Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in The Eagle on April 18, 1980.
Wichita State pitcher Don Heinkel has some impressive numbers.
A sophomore right-hander, Heinkel has a 13-2 record in his two seasons. This year, Heinkel is 6-2, losing only to nationally ranked teams Hawaii and Nevada-Las Vegas. His earned-run average is 1.92 and he’s allowed only 40 hits in 56 1/3 innings.
But here’s the number that should really get you: 3.92. That’s Heinkel’s grade-point average.
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A baseball player with those kind of smarts isn’t found on every street corner. Why, just consider that Wichita State seems to be playing a baseball game every time you turn around. How much time can that leave for studying?
Also, Heinkel isn’t getting these grades by loading up with classes such as Baseball 101. He’s taking a pre-med curriculum at WSU with an emphasis on chemistry.
“I made a ‘B’ in a beginning biology course last spring,” said Heinkel, a former three-sport standout at Racine (Wis.) Horlick High. “That upset me. It seemed like we had some games at bad times but that’s no excuse. There were just times when I just didn’t do as good a job of studying as I should have.”
Heinkel’s a 19-year-old college sophomore who has his life more organized than most 40-year-olds. You know the type. He doesn’t smoke, drink or use bad language and makes an “A” on darned near every test. Heinkel doesn’t even chew tobacco.
HE TAKES SOME KIDDING
“He’s something else,” said Shocker Coach Gene Stephenson. “He’s got great habits on and off the field. He’s the type of player you hope will rub off on theothers. A lot of players everywhere could do well by looking at him.”
Heinkel was 7-0 as a freshman for the Shockers, after picking WSU over Arkansas.
“I wanted to go South where it is warmer,” said Heinkel last week as he sat bundled in the press box at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium while his teammates were playing and freezing in 40-degree temperatures.
Heinkel, on full scholarship now, wasn’t offered a full ride by Stephenson at the outset.
“But I really chose WSU over Arkansas because I talked to some pitchers at Arkansas who said it was tough to get a chance to pitch on the varsity as a freshman,” Heinkel said. “Coach Stephenson told me I would get that chance here and maybe even a chance to play some second base.”
Heinkel’s only opportunities as an infielder have come during the fall, when it didn’t mean much.
Heinkel, unlike many college students, isn’t one to go carousing when there’s book work to be done. He’s up late, usually, burning that midnight oil. But to study – not play.
HABITS ARE EXEMPLARY
“I’m not really in the majority on this team,” Heinkel said. “I get kidded quite a bit from a few of the guys. But it’s all good-natured. I think maybe it’s kind of a form of respect. I became a Christian in high school and I don’t really have the urge to go out and party. I feel like in my studies I’m giving something back to Him. I like to goof around with the guys but I don’t feel like I have to go out and get drunk to have fun. I try to keep things in perspective. When I was in high school I did more or less what everybody else did. There were times when I’d go out and experiment with different stuff.”
Heinkel’s roommate is first baseman Phil Stephenson, the brother of the coach. Gene couldn’t have picked a better person to keep an eye on his baby brother.
“It’s helped me a lot just to room with the guy,” said Phil. “It’s helped my study habits. I think I study more now. But, he probably studies a little less now rooming with me. I don’t think it hurts him, though.”
Heinkel and Stephenson will play this summer for the Fairbanks, Alaska, Goldpanners, and likely will play for that team in the National Baseball Congress tournament in August at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
“I want to give pro ball a shot,” said Heinkel, who was drafted out of high school by Kansas City in 1978. “But if I don’t get the chance I don’t think I’ll be ruined. I hope I’ll have something to fall back on. Right now, I’m thinking about becoming a general practice physician.”
Heinkel is one of those guys everybody envies. He quizzed out of 10 hours of German and five hours of calculus before he ever entered a WSU classroom.
“I envy a guy who has the discipline to take care of his responsibilities,” said Coach Stephenson. “He’s a really quit type of guy but he’s one of those kind who comes to play and comes to win. I think he’s a great college pitcher already. He’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”
“Some of the guys will occasionally get on Don if he says something that’s not so bright,” said Phil. “We’ll say, ‘Aren’t you the guy with the 4.0 grade average?’ or something like that. But we all respect him a lot. Some guys go to school to go to school and some go to play baseball. Donnie’s doing both. Everybody ought to be able to room with him.”