For former Payson High School pitching standout Jeremy Heairet, the road to a professional baseball career passes through Toowoomba, Australia.
The hard-throwing right hander, who graduated from PHS last spring, left Payson Oct 5 bound for Down Under. There, he has penned a six-month contract to pitch for the Toowoomba Rangers semi-professional baseball team.
According to Heairet's mother, Renee Zeising of Young, the teen was signed to the baseball contract by the Ranger CEO Ian Luchterhand.
"He spoke to Jeremy initially about it when Jeremy was in Toowoomba for the USA Down Under Tournament," Zeising said.
Heairet was a member of an Arizona All-Star team that traveled to Australia last July to participate in a sports and cultural exchange. While in Australia, Heairet helped pitch the Arizona team to an undefeated record and two tournament championships.
During his current stint there, Heairet will play on the Rangers semipro team made up of many players scrambling to earn tickets to professional baseball in the U.S.
In addition to his playing duties, he also coaches the Rangers' 14-years-and-under junior squad and is a team spokesperson.
"His titles are Junior Director of Coaching and a promotional officer," his mother said. "Knowing how Jeremy likes to be the center of attention, I expect he really appreciates the opportunities to play those roles."
For Heairet, among only a handful of negatives in the entire baseball experience has been the Aussie's laid-back attitudes about the sport.
"They don't take their baseball nearly as serious as Americans do," Zeising said. "They have only one practice a week so Jeremy does additional work-outs and runs on his own to maintain his fitness."
The team's schedule includes just two games per week -- usually one on Saturday and another on Sunday.
Another drawback of playing ball in the laissez faire atmosphere has been the party atmosphere that surrounds the sport.
"Jeremy has learned that the older players enjoy their beer-drinking before and after games as much as playing ball," Zeising said. "Since the legal drinking age in Australia is 18 years, it's very tempting for him to want to go beer-drinking with them."
So far, Heairet has maintained his commitment to the sport.
"He's been good about putting baseball first," his mother said.
Heariet's first pitching start, Oct. 11 was witnessed by his father Kevin Heairet of Young. The elder Heairet will spend this month in the country helping his son adjust to life there.
After hurling the Rangers to a victory, Heairet was approached by professional scout Greg Morris.
"He complimented him on how well he pitched," Zeising said. "Greg told him, ‘No son, you don't have to throw 92 mph to play in the major leagues, if you keep hitting your spots like you have been, you could play in the majors.'"
Morris also told Heairet that he represents the Arizona Diamondbacks as the team's scout in Australia.
"He looks for ballplayers to take back to the states," Zeising said. "How cool is that? Jeremy had to travel all the way to Australia to speak to a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks."
Heairet 's high school coach Teddy Pettet knows the teen has dreamed of playing pro ball.
"He moved from Young to Payson (as a junior at PHS) because he wanted to play. Young didn't have a team," Pettet said. "With growth, maturity and a few other things he has to do, he has a chance to play (professional baseball)."
On Oct. 18, in Heairet 's second pitching start for the Rangers; he faced an opposing team that featured three Japanese players known to be heavy hitters.
"They were in Australia hoping to be discovered so they too could reach the American major leagues," Zeising said.
The most feared of the Japanese players rocked Heairet for two doubles before the former Longhorn star struck him out in the late innings of the game.
"Jeremy's dad said he looked much more methodical on the mound, but both the curve ball and splitter were working really well for him," Zeising said.
After pitching the Rangers to a victory in the opening game of the twin bill, Heairet played right field in the second.
Among his offensive contributions to the Rangers' victory was an RBI double.
"The team was so thrilled they gave him an MVP award," Zeising said.
Now firmly entrenched in his new role as a player, youth coach and team spokesperson, Heairet is scheduled to remain in Australia until the end of the season in late March.
"The team can extend his six-month visa if they want to keep him into April," his mother said.
Last season, as the Longhorns' ace pitcher, Heairet (8-2) paced the team to a state second-place ranking and eventually to the second round of the state tournament.