Heilman: Still a Domer at heart

Growing up in Logansport, just an hour south of South Bend, Aaron Heilman was a Cubs fan as a kid.

So it's always a special feeling for the Notre Dame alum when he comes back to the Midwest as a member of the New York Mets to pitch at Wrigley Field.

"There's a lot of excitement and a lot of fun," Heilman said before Friday's series opener. "its always fun to come to stadiums like this. You know you are going to play in front of a sellout crowd every night."

There's another stadium Heilman enjoys visiting a lot.

"I try to make it back to every football game that I can," Heilman said as he began to explain his love for Irish football.

"It's barring our schedule of course," Heilman continued. "Hopefully we're playing late into the fall. So I'll have to root Charlie and the boys on from the TV and hopefully they can hear me."

"Its one of those places that you always go back and it always feels like home."

The former Irish hurler is now in his 5th season with the Mets. He began his career as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen in 2005.

That's when he began having great success, posting a 3.17 ERA that season.

But he's had his bumps in the road, including the NLCS last October when he gave up the eventual game-winning home run to the Cardinals in Game 7 to knock the Mets out of the playoffs.

"That's just one pitch in one long season that was pretty successful for me and the team," Heilman explained. "Unfortunately we came up a little bit short but this game is built on failure and if you can't handle it, you aren't going to last very long."

One pitch for a reliever can make a huge difference. It's a reason Heilman still prefers to be a starter.

"You have a chance to recover from a mistake as a starter," Heilman said. "As of a reliever, more times than not, you don't have that opportunity."

"You have to wait for another day to get another opportunity. It definitely helps to be able to go out there and redeem yourself quickly."

When asked if he would prefer remaining a reliever for the Mets or a starter for another team, Heilman did not give a clear answer.

He did stress how much he enjoys being a part of the Mets organization, but stated that things like who he is he going to pitch for and whether he's a starter or reliever are mostly out of his hands.

So a big leaguer who loves pitching in New York and a passionate alum who loves returning to his Alma mater.

So what's more exciting: an Irish football game or a Mets playoff game at Shea?

"That's a tough one," Heilman said as he thought it over in his head. "I've been a part of some crazy games at Shea and been a spectator at a couple pretty amazing games in South Bend. I probably have to say that the playoffs are a little bit more exciting."

Considering he gets to play in those playoffs, it only makes sense to give him the benefit of the doubt.

So far in 2007, Heilman is 6-3 with a 3.49 ERA. He has already pitched 56 innings and has 41 strikeouts.

For his career, Heilman has a 4.20 ERA.


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