- Bell's father, Jim, was a United States Marine. Heath's Dad would not let him quit baseball. And he was ready to hang it up on a couple different occasions. When the college scholarship offers from Division I schools didn't come, and then when he wasn't drafted out of junior college, Heath was ready to enlist in the Marines.
"I was like, 'Man, my dreams are gone,'" Heath said. "The scouts were talking about me, and if they're not going to draft me, I must not be good."
But every time Heath was ready to join the service, he had a lunch with his father. Jim always talked Heath out of enlisting and continued to push his son to pursue his baseball dreams.
That doesn't mean Jim was against the military. In fact, he was a Marine for most of his adult life. Heath recalled one story his father told him that epitomizes his no-quit mentality. One day during boot camp, the Marines brought in a marathon runner to provide quite the physical challenge for the cadets.
"[My Dad] told himself he would not stop running alongside this marathon guy," Heath said. "He was dying, and guys were falling off left and right by the end of the day. The whole point was for the marathon runner to run and let every cadet basically fall off, and then it was done.
"My Dad was the only one who stayed with him the whole time." (Gina Mizell-MLB.com-6/15/10)
- Heath didn't make his California high school varsity baseball team until his senior year. He got no college scholarship offers, eventually making the Rancho Santiago (now Santa Ana) Community College team after a tryout. Regardless, he was the first in his family to attend college. His college coach then told him he had no future in pro baseball. And it looked for a while as if the coach would be right.
Bell eventually signed with the Mets as a free agent. His signing bonus was a paltry $500.
- After graduating from high school in Tustin, California, Bell attended Rancho Santiago Junior College in California. He was drafted following his freshman season by Tampa Bay, in the 69th round. Before the draft, Heath told the Phillies he wanted to stay in college for another year since he was the first person in his family to continue his education past high school
- Bell picked up his nickname "Taco" after he arrived to practice one day with a bag of food from Taco Bell. His college teammates began ribbing Heath, nicknaming him "Taco."
- Heath loves what he is doing. He loves everything about the game.
- Heath's cousin, Drake Bell, is an actor and musician.
WORKING ON HIS WEIGHT
- He lost nearly 30 pounds on the Weight Watchers diet during the off-season before 2002 spring training. He also dyed his hair blonde.
- Before the 2005 season, Heath dropped over 20 pounds by way of a regimen that included Roller-blading eight miles to the Mets' spring training complex ever day. This California native was used to the 'blades, having been known to frequent skater-friendly Newport Beach.
"I've been Roller-blading a long time and I had wrist guards and protection on," Bell said of being safe. And he also worked with another training tool—a Chuck Norris-brand home gym.
"My Mom loves infomercials," Heath said with a laugh. "She called me one day and said, 'Hey, can you use this?' I said, 'Sure.' And she drove it to Port St. Lucie, Florida (where his wife and child now live) from Texas."
- In November 2002, Bell left his Caracas team in the Venezuelan Winter League to be with his daughter in the United States.
- Heath is the father of four, including a daughter with Down syndrome. The four are Jasmyne, Jordyn, Reece, and Rhett.
But his wife, Nicole, often likes to say that she has five children, including Heath in the number.
- Bell is confident. During 2005 spring training, as fans clamored outside a fence to get autographs, Bell yelled to them, "You don't know me now, but you'll know me before the season is over."
Bell seems to go through life feeling that nothing can stop him from realizing his baseball potential.
"As a kid, I always said I wanted to be in the big leagues," Bell said. "Lots of people told me, 'What do you really want to do?' But you know, if you have a dream, you'll do everything possible to make it happen. I've had to overcome so many obstacles, it's changed my life a bit."
Bell may eventually find himself in position to become a rich man, but he said he's never been about money. He said he is happy with his wife, three children and house. He is helping one of those children, 3-year-old Jordyn, deal with Down's Syndrome. (Charlie Nobles-MLB.com-4/21/05)
Heath's wife's name is Nicole. She is Chinese; Heath is Polish.
During the winter before 2008 spring training, Bell did home projects such as bricklaying.
