WALLA WALLA - When Drew Heid called Dave Meliah, one of his former baseball coaches, Tuesday shortly after the Anaheim Angels had drafted Heid in the ninth round of Major League Baseball's amateur June draft, this was the advice he received:
"Enjoy the ride."
Obviously, Meliah wasn't talking about the long bus rides Heid can expect to experience in his first year of minor league ball, even though the Walla Walla Community College coach admits that he didn't mind those long, bumpy trips during his years in the Texas Rangers minor league system.
"I was kind of the exception, but I really didn't mind those bus trips," said Meliah, who played six professional seasons and made it as far as the Class AAA Oklahoma Redhawks of the Pacific Coast League before retiring in 2003.
"What I told Drew was that there are not too many guys in his situation," Meliah added. "I told him not to look too far ahead or worry about making it, just play as hard as he can and enjoy the heck out of it. It's something that no matter what happens, he will never forget. And he will be a better person for it."
Heid, a 2006 Waterville, Wash., graduate, played one season at WWCC while Meliah was an assistant coach there under Mike Cummins. Heid also played two seasons for the Walla Walla Bears American Legion team that Meliah coached, so the player and coach are well acquainted.
"I don't know that we ever talked about him turning pro," Meliah recalled. "It was more about trying to get him to the (NCAA) Division I level. I do remember telling him that he had the ability, but it might take a little time to get someone to notice."
Heid made it to the Division I level as a sophomore, when he received a partial scholarship and transferred from WWCC to Gonzaga University. And during his three seasons at Gonzaga, he definitely got noticed.
The left-handed hitting center fielder was a unanimous all-West Coast Conference selection as a senior after leading the Zags with a .390 batting average with 18 doubles, four triples and eight stolen bases. He slugged at a .602 clip, had a .467 on-base percentage, scored 54 runs and led the WCC with a single-season, school-record 92 base hits.
Heid finished his three seasons at Gonzaga with a .376 average, among the top 10 in school history, and his 234 career hits are fifth all-time at the Spokane school.
Heid, who grew up in Touchet and attended Touchet High School as a freshman and sophomore before the family moved to Waterville, spent Tuesday at home with his parents, who now live in Goldendale, Wash., following the MLB draft on the internet. He admits that he didn't quite know what to expect.
"I had heard from some of my coaches that I might go as early as the third to the fifth rounds," Heid said. "I had other people telling me fifth to the eighth round. I was presuming fifth through the 12th rounds, really."
And when the Angels selected him with their ninth-round pick?
"My name just popped up on the screen," Heid said. "My dad saw it, I saw it, and we just kind of went nuts."
"There was real excitement, actually amazement, because I had been told that I was supposed to get a call from the organization before it was announced."
The call from the Angels came later in the day. And Heid admits that he was surprised that it was the American League West team that called his name.
"They had contacted me three or four times during the season, and I knew they had watched me play," he said. "But they didn't make it sound like they would draft me high. So I didn't expect it. But they are a great team, and it was great to hear that it was the Angels."
Next, of course, is the business of signing a contract, which Heid fully expects to do, possibly by this weekend. His agent is Bill Hertz of California, whom Heid contacted through Gonzaga's coaching staff and alumni association.
Then it will be off to Orem, Utah, where Heid expects to begin a professional baseball journey that he hopes will one day lead to The Show. The Orem Owlz of the rookie Class A Pioneer League open their season June 21 at Idaho Falls, which will, of course, require that first minor league bus ride.
It remains to be seen if Heid will enjoy those rides as much as his old coach. But for now, he has to figure he's on the right road.