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Jul. 13—Growing up in Chester County, Dylan Heid was a Philadelphia Phillies fan, although the recent Pitt-Johnstown graduate did have some baseball ties to the Baltimore Orioles as a youngster.
"We were looking at some old baseball cards from Little League and I was on the Orioles," Heid said of his days in the Great Valley Little League. "I was a big fan of theirs at one point. I had the little hat with the buttons on the back."
Heid, 23, soon will wear a different hat and uniform affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected the right-handed pitcher in the 11th round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday. Heid was the 317th player chosen overall.
"We knew somebody had to draft him. He's too good," Pitt-Johnstown baseball coach Todd Williams said of the Mountain Cats' ace. "The last two years he put up the numbers to prove that. It was just a matter of who and when. He was receiving phone calls from other teams throughout the process. He had a lot of interest. We were very excited for him."
One of Pitt-Johnstown's most decorated student-athletes, Heid became the Mountain Cats' first baseball player to earn first-team All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings and the NCAA Division II Conference Commissioners Association (DIICCA).
He also was a second-team All-American pick by the National Collegaite Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) this spring.
Heid used his strong showing at Pitt-Johnstown to land in the new Major League Baseball Draft League as part of the Trenton Thunder team after his college career concluded.
Heid had no indication the Orioles might draft him.
"I didn't know the Orioles were picking me until a minute before," said Heid, who went 7-2 with a 1.37 ERA in 59 1/3 innings as a senior at UPJ. "My adviser called me and said, 'Hey, the Orioles are thinking about picking you in this round.' I was outside playing with my dog. I go in, turn on my laptop and hear my name right away. I was like, 'Wow.' My dad was there. My parents are here. It was amazing."
Heid had a no-hitter early in the Pitt-Johnstown season this spring. He had six complete games and four shutouts. The righty struck out 105 batters while walking only 15.
The trend continued with Trenton. Heid struck out 37 and walked five in 21 2/3 innings with the Thunder.
"Dylan has a different fastball than most guys," said Pitt-Johnstown pitching coach Rick Roberts, who advanced to Class Triple-A as a minor league pitcher. "It might not have the high-end velocity close to 100 but he throws 92 to 94. It's really heavy. He has an eight-foot wingspan so the ball is right on top of you.
"He's a competitor. He can really command the fastball and elevate it. He's really developed a nice slider to go with that. He has the makings of a good change and a 12-6 curve. My guess is he'll eventually be 95 to 98 with three or four pitches for strikes," Roberts said.
The Mountain Cats helped the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Heid develop that potential after his college career took an early detour.
Neither Williams nor Roberts will forget the day Heid attended an open tryout with the Mountain Cats.
"His sophomore year, he walked into my office a year after he attending Bloomsburg, where he was cut from their team, and said, 'I want to try out for your baseball team,'" Williams recalled. "The process started then with him and Rick Roberts. He followed Rick's tutelage. Ricky really knows what he's doing and him and (assistant coach) Ian Stiffler do a great job with our pitchers.
"Every year he improved. Every year he got better. He had that inner drive. He got his velocity up into that 93 and 94 range and he had that superb year this year. It was great to watch him pitch."
Roberts said Heid made an early impression at his first UPJ workout.
"He got cut from Bloomsburg," Roberts said. "He showed up in a white tank-top shirt in our open tryout. He was (throwing) 86 to 88. You could tell he had what it took."
The motivation and determination enabled Heid to emerge as a leader on the mound. He earned pitcher of the year honors in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division as well as Division II Conference Commissioners Association, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and ABCA/Rawlings Atlantic Region.
"I got cut from Bloomsburg. I was not a happy camper. I was trying to prove myself," Heid said. "'I'm going to show them. I'm going to be insane, so good.' I tried to apply to Pitt's main campus. I didn't have the grades to get in. They said I could go to Pitt-Johnstown. I said, 'I'm going there and I could still be good.'
"I showed up and started throwing 91 at tryouts. I was like, 'Wow, if I put my mind to something, I can actually do it,'" Heid said. "Everyone there just helped me so much. My friends, my teammates, they all had their part in it. They helped me. I helped them. I'm glad I went there."
Heid said a representative of the Orioles spoke to him on Tuesday, advising him to enjoy the moment with his family and friends. The organization will discuss his next steps in the professional game soon, he said.
Heid is the latest Pitt-Johnstown player under Williams and his staff to join a professional organization.
Last year, Windber High graduate Braxton Roxby signed as a free agent pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds and Isaiah Kearns signed with the Orioles.
Former Mountain Cats standout hurler Kaleb Fleck signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks and appeared in 250 minor league games from 2012 to 2018. Conemaugh Township High School graduate Ben Watkins was selected by the New York Yankees in the 40th round of the 2009 draft and played two seasons in the minors.