By: Greg Levinsky
Alex Heinen plays softball with a distinct energy. Whether she hits for the cycle or doesn’t reach base, Heinen’s character doesn’t change. She’s as much a fiery competitor as she is a compassionate teammate.
The senior catcher’s impact on the Boston University softball program has been incalculable.
“I don’t know if I’d ever fully have words to articulate what she’s meant to me personally and what she’s meant to this program,” Boston University softball head coach Ashley Waters said. “She’s the type of person that would literally run through a wall for you or go to the end of the earth for you.”
A native of San Clemente, Calif., the 22-year-old Heinen is now a two-year captain and hoping to end her career with a third NCAA Tournament appearance. She leads the Terriers with six home runs, one off her career high with half the season remaining. Heinen was also named as one of 30 candidates across the country for the Senior CLASS Award, an honor given to a Division I senior who champions the values of community, character, classroom and competition. Heinen said it was “one of the biggest honors” she’s received.
A guiding presence
Over her career, Heinen helped a host of pitchers to succeed right away as freshmen. In 2017, then-freshman and current junior Kali Magane established herself as the Terriers go-to starter. Last year, it was Ali DuBois who took the country by storm, earning the Patriot League’s Pitcher and Rookie of the Year Awards as a freshman.
A lot of the success in the circle can be credited to their backstop, Heinen.
“The whole entire team is looking at her and she’s the general of the field,” Waters said. “When you have a kid that has that much energy and makes people feel that great about themselves, there’s no way you can’t be succesful with her behind the plate.”
DuBois, now a sophomore, is again the team’s top arm. She said Heinen’s guidance was critical in her record-setting first year.
“She’s so easy to connect with because she’s so caring on and off the field,” DuBois said. “She builds relationships with her teammates, especially the pitchers. When you’re out on the field it never feels like you’re alone. It can be overwhelming as an underclassman but she’s the best at knowing just what to say to help you relax.”
Heinen said she keys in on certain things her pitchers like to see and hear to get the most out of them.
“I just really like to be vocal and as positive as possible on every single pitch no matter what,” Heinen said. “Just trying to keep them excited about every pitch and take it one at a time.”
Bringing energy and passion is purposeful. Heinen feels it brings a higher level out of her pitchers.
“When I’m out catching, that’s when I feel like I’m giving back to someone specifically and the way I react can have this huge effect on the pitcher and her mindset,” Heinen said. “If it changes the way they respond, I’m going to do it every pitch.”
DuBois described Heinen’s “selfless” nature as what separates her from other catchers.
“Her style as a catcher is so different because of how vocal she is,” DuBois said. “Every single pitch she is cheering for the pitcher and wants to do everything she possibly can for the pitchers.
“I would be nothing without her, she is the other half to my pitching, she pushes me to be the best I can and she supports me endlessly.”
From the start of her career, Heinen made an immediate impression. As a freshman, she batted .267 with a team-high nine doubles en route to Patriot League All-Conference Second Team honors.
It wasn’t just her on-field performance. Brittany Younan was a junior when Heinen came to BU. When Younan missed her senior year due to injury, she earned a fifth year and medical redshirt. She and Heinen both served as captains last year, and Younan said Heinen always demonstrated necessary leadership qualities. Heinen puts the team before herself.
“Alex was a quiet hard worker who picked everyone up and never cared about herself,” Younan said. “She brought a level of positivity and kindness that was contagious… and she was casually the best catcher in the Patriot League.”
Heinen improved as a sophomore, posting a .294 batting average, seven home runs, a league-high 42 RBIs and another Second Team bid.
Her junior year was one of the best individual seasons in BU program history. Heinen earned the Patriot League’s Player of the Year with a .355 batting average, 12 doubles, 3 home runs and 50 RBIs. She was also named to the NFHCA All-Region First Team and the ECAC All-Star First Team.
“Alex is probably one of the most humble people I’ve met in my life. Last year, winning Player of the Year, I believe that her entire career she’s always worked so hard and had this drive to be great,” Waters said. “For her to be rewarded for that, I think that that was a really cool moment.”
Younan echoed Waters’ assessment of Heinen’s humble yet competitive nature.
“As she grew as a player her role got bigger and she continued to rise to the occasion,” Younan said. “Watching how she carries herself now and leads on the field is absolutely amazing.”
And when Alex Heinen’s career is in the books, there will be a major void to be filled.
“Alex is the type of kid that when she walks away from your program, you feel it,” Waters said. “I’m so happy for her and have gotten to be on this journey with her for four years, but I consider myself kind of a part of that class. I came in with them, so when they graduate a piece of my heart is going to go with them, and she’s a huge reason for that.”
“This program, between my teammates and coaches, it’s been the best four years of my life,” Heinen said. “I’m so fortunate.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky.