Zurbrugg opens up about baseball and ‘every hitter’s worst nightmare’


While chatting with Zane Zurbrugg, a native of Bremerton and current minor league baseball player, I told him about the horror show I witnessed on the evening of May 17 while watching the New York Mets-Atlanta game. Braves on TV.

My kids wanted to play a board game that night, so I paused the game in the seventh inning with Kevin Pillar at home plate for New York with the bases loaded. When I came back to start watching the game, the Mets were leading 1-0 and Pillar had a 1-2 against Braves reliever Jacob Webb.

“Just put the ball in play,” I thought in my head.

Within five seconds of pressing the play button, I screamed. My wife heard it, my kids heard it. They wanted to know what was wrong.

I had just watched Pillar take a 95 mph fastball to the face. He fell to the ground, blood streaming from his burst nose. Much to my amazement, Pillar finally walked away from the pitch, refusing to cover his face with a towel. It’s almost as if he wanted to show the world that his nickname – Superman, given for his defensive prowess in central field – had been earned for a reason, and that even the wayward fast bullets in his face weren’t his Kryptonite. .

I asked Zurbrugg if he had ever been punched in the head before. He hadn’t, but admitted it was “every hitter’s worst nightmare.”

“I’ve had ABs where some guys came up with a 90-95 MPH fastball,” said Zurbrugg, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. “It gets your adrenaline pumping. the scariest thing.

Zurbrugg wondered what it would be like for Pillar the next time he stepped into the batter’s box. Would he be worried about the next fastball that rolls away from a pitcher?

“You have to be focused to hit,” said Zurbrugg. “If it’s in the back of your mind, it’s going to mess up your timing and everything. To come back, it must be hard.

The last time I spoke with Zurbrugg, in March 2020, he was one of three Minor Leaguers with kitsap roots (Lucas Knowles, South Kitsap graduate and Shane Matheny, Olympic graduate, are the others) who didn’t know what COVID-19 meant for the competition. Last year.

As it turned out, the pandemic canceled all minor league games in 2020, leading Major League Baseball to overhaul its power system. Instead of clubs having five or six minor league teams, that number has been reduced to four: two single-A teams, one double-A team and one triple-A team. With fewer spots available on the roster, that meant some minor league players would be released.

Zurbrugg, who played for the Brewers rookie A team in 2019, said it was a “scary time” to be uncertain about job security, but he felt good about his chances of making it. ‘to be maintained. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .263 with nine stolen bases and said team staff were happy with the progress he had made as a freshman.

“I dodged the first ball,” said Zurbrugg, who has spent much of the offseason training at Everett and Bellevue.

Sadly, Zurbrugg didn’t dodge the injury bullet in early 2021. He underwent surgery to mend a broken hamate bone in his left hand before spring training began.

Zurbrugg didn’t realize he had a broken bone at first. He thought his hand was just hurting when he punched and tried to get over the pain.

“Typical athlete thing: ‘Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just a little pain,” “said Zurbrugg.

Zurbrugg is in Arizona for rehab pending an assignment at single-A Carolina Mudcats. He plans to cross the country soon.

“I’m like a year and a half without playing a real game,” said Zurbrugg.

Even though he can’t wait to start playing baseball again every day, Zurbrugg needs to make sure his hand is ready. It’s hard enough hitting a baseball with two healthy grips on the bat.

“You want to go,” he said, “when you’re really 100 percent.”

It was a slow start for Kitsap’s other two minor leaguers.

Launched for the Fredericksburg Nationals, a freshman single-A subsidiary for the Washington Nationals, Knowles is averaging 8.31 points earned with 14 hits, 15 strikeouts and five walks in 8.2 innings. Knowles, 23, made a save against Salem on May 21, closing the team’s first-ever win after 15 losses to start the season.

Shane Matheny plays on the field for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A branch of the San Francisco Giants. Matheny, 24, is batting .182 with eight runs, five RBIs and two stolen bases in 55 at batting. His best performance came on May 23 against Bowie. Matheny finished with two doubles and four RBIs.

Jeff Graham covers sports for the Kitsap Sun. Contact him at [email protected]

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