SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.– For most rookies, an invitation to their first big league camp is a step in the right direction of realizing their dream.
Brad Ziegler’s first camp in 2008 wasn’t so exhilarating.
A “rough one,” he called it.
Ziegler said a month before camp started he got hit in the forehead in an offseason workout with a ball that wasn’t intended for him. The result was a skull fracture that delayed his rookie camp.
Ziegler recalls only throwing one inning in his debut spring training with the Oakland Athletics before being sent down to the minors.
“I never was really given a true shot to make that team. I threw like one inning in camp before I was sent down to minor league camp,” Ziegler said. “I was still fairly new with my delivery so they wanted me to have a legit shot to get ready for the season, so consequently I was just there as a courtesy at that point.”
So far, pitcher Matt Koch and infielder Jack Reinheimer are enjoying a much better experience in their first big league camps. Both described the opportunity as “exciting” and a chance to meet new guys.
“It’s exciting to get another year going and to see the other side of things instead of being on the minor league side for all of my career so far,” Koch said. “It’s been fun meeting all the new guys and seeing how they work.”
Selected out of the University of Louisville in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, Koch was traded to the D-backs Aug. 30. In 36 games with the Binghampton Mets and Mobile Baybears, he went 5-8 with a 3.20 ERA.
Reinheimer had a similar transition out of college. He was taken out of East Carolina University in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners and played last season with the D-backs’ Double-A affiliate in Mobile.
“You get a little bit anxious coming up your first day whether you’re in minor league or big league spring training,” Reinheimer said. “It was exciting getting here and seeing all the guys you hear about and picking their brains. It’s cool to get to know these guys on a personal level.”
Reinheimer, a 23-year-old shortstop, was part of the June 3 trade that sent Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno to the Mariners in exchange for outfielder Gabriel Guerrero, catcher Welington Castillo and pitcher Dominic Leone.
When asked who he looks up to on the team, Reinheimer didn’t hesitate. “Definitely Nick Ahmed because the kind of game he plays. He’s a great defensive shortstop and hopefully I can learn some stuff from him.”
Growing up, Reinheimer idolized Derek Jeter for his work ethic, the way he played and how he handled himself off the field.
Ziegler said it’s important for rookies to keep their priorities in line off the field to stay relaxed and focused on the field. “The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize how important that is,” he said.
In his early days, Ziegler said the veterans sometimes made fun of the rookies. He got his fair share but nothing that ever made him feel uncomfortable. He said the “ribbing” only made him feel more part of the group and not an outsider.
“At that time, there were a lot more veterans in the locker room than rookies and now it’s like we’re swallowed up by rookies,” Ziegler said. “The dynamic of the game has changed a lot in this trend toward the younger guys.”
Now in his ninth year, Ziegler likes to mess with the rookies a little.
“We have to be careful because if they get a mob mentality they can overrun us.”
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