Heath spent a lot of "parenting time" with his children and wife during the offseason before 2009 spring training. Among their favorite activities together was yoga-like stretching that Bell said improved his flexibility. And, he lost a few pounds.
At the end of 2009 spring training, Bell walked around the clubhouse with his pet rat, Daisy, on his shoulder. Naturally, he told reporters about it after strolling into the media room, with Daisy aboard.
Bell answers reporters' questions with candor and color.
"Like my wife says, I'm very quotable. But I try to say it in a nice way. I don't try to hurt anybody. I can't please everybody. I try to please everybody," Heath said.
During the offseason before 2009 spring training, Bell lost about 25 pounds with a training program that included many hours playing Nintendo's Wii Fit game, which runs a series of interactive exercise programs.
Heath said he played Wii Fit so often that he annoyed his three children.
"They were like, 'Dad, get off, it's my turn,' " he said. And when he told them he was working, they replied, "Dad, you don't work."
October 8, 2009: Heath's wife, Nicole gave birth to the couple's fourth child, a son, Rhett Matthew.
Heath is just a child at heart, and he knows it.
"I'm more a kid than an adult person,” he said recently. “My father once told me, ‘You’re as old as you feel, stay young.’ I’m a responsible 10-year-old. People around the league who don’t know me, see me differently—as this mean, intense, say-anything guy whose something of hardhead.”
Teammates view Bell as friendly, funny and sometimes too outspoken for his own good.
"I'm just a guy,” he said. “I love my family and kids. I love to do fun, and some would say funny, things. Biggest thing is, I’m just a fan. If I weren’t playing baseball, I’d be watching it.
“But I am playing baseball. So I’m going to play while being me. I say what I feel. I don’t have a filter. I talk sometimes like I’m still a kid. Some people take that as being cocky and arrogant. But I’m neither. I’m Heath Bell.”
And that might mean saying something outlandish.
Or, flying a remote-control helicopter into the rafters of the roof at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Or, launching water balloons off the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building at Petco Park.
Or, riding a motorized beer cooler across the outfield grass at Petco.
Or, and this could be the kicker, taking his children to school while riding a motorized chair through the neighborhood.
“It’s great,” he said. “The parents who see us coming in that chair don’t see me as a ballplayer. They see me as the nut of a father in the motorized chair.” (Bill Center-San Diego Union Tribune-2/28/10)
Heath's father, Jim was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in February 2010, just as the Padres were starting spring training.
"It's hard," Heath said. "It's hard for my Mom to talk about it, and it's hard for my Dad to talk about it."
Jim went through more than two months of chemotherapy and radiation, where his weight dipped to around 130 pounds. The next steps in his treatment will be determined in the coming weeks. When Heath noticed his father was mentally struggling, he wouldn't let Jim give up.
"I honestly think he was losing faith, and he was giving up and he was just waiting to die," Heath said. "I truly believe that. I yelled at him over the phone after [the Padres'] Houston trip [in May]."
Heath shared those feelings with his daughter, Jasmine, who then started calling Jim every day. Since the extra push from Heath and Jasmine, Jim's spirit has been on a huge upswing.
"He kind of needed his youngest son and one of his grandkids to turn him around," Heath said. "He's done better ever since my daughter's been calling him. I think he's starting to find a will to live again."
Jim never allowed Heath to quit baseball. And now, Heath won't allow his Dad to quit on life.
"Sometimes you need a little kick in the butt, for whatever reason," Heath said. "He needed a little butt whoopin'. Everyone knows I'm not afraid to kick some butt here and there, because my butt's been whooped. I whooped him back in shape, so hopefully he keeps this thing going, or I'm going to whoop him back in shape again."
After all, Heath is his father's son.
In November and December 2010, Heath and his wife, Nicole, covered a good section of the Pacific Ocean on trips to the Fijian island of Tavarua followed by a vacation to Hawaii, where the couple renewed their wedding vows the first week of December.
These were memory-making trips to be sure, just not for all the right reasons.
While in Maui, the two-time All-Star was hospitalized with what was later diagnosed as typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that worked its way into Bell's bloodstream on their trip to Tavarua 10 days earlier. Typhoid fever, if left untreated, can lead to intestinal complications, kidney failure and, in some cases, death.
