Heath Quinn: Rising Through the Ranks

Almost every college baseball player dreams of the opportunity to be drafted and get a chance to play in a big league organization. For Samford University outfielder Heath Quinn, that story is no different. Considered one of the top college bats in the entire country, the sky is really the limit for Quinn in next June’s draft.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, to Mitch and Karen Quinn, Heath always had a love for baseball from a young age. Even though he grew up in Alabama, Heath was a huge Boston Red Sox fan. As a young kid, Quinn loved watching baseball and named David Ortiz as his favorite baseball player.

“My favorite player growing up was David Ortiz. I’m a big Red Sox fan and I just liked watching him growing up and the whole Red Sox organization. It was definitely fun to see them win (the World Series).”

A three-sport star in high school, with basketball and football being other passions of his, Quinn knew baseball was on a different level than the other two sports. Coming out of high school, he knew had a choice to make. Baseball was his first, and really only, choice.

“I’ve been playing ever since I could pick up a bat… I got to play travel ball and played with some talented kids through high school. I got to play in some good travel ball tournaments and showcases growing up and that led me to Samford and Coach [Casey] Dunn.

“There was one day, I was sitting at practice and I just thought, ‘I don’t want this to end, I just want to keep playing.’ That’s when I really knew I wanted to keep playing baseball. I loved the other sports as well but I didn’t have the same feeling that I did for baseball.” 

Quinn excelled in his four years at Oak Mountain High School in all three sports. Quinn hit .459 in his final year of high school, finishing his season with four home runs and 29 RBIs in only 105 at bats. There usually aren’t too many eyes on a small school like Oak Mountain High, but he benefited greatly from the star of his High School teammate, David Dahl.

“Honestly, I don’t think I would have had anyone come see me play if it wasn’t for him. Luckily for me, hundreds of scouts came to see him play in high school. That gave me a platform for scouts to see me play, and I’m very thankful for that.”

A year older than Quinn, Dahl was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft right out of high school by the Colorado Rockies. This increased exposure led to more recognition and appreciation for the talents of Quinn, which contributed to him being drafted the following season.

Out of high school, Quinn was drafted in the 12th round by the Cleveland Indians. He knew his future was in baseball, but instead of playing for the Indians, Quinn signed a letter of intent to play with Samford University.

“First of all, I am just blessed and thankful for the opportunity to get drafted in the first place. It was a fun and interesting process that I got to go through that spring. I didn’t go play because I don’t think the timing was right. I wanted to develop some more at Samford, a program that has produced and developed many players over the past six or seven years.”

For Quinn, the decision to play at Samford was an easy one. From a young age, he had a great love for the game of baseball and lived near Samford U for much of his life. One of the main reasons Quinn felt like Samford was the right fit for him was the influence of head coach Casey Dunn. The chance to get his education and play for Coach Dunn was too good of an opportunity for him to pass up.

“He has developed players very well at Samford and I saw that growing up and that’s why I chose Samford. His development of players was one of the key factors I was looking for and I wanted to get better.”

While Coach Dunn was a big part of Heath’s decision to play for Samford, he also had another strong influence in his life that helped him throughout his career. Quinn mentioned the large role his father played in not only his baseball career but really throughout his childhood, helping him become the player and, more importantly, the man he is today.

“My dad has always been there for me, for anything really. If I need someone to throw to or need some extra batting practice, or even just some advice, he has always been there for me.”

While Quinn’s focus has always been on the field, he hasn’t overlooked the importance of his education and his potential future off the field. When Heath is not on the diamond at Samford U, he is studying sports administration with the hopes of getting a degree.

“I am a sports administration major. It’s fairly new at Samford. I would like to go into coaching of some type. You can do a lot of things with Sports Administration in terms of getting involved with athletics and administration but I want to get involved on the coaching side and stay involved in the game.”

