Heen, Hawaii has NCAA berth in sight

Former Balers standout Callee Heen is carving quite a career at the Division I level. Photo by Cassidy Heen.

When the University of Hawaii played a three-game set against Cal Poly on April 5-6, the Mustangs intentionally walked Callee Heen a couple of times. Truth be told, Heen would’ve rather had the opportunity to take the bat off her shoulder and swing away; however, the junior catcher/first baseman couldn’t help but feel good since an intentional walk is the ultimate show of respect toward a batter.

Whether she’s getting intentionally walked, hitting home runs or enduring a rare slump, Heen never dwells on any one game. As cliché as it may sound, Heen’s pitch by pitch, inning by inning, game by game approach has helped her focus on the task at hand, leading to a terrific season for the Rainbow Wahine, which is in contention to earn a NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in a long time.

“We talked at the beginning of the season that this team has talent and we have something special on this team that can get us very far,” said Heen, a former San Benito High standout. “And hopefully we can get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a while.”

For the third straight season, Heen has been an absolute force. The 5-foot-8 junior has already earned Big West Conference Player of the Week honors twice this season. Before entering a three-game set at Cal State Fullerton last Friday—Hawaii was 27-10 overall and 8-1 in conference—Heen had started all 37 games and had team-best marks in average (.392), home runs (12), RBIs (39), slugging percentage (.794), walks (23), and on-base percentage (.512).

Heen has also excelled defensively at catcher and first base, recording 289 putouts. Heen couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable college experience.

“It’s been great,” she said. “We’re in a great environment, the Aloha as you call it playing at home, and all of the fans have been super. We’re in a great atmosphere with fans who are welcoming and who love the game. It’s been good with good vibes all around.”

Out of all the statistics Heen has compiled—she is one of only two starters who have more walks than strikeouts—perhaps the most impressive one is this: In three seasons at Hawaii, she has yet to miss a single game.

“I try to put in extra work whenever I can,” she said. “In the off-season, it’s all about a lot of reps, working out and keeping the body healthy.”

Heen spends her summer in Hollister, working out at Blackjacks and at Rich Aldrete’s facility in Salinas. Under the watchful eye of her dad, Curtis—who just happens to be a terrific coach—Heen works diligently to continually hone her game and improve.

“He’s pushed me my whole life to be the best I can be and the best teammate I can be,” she said. “He’s my coach for everything, from having a strong mindset to leadership skills. He’s always talking or texting me after a series letting me know what I did wrong and what I need to improve on. He’ll give me some compliments every now and then. Maybe on home runs he’ll say, ‘Oh, that was a nice shot, but I guess you could’ve hit it a little further.’ It’s great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Last season, Heen excelled on and off the field, as she earned Big West Academic All-Conference honors and Hawaii Scholar-Athlete honors. Heen is roommates with another former Baler standout, Brittnee Rossi, who has started in all 37 games this season as well.

“She’s adjusting really well, and it’s nice to see a familiar face on the team,” Heen said.

Heen, who bats cleanup, and No. 2 hitter Nicole Lopez have built a close friendship over the last couple of years, which has energized Heen’s play.

“I try to feed off of my teammates, especially Nicole,” Heen said. “If I’m down, Nicole is up, and if she’s down, I’m up. We try to pick each other up.”

Even though Heen has put up some big numbers, she’s not inclined to focus on them. That type of reflection can come after the season is over. During the season, Heen knows the path to sustained success starts with a steely-eye focus in each at-bat and forgetting what happened in the previous plate appearance. Heen has a goal to hit 20 home runs this season, and while lofty, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her reach that number.

“This year I’m trying to hit the first pitch good I see because I don’t know if I’ll see another one (in the at-bat),” she said.

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