Perhaps no player was more valuable to John Szefc and Ryan Fecteau’s pitching staff in 2019 than Jaison Heard. In his first year with the Hokies after transferring from St. John’s River CC, Heard led Virginia Tech with 27 appearances out of the bullpen. The Maitland, Florida native finished the year with a 3.40 ERA, striking out 47 batters over 39.2 innings. Heard found a groove down the stretch, allowing just one earned run over his final 14 innings pitched. He’ll hope to use that momentum from the end of his junior season for a strong senior campaign.
Q: You have seven dollars and five minutes at the grocery store. What do you buy?
JH: Probably one of those big boxes of goldfish. I think those are $5. Maybe a smartwater or something to help wash it down.
Q: If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would be cast for you?
JH: Leonardo DiCaprio. Easy.
Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JH: This is one of those things that I think about whenever they happen and I think, ‘I hate that.’ I can’t think of one right now. Probably dirty dishes. I can’t stand that.
CVD: Do your roommates leave those a lot?
JH: I can’t say I don’t contribute to the problem a little bit, but I go to make breakfast in the morning and I’ll typically clean it all up.
Q: What’s been your favorite memory over your time at Virginia Tech?
JH: Just the friendships. A handful of the guys last year that I’m still connected with. Coming here I knew a couple guys coming in, but for the most part it was all new people. Growing up in Florida, I never really knew anybody from Virginia, so different people from across the country, it’s been cool to meet people and build relationships.
Q: You have the bases loaded with two outs and a 3-2 count on the batter. What pitch are you throwing him?
JH: Slider. Slider. Yep.
Q: How would you describe the jump from JUCO at St. John’s River to the ACC here at Virginia Tech?
JH: I think it’s been pretty smooth, honestly. Coming out of JUCO, the biggest thing for me was mentally, just being mentally prepared. My freshman year I was a reliever and my sophomore year I was a starter, so I got a taste of both. Dealing with some factors down there, it showed me how to play the game at a gritty level. Coming here, it translated well. The stuff we have here, I’m able to utilize that and the people here. Some of those things that we didn’t have at JUCO. It’s one of those things when you have to grind at that level to get out, you get here and I feel like I blossomed.
Q: Coach Fecteau talked earlier about using the new technology and analytics to pair up Stephen Strasburg’s changeup to work on your own. What has that process been like for you?
JH: It’s been awesome. I had a changeup, but it was never something I took pride in. It’s been good, but not enough to get ACC hitters out. To have the technology and be able to look at spin axis and spin efficiency and spin rate, it helped me form my grip comfortably. Then with looking at all the specs with stuff, it was awesome to see what works and what would be effective.
Q: You were tied for the most appearances out of the bullpen last year with 27. What’s that mindset like knowing your name could be called upon at any moment in any situation?
JH: You just have to be ready. I found a comfort on the mound, so it didn’t really matter what the game looked like or how I felt in the bullpen. When I got on the mound I was just calm. It was kind of weird.
Q: You really improved as the season went along, finishing with a 1.17 ERA in ACC games. How do you keep that up going into your senior season and what have you done this offseason to ensure that?
JH: There’s only so much you can do physically as a pitcher to help your game. I think it’s all been mental. I think junior college has helped me in a certain way. It’s just keeping a level head. These guys that we play, they’re good. Quite frankly a lot of them are probably better than I am, but it’s just keeping a level head and going out there and filling up the strike zone.
Q: How do you want people to remember Jaison Heard when you take off the Virginia Tech jersey for the last time?
JH: Just a quality person. A good guy. Someone who you can rely on. I want to be remembered as consistent on the field and a good dude off the field. Someone you want to be a friend with.