"It's something I ate in Tavarua. It gets in your stomach and you usually flush it out. For whatever reason, my body didn't flush it out," Bell said.
Heath and Nicole have four children, daughters Jasmyne and Jordyn, and sons Reece and Rhett.
Early in 2011, Heath began a major backyard renovation at his North Carolina home that he hoped workers would finish by the All-Star break. It includes a kitchen and a new swimming pool, plus moving and adding plants, etc.
May 16, 2013: Heath Bell pried open the bullpen door in the left-field corner of Chase Field on April 2 and sprinted to the mound to make his Diamondbacks debut against the Cardinals. Following a tumultuous season in Miami in 2012, in which he established career-worst figures in runs allowed and blown saves, to say Bell wanted to make a good first impression on his new club would be an understatement.
"I came in and I was like, 'I have no idea what I'm doing wrong,'" he said. "I felt great arm-wise, my velocity was there, there was just something mechanically I was doing wrong, and I had no idea what it was."
Lost and unable to decipher the issue by himself, help arrived the next day. Bell, Gibson, pitching coach Charles Nagy and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock sat down together, looked at film and eventually pinpointed what was going awry. The problem wasn't at the end of Bell's throwing motion like he thought; instead, it was coming from the beginning. Bell, whose delivery is already about as rock and fire as it gets, was rushing too much.
"Everybody has to get to a certain point before they throw the ball, and he wasn't getting to that point," Nagy said. "He was just going a little early." Seems simple, but for Bell, it was like a light flipping on. "Sometimes you just need some different eyes on it," he said.
Once the issue was identified, D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson wanted to give Bell a fresh mental approach to the game, so more problems wouldn't resurface down the road. "He talked about last year a lot, and I didn't want that. I asked him to tell me some good things he remembered," Gibson said. "Your mind, the way it works, you have to watch what you store in there because that's what helps shape your picture of yourself. Sometimes when we imprint too many bad things in our memory, it can turn into a mechanical problem."
Armed with a renewed sense of purpose, Bell said it took him about a week to implement what the coaches saw, and since then, he has been trying to build off it. Now, more than six weeks later, the results still aren't exactly where he'd like them to be, but the improvement is vastly evident.
Regardless of his eventual successes or failures, one thing is certain for Bell in 2013: he's back to enjoying coming to the ballpark every day, relishing in his fresh start in the desert with a coaching staff and clubhouse that supports him. (Emerick - mlb.com-5/16/13)
Former basketball player Erik Meek is Heath's cousin.
1998: The Mets signed Bell as a free agent, out of junior college, for only $500. Because he wasn't drafted, he says, "I know I have to be better than everybody else. I have a goal to learn something every day."
November 15, 2006: The Padres sent OF Ben Johnson and P Jon Adkins to the Mets, acquiring Bell and P Royce Ring.
January 20, 2009: Heath and the Padres avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $1.225 million contract.
January 15, 2010: Bell and the Padres again avoided arbitration when Heath signed for $4 million.
January 18, 2011: Heath and the Padres avoided arbitration by agreeing on a $7.5 million contract for 2011.
December 5, 2011: Bell and the Marlins agreed on a three-year, $27 million deal with a vesting option for a fourth season.
October 20, 2012: As part of a three-team trade, the Marlins sent Bell to the Diamondbacks; the A's sent Yordy Cabrera to the Marlins; the A's send Cliff Pennington to the Diamondbacks; and the Diamondbacks sent Chris Young to the A's. (Got all that?)
Bell went to the Diamondbacks along with $8 million of the $18 million he had coming to him—$9 million in both 2013 and 2014.
December 3, 2013: The Rays sent P Justin Choate and a player to be named to the D'Backs, who sent LHP David Holmberg to the Reds, with Heath Bell going from the D'Backs to the Rays.
May 4, 2014: The Rays designated Bell for assignment/releasing him.
June 13, 2014: Heath signed with the Yankees organization.
May 16, 2014: Heath signed with the Orioles organization.