There were high hopes for Quinn coming out of high school, both hopes for himself and the hopes of others such as Coach Dunn. Dunn knew the kind of special player that Heath could be, and he responded in kind. In his freshman season at Samford, Quinn started 59 games in right field, finishing the season with a .319 batting average with 20 doubles, nine home runs, and 48 RBIs.

Because of his first-year success, Quinn was named a Freshman All-American as well as second-team All-Southern Conference. For him, the accolades aren’t nearly as important as his performance and development on the field.

“Obviously it is an honor. It feels good to see your hard work pay off, but then again you can’t really think about it too much…. You can’t get caught up in that. You don’t want to get too big-headed. You want to stay humble and keep working and just get better. Awards just give you even more motivation to get better.”

Despite his freshman-season success, the transition from high school baseball to college baseball wasn’t always easy for Quinn.

“The grind. You play a couple times a week. You have to keep your body healthy and stay in shape. Sometimes when you get in slumps your confidence goes down and I think the biggest thing is to stay in the middle. Don’t get too high or too low and try to stay consistent and keep working as the season goes on.”

Quinn followed his stellar freshman season with an even better sophomore performance. In his second season at Samford University, Quinn played in 58 games in right field, finishing the season with a slash line of .340/.418/.580 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. All five of these numbers were improvements from his freshman season, and he really put his name on the map in the Southern Conference.

Quinn followed his outstanding sophomore season with a summer trip to play in the Cape Cod League with the Falmouth Commodores. Players such as Darin Erstad, Mark Loretta, and, more recently, A.J. Pollock have played for the Commodores in Cape Cod. Quinn followed in their footsteps with a fantastic summer performance.

“Over the years I have gotten better developing as a hitter. My approach at the plate has gradually gotten better as I’ve grown as a player. That’s a strength of mine on the mental side.”

Quinn finished the summer league with a slash line of .317/.364/.486 and hit four home runs and drove in 16 runs in 142 at-bats over 39 games played. He led the team in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, triples, runs batted in, runs scored, and games played. He was also tied for first in home runs, and finished in the top two or three in hits, doubles, and batting average. His performance earned him player of the week honors for the weeks of June 30 and August 4, and Quinn was also named a Cape Cod League All-Star. Heath was arguably the best player on the roster of the Commodores this summer and has quickly shown himself to be one of the best college hitters in the entire country.

“I had an awesome experience in the Cape this summer. It was definitely an honor just to be there. From the teammates to the host family, everyone was extremely nice and we all had a blast.”

On the field, Quinn plays with a great deal of intelligence and passion. Off the field, he is just another normal 20-year-old college student. While his focus is on baseball during the season he also has several other interests and hobbies when he is not on the field.

“I like playing golf a lot. I play other sports too, like pickup basketball in my free time as well. I definitely play video games with my friends and hang out with them as well.”

For Quinn, the most important part of playing baseball is being a leader and being able to set an example for both his teammates, and perhaps even some younger fans watching him play.

“I hope my teammates view me as a leader. I try to lead by example. I am not that much of a vocal person but I lead by the way I approach the game and how I work at the game. I think my work ethic sets me apart from other players. I try to outwork everyone else. If you are one of those guys that shows up and works hard you set a good example for your peers and hopefully they will follow.”

Despite all his success on the field, and his humble and grounded attitude off the field, Quinn knows there is always room for improvement in his development into an even better player.

“I need to get a little better on the base paths, or a little more aggressive. You can always do all the little things right. From better reads in the outfield to not trying to do too much at the plate. Just the little things like that I could definitely work on as I grow.”

Heath Quinn is a humble kid who comes from a great family living out his baseball dream. While the journey has not always been easy for Quinn, he is making the most of the opportunities he has been given. Based on his success over the last two seasons with Samford University, he figures to be a hot commodity in next June’s amateur draft. Quinn still has some work to do over the next year, but he is hoping to make his lifelong dream of playing big league baseball a reality.

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