Freedom’s Julia Heineman named Morning Call Ambassador of the Year

Julia Heineman said her success as a student-athlete at Freedom High School was about time management.

But those wanting to read over Heineman’s accomplishments had better give themselves some time.

Among her awards and activities:

  • Freedom’s softball scholar-athlete
  • Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s overall scholar-athlete award winner in both basketball and softball.
  • Won EPC student athletic council award.
  • EPC student-athlete character council representative as a junior and senior
  • Bausch and Lomb honorary science award winner
  • Treasurer of the National Honor Society
  • Presenter on biomedical research project at the Bethlehem Area School District Foundation Dinner.
  • BASD STEM advisory board with local industry
  • Key Club member as a junior and senior
  • Completed 152½ hours of community service doing youth sports clinics and working for organizations such as the Miracle League and Bethlehem Pubic Library

There is more, but you get the picture. Heineman was a busy young lady who found time to excel in the community, in the classroom and on the softball diamond and that’s why she is The Morning Call’s Softball Ambassador of the Year for 2023.

“Time management is key,” she said. “I played basketball in the winter and softball in the spring and had to stay on top of all my classes. I knew I had to get this assignment done and that one done before practice. You can’t let the work pile on top of each other. You have to stay organized.”

Heineman was the starting shortstop on Freedom’s EPC title team as a sophomore in 2021. She was the team captain the past two years and played center field for this past spring’s 16-7 Patriots squad that went 12-4 and tied EPC and District 11 6A champ Nazareth for the East Division crown.

She said one of her best memories from her senior year was a 4-3 come-from-behind win over Easton on May 1.

“That game might have gone extra innings and we had a walk-off win,” she said. “We were having an off day and really down, and we just rallied together at the end.”

She will also never forget the EPC title as a sophomore.

“It was the first league title in school history and it was special because I didn’t get to play at all as a freshman because of COVID,” she said. “Then I became the starter at shortstop as a sophomore and was on a very senior-dominated, veteran team. It was a little intimidating but it was really cool to be a part of it and it’s something I will always remember.”

Even though the regular high school season was eliminated by the pandemic in 2020, Freedom did participate in a summer tournament that had its semis and finals at Coca-Cola Park. Patriots coach Michele Laubach remembered Heineman standing at the home of the IronPigs.

“I knew when we had the summer tourney at the IronPigs during the COVID year that Julia was special,” Laubach said. “She has always been a leader on the field with her calm, hard-working manner. One of her greatest qualities that earned my respect about her is her resilient ability to adapt. She went from our starting shortstop in the 2021 season where she was a major contributor to Freedom’s first-ever league championship to starting center fielder her senior season and that allowed us to play Madison Glick, the league MVP, at shortstop.”

Laubach said she watched Heineman play during the basketball season and called her “an incredible athlete.”

“But her academic success is equally impressive,” she said. “Off the field, she is respected by her teammates and coaches for her dedication and ability to empathize with players in the locker room. She has been voted captain of our softball team the past two years and she exemplifies our Freedom softball culture and what it means to be part of the Freedom family.”

Heineman, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh and major in something in the health care field, batted .349 as a senior. She had 17 RBIs, scored 18 runs and collected six doubles and two home runs. She struck out just four times in 71 plate appearances.

She believes the Patriots program is headed for good times.

“We have a really young team and this year was just the beginning,” she said. “We saw our potential. We just need to mature and maybe jell together more. This was the first time some people were playing together. So in the future, like next season and the season after that, good things will come.”

Heineman was proud to be part of an outstanding athletic era at Freedom that produced lots of excitement along with championships.

“I love the Freedom family and the idea of being part of a family here,” she said. “We strive to be united and be as one family. We have athletes from other sports coming out to see us play softball for example. It’s a nice atmosphere when everyone is supporting each other.”

Heineman would be the perfect role model for returning Freedom student-athletes to follow and for incoming students to know about as well. Her advice:

“Take advantage of every opportunity,” she said. “Do something that you’re uncomfortable doing because that’s how people grow. If you’re unsure about trying something, go for it and try it. You never know if you’ll like it or not and you may find it that it’s the thing for you.”

Without a doubt, Freedom will miss her and she will miss the school that has been a part of her life for a long time.

“I’ve been coming to the Freedom field since I was little because it’s close to my house,” she said. “I always came here and practiced here. This place will always be a part of me.”

By Keith Groeller

Story by Morning Call

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