Since he signed, we have been down to Tampa numerous times. I went down when he signed and couple times after that, then we went down and stayed two weeks through spring training, then went back for the Futures Game, then we went out to Tulsa a few times. At the end of last year, we spent almost the whole holidays together up in Oklahoma. We were up there and both the boys were there, he and Jessica [Slade's girlfriend] came in and we hunted. They spent all of his time off hunting and having a good time, so we spent pretty much all the holidays together this past year, then he went back and we went to Tampa in February for several days, then we went back in March for several days for Spring Training. I haven't seen him in about a month, but we're getting ready to head to Charleston - my husband works offshore and he gets home tonight, then this weekend we're headed to Charleston to spend a week down there with the boys. We'll basically be watching baseball for a week.
I talk to him but it's hard for him to talk, I usually text him most of the time. I try to text him before the games and tell him good luck, have a good game tonight, but I always try and make a point to talk to him at least once or twice a week. If we go too long without talking, I tell him "I want to hear your voice, make sure you're doing all right." Some weeks it's hard to say when we talk, some weeks we may talk every day, 2-3 times a day, and then other weeks we may only talk once, mostly by text, but I make a point to try to hear his voice at least once a week. But a lot of times it's more than that. It's just a matter of what's going on, if he needs help with something; he's selling his truck, so I've got his truck for sale, so we have to keep in contact for that. We stay in contact like any normal parent and son would stay in contact with each other when they're grown up and moved out of the house.
What did Slade think of the Yankees before he was drafted?
He liked the Yankees but he was always a Red Sox fan - he was a huge Red Sox fan. Slade was one of those kids that - he more liked players than teams in particular. He was a big player-kid; he liked different players and things like that. For his 13th birthday I took him to St. Louis to see Mark McGwire play. I believe at that game he hit [homers] no. 63 and 64 that year, and we had it put on the reader board: "Happy Birthday, Slade." We always did fun stuff like that with him, and he loved the Dallas Cowboys, even though the team didn't do good, he loved the players. He was never into rivalries, or was like "I hate that team," he liked all the teams, he had some that he liked more than others. He was probably the biggest Red Sox fan more than anything, but things change. (laughs)
A surprising number of Yankee prospects grew up Boston fans [Phil Hughes, Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott]...
The Red Sox were one of the teams that were wanting Slade, but we were hoping for the Yankees. We heard so many good things about them, how good the organization was, we really felt like that was going to be the best fit for Slade, that was going to be a good, strong fit for him. I'm so glad he went to the Yankees because they are absolutely amazing, they have some of the best people, they're great up there. I love them all to death, you walk in there they know you all by your first name, know who you are, always say hello, everyone acknowledges you. They have good concern, they take care of their boys, and I'm really glad he went to them. That was a true blessing, him going to the Yankees. They've definitely done a good job with him.
Is there any reason they should be concerned about him now?
Absolutely not. That brief thing - I know he went through a little stint when he first signed and he was down there on his own, after I had left and I know he was kind of on his own. It was some bad influences, and he's 18 years old, and all that stuff hit him all at once, and it wasn't necessarily some good choices. He missed a flight - actually lost his passport because several of the players the night before did some drinking. Because he did that the Yankees sent him to an A.A. meeting before they put him on the flight two days later. I didn't know about some of that until later on. But no, not at all. Slade doesn't drink anything, he's got his head on straight, he's focused, he knows what he wants, what he's got to do to get there... they've got their bible studies, and he's done really good with that. He's very grounded now, and I have no worries whatsoever. He knows what he wants and knows what he has to do to get there from here on out. I don't think that's ever going to be an issue again. He just happened to be young and made bad choices.
Have the Yankees done anything else to help him?
They've got a really good intervention coordinator, Ron Dawkins, absolutely amazing. They were helping him, keeping an eye on him, keeping him focused and he had a - I'm not sure who exactly he was with the Yankees, but he was responsible for getting Slade into bible study and things like that. They had to button down the hatches and kind of rein him in a little bit, let him know what he was there for, there's certain things you don't do, and certain people you don't trust, and things you stay away from. And once that was said and done it hasn't been an issue since. But everybody there has been there for him to help him through everything.
What about the brawl with the Greenville Drive on May 13th?
I did not know about it. My husband and I were at a wedding and Jessica called me frantically, "Did you hear what happened?" So I've got my phone, I'm at a wedding - mind you, this is how much I stick up with the games - I've got my phone hidden down below, and I'm sitting here watching the ballgame - when I can't get to a computer I'm watching it on my phone - so I kept sitting here looking at it, "Delayed... Delayed." I thought, "What is going on?" And also to get a call from Jess. All of a sudden two and two clicked together and I thought, "Oh, my gosh," and I thought, "Something's wrong with Slade." So I went to the back to try to answer the phone and she tells me about it, and I said, "You've got to be kidding me, tell me what's going on, this is such bad timing, the [Post and Courier] article comes out one day and then this happens."
He texted me - he probably knew I was freaking out, so I talked to him right after that. I got a text saying everything's ok, apparently it was an ongoing thing that had been going on and I guess they had gotten word from - I don't know who said what, where, whatever - but basically I think it came down to they had gotten word before the game, the catcher was going to make the call to hit Slade - to peg him with a pitch. And that's the reason why he went after the catcher, because of that right there; the catcher's the one that made the call. Technically in baseball if the catcher makes the call...
Why would they want to hit him?
I don't know. I think there was things from a few weeks before that, maybe in a game or some stuff that happened... I really don't know what the gist of the issue was or anything at all, other than there was just a lot of mouthing going on, from what I heard. Things like that, he wasn't hurt, but he told me, "I'm probably going to get fined, get suspended, but it's all ok," and I just let it go. But I think it was just a lot of mouthing going on, and I really don't know the whole thing of it. Apparently they got word before the game that they were going to hit Slade, and I guess he took care of it. Yeah, I think he pretty much took care of that. (laughs)
What about this latest injury? [via email]
He had a little bout of tendinitis in his bicep. Nothing at all. They are just letting him rest. We just got back from there [Charleston] and he DH'ed all last week. He had only sat since Saturday. He made [the] All-Stars but won't be going so he can get some rest. It's absolutely nothing major at all, just a little sore. It's only natural to get a little soreness as his shoulder goes through the stages of healing. He was moved up on Sunday night so he is now in Tampa.
Is there anything else you want to talk about?
I think we've pretty much covered everything. I want people to know that he's a good-hearted kid, he tries hard, he wants to please people, make people happy, he wants to help children and other people that may have been in the same situation he was in. He's focused, he's not this awful person everyone makes him out to be. We went through some bad times for about a year, there was a lot packed in, what I said was just the tip-top of it, and there's just a lot more there.
He's my son, I love my boys more than anything on this earth and I always will. I'm very proud of him, no matter where he goes or how far he goes, I'd look for him to be on that big field one of these days, but no matter what he does, I'm always going to be very proud of him. He has done exceptionally well for what he's had to go through, and I just can't hardly hold him at fault for anything. He's turned things around and got his life straightened out and he's on the right path now, and hopefully we'll all see him up there in a few years... but that's much pretty much about it, I think we pretty much covered everything.
I hope to see him up here too.
I've never been to New York, I've traveled all over; New York is the only place I've never been, and I'm looking forward to hopefully making a trip soon. It will be a lot of fun.
Congrats to Slade on the promotion to Tampa and thanks to Mrs. Johnson for taking the time to talk with us.