Born: October 20, 1959 - Racine, Wisconsin
Horlick H.S., 1978
Wichita State University, 1982
College Baseball Hall of Fame, 2010
Don Heinkel remembers how much fun it was a few years ago when he and his former Wichita State teammates attended a 25-year reunion of the 1982 Shockers, who just missed winning the College Baseball World Series.
"It was a great time. My boys had a blast," said Heinkel, who lives in Roebuck, Ala., and works as a doctor in nearby Oneonta.
And now, Heinkel, who was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, is returning to Wichita to receive an honor bestowed by the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m really pleased to get honored like that and get to go back home and see so many of my good friends,” Heinkel said. “I have so many great memories, the camaraderie, the great teams we had, the great coaches, all working so hard together. And then, as a senior, coming within one game of winning it all."
One of the greatest pitchers in Wichita State University’s rich baseball history, Heinkel set an NCAA record with 51 victories during his career from 1979-82 that still stands today. He isn't surprised the record has stood for nearly 30 years.
"Not really considering the rule changes and everything," Heinkel said. "Plus, when I was there, we had great teams. If the pitching and defense to keep it under a touchdown, we had a pretty good chance to win because we had great hitters and great players."
Heinkel was named All-Missouri Valley Conference three times and was a first-team All-America selection in 1982 as a senior when he helped lead the Shockers to their first-ever appearance in the College World Series with a 16-5 record .
"I remember how it felt when we won the regional and were going to Rosenblatt,” Heinkel said. "What an amazing experience that was."
Heinkel, who set WSU school records for games started, complete games, innings pitched and earned run average, not only was a great pitcher, but also one who helped build one of the most powerful programs in college baseball.
“When I left, I knew there was quite a foundation built,” he said. “I felt as long as (head coach) Gene (Stephenson) and (pitching coach) Brent (Kemnitz) were there, we’d be a Top 20 type team every year, and they haven’t disappointed.”
Heinkel was the epitome of a student-athlete. He was honored as a first-team Academic All-American and the first Wichita State student-athlete to be the recipient of an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship.
Heinkel was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 1982 Major League Draft and pitched in the major leagues with the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. While in the minor leagues, he set a modern day record for victories for the Birmingham (AL) Barons organization with 19 wins, including two in the postseason.
It was in Birmingham where Heinkel met his future wife, Angela. The couple has a baseball team of its own, plus two - 11 children, seven boys and four girls.
Heinkel hopes to bring as many of his children as he can to the induction. Angela Heinkel suffered a stroke 18 months ago and has struggled at times, but Heinkel said his wife has kept a great attitude and has been able to continue to home school the children, which range in ages from nine to 23.
“We’re thankful for that,” said Heinkel, who has been cancer-free himself for 14 years. “We’re trying to get as many (children) as possible to the ceremony.”