tampabay.com

St. Petersburg man follows dad's lead as batboy

A 21-year-old feels what his late father felt at Al Lang Fieldfour decades earlier.

By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Published March 11, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - For a few moments Monday, Jason Glenn Heath got to walk in his late father's footsteps.

The 21-year-old private investigator, acting as the Rays batboy against the Indians, said it was like a "dream come true" to step on the same Al Lang Field where his dad, David Heath, once rubbed shoulders with the "Miracle Mets" during his batboy days in the late 1960s.

David Heath, who was gunned down Jan. 17, 2007, in a St. Petersburg alley, would often describe his time with the Mets as among the biggest highlights of his 53-year life. In 2000, Heath filled four cassette tapes with memories with hopes of writing a book.

After his death, Jason often listened to his father's voice to help him to heal. On Monday, Jason said he got to "feel what my father felt."

"Being out there, I don't think about his death at all," Heath said. "I just picture him being with me. Watching me. It's definitely a great release."

With the Rays moving their spring training operation from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte after this year, Jason said he didn't think he'd ever get a chance to feel the Al Lang grass. But after he found out in the newspaper last month the Rays were looking for batboys, Jason went for it.

The Rays gave him a four-game tryout, which included last Wednesday's matchup with the Astros. That's when Jason sat in the same visitor's dugout where his father posed for a picture with former Mets and Yankees manager Casey Stengel. David Heath was the Mets spring training batboy from 1967 through their miraculous run to the World Series title (1969) and into the early 1970s.

"I've watched videos of my dad with the team, hopping into a taxi," Jason said. "It was crazy - it's like he was a Beatle."

Jason attended Boca Ciega High (like his father) before getting his private investigator's license to work for his mother, Ann Marie Carty, who runs reunitepeople.com. Carty said she's "never seen Jason smile like this," and hopes he gets the full-time gig when the club picks the batboys later this spring.

"I think the healing is starting right now," Carty said. "And the healing is in baseball."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.