Tag Archives: Dons Baseball

Kansas City Royals Draftee Kyle Zimmer on Baseball and Beyond: An Interview with USF’s Highest Professional Draft Pick Ever

Why are you here in SF?
I just came back for the week to hang out, see old friends and work out. We had the Cracked Crab Kickoff Dinner that we do every year. It’s a fundraiser for the baseball team.

Where are you headed after this?
Back to Arizona for Spring Training. It starts in two weeks.

Previously you played for a Minor League team? Which team?
It was the Kane County Cougars, about 45 minutes outside Chicago.

How was that?
I had a lot of fun. It was fun to start pro ball in a cool place like that, we had like 15,000 fans or so a game. It was a good experience.

So I know you had elbow surgery…
Yep, and a scar to prove it!

I heard it was pretty minor. Did you have any problems with it afterward?
No, it was really easy. They just cut it open, took the bone chips out and that was that.

And you felt like you came back to full strength?
Yeah, I’ve been throwing and everything feels normal now.

What are you most excited about about heading to Spring Training?
Just getting back on the field, playing every day and competing.

How long have you been off?
Since the beginning of September. It’s been a long offseason. Since like my freshman year at USF, I’d probably been home for three months total in three years. So it was nice to be home for an extended period of time for the first time in a while.
Did you pitch at all in high school?
I threw 20 innings my senior year. I did well, but I didn’t like it that much.

When did you start considering pitching? Did you ever?
I was never really for it but the coaches here had me throw a couple bullpens, throw in some inter-squad games and I did, and I started doing well. So they said I was going to focus on pitching.

Now how do you feel about it?
I feel like it was the right decision.

Do you miss infielding?
Yeah. I miss hitting a lot, don’t get to do that anymore. But I’ve grown to love pitching. It’s a newfound love.

When did you start thinking that pitching was going to take you beyond college baseball?
My sophomore year here I thought, ‘well I’m starting to get the hang of it, starting to get better and better, if I keep working at it I’ll have then I’ll have a shot to play professionally or after college.’

Had that dream always been there?
Yeah, ever since I was a little kid as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but I always thought it would be as a third basemen. So it’s a little strange, but I’m loving it.

Where did this dream come from? Your family?
Yeah, my dad played baseball in college and my mom ran track in college. My mom ran the one hundred meter hurdles at San Diego state, she was actually going to the Olympics and she was favored, but she tore her hamstring in the Olympic trials.

Who are you most excited to pitch against in the majors?
Probably Derek Jeter, I’ve watched him since I was a little kid.

So you really want to strike him out?
Well yeah, I really want to strike him out. But I think it would just be pretty surreal to actually face him. And he’s been one of the greatest hitters of all time. It would be awesome to face him.

Is there anyone you idolized as a kid?
Umm…Nomar Garciaparra was one of my favorite players. I was a shortstop and he was a shortstop.

You were a shortstop? When?
Yeah, growing up I was shortstop and second baseman.

So you played all around the board?
Yeah, I was all over the place.

You played outfield too right?
Yeah, and first base.

So…you never caught?
I did catch actually. I guess now I’ve played every position on the field! I’ve covered them all ha-ha.

Did you ever think you would be drafted as high as you were? What were your expectations?
I guess going in to my junior year, after my junior summer. I played in the Cape Cod League, which is know as the most elite college baseball summer league. There were a bunch of scouts there and I was thinking then, playing against supposedly the best talent in college baseball, ‘I can do this.’ So I sort of set my sights from there, set goals for myself to get drafted in the first round. So I put my head down and started working from there.

Do you ever plan to go back to school?
I do. I only have six classes left to finish my degree.

What is your major?
Business Administration. I definitely want to finish in the near future.

Do you ever want to use your degree?
Nah. I’d love to play baseball forever. Obviously, if my arm blows up, I’d use it. I was always planning on going to law school or graduate school after, but we’ll see.

So does going to Spring Training mean that you have a roster spot?
I’ll break camp on April first, that’s when the teams all break up.I’m probably going to start in either high A or double A, and then like any other job, you get promoted within according to how you are doing and what the team’s needs are. It’s just a matter of how fast they want to move me. Best case scenario would be getting called up to the big league team in September. But more realistically it’ll probably be the start of next year that I’ll be fighting for a spot.

So you grew up in San Diego area, what made you decide to come to San Francisco?
I was actually born here. I was born at UCSF, but I only lived here for the first 14 months of my life and then I grew up in San Diego. The coaching staff here for the baseball team is unbelievable. I loved every minute I spent with them. I like the school a lot and I love the city, I felt like it was a good mix of academics and baseball. And being able to experience the great city for at least a few years.

Do you set goals for yourself?
Last year we had weekly goals. At the beginning of last year, my junior year, I made a goal sheet with future goals for the entire year. I accomplished most of them, one was to get drafted in the first round, another was to win the WCC which we didn’t do. We were close.

Have you met anyone that you’ve been starstruck by yet? Who is the coolest person you have met so far?
I think right when I signed, when I went to Kansas City to sign my contract and do my press conference there, I got to walk through the locker room and all the big leaguers were there and just walking around shaking everyone’s hand was pretty crazy, seeing everyone that I’ve watched on TV for years and know who they are. Hopefully I’ll be a part of that team in the next year or so, so that was pretty crazy. But you get a little bit more numb to it because you meet the guys and realize they are just like me, just other baseball players that like to laugh and make jokes and be stupid.

Diamond Dons Alumni Return for One More Game

On Sunday at Benedetti Diamond, the Diamond Dons got together with San Francisco baseball alumni to play in the annual alumni game. The ’09 Dons were able to defeat the Alumni 6 – 1 but the score, hits and outs did not seem to matter in this game. Having fun and catching up with old teammates was on the agenda for the Dons.

Blue

To kick-off the ceremony, Dons alumnus Dick Bichelli threw out the first pitch. Bichelli played for the Dons from 1952 to 1954. The alumni team graduates from ’08, ’07 and ’06 came back to play one more time. Those players included Joey Railey, Jonnie Knoble, Jon Norfolk, Kyle Morgan, Tavo Hall, Danny “D.Mo” Morales and the White Sox’s number one draft pick of 2007, Aaron Poreda. The 2009 Dons came out ready to play with old faces Derek Poppert, Ryan Lipkin (fresh off his summer with Team USA), Drew Johnson, John Abramson, Stephen Yarrow and many others. There was also a new face in the infield taking Joey Railey’s spot at second: transfer student from the University of Arizona, Robert Able, who was also  wearing Railey’s old number six jersey. 

Junior Derek Poppert commented on playing with his old teammates for probably the last time of his baseball career, “It’s a little bittersweet because I’ve spent so much time with those guys. It’s weird to see them in a different color uniform.” Poppert went 1 – 3 on the day with a double but was thrown out at third by his former teammate Jon Norfolk. “He had the perfect throw to third. It could not have been more perfect, and if it wasn’t I would’ve been safe. I will even tell him that myself! But that’s how it goes,” said Poppert.

Alumnus Joey Railey was the player on the field having the most fun. Railey dropped his glove on the ground and checked his “watch” when fellow teammate Danny Morales had a meeting on the mound, laughed at fellow alumnus Mitch Bialosky when striking out and messed with catcher Ryan Lipkin by tapping him on the face mask with his bat. Railey graduated last year and was one of the leaders for the Dons in 2008. Now that he looks back on his time at USF and his old teammates, Railey realizes just how much he will miss playing in San Francisco. “[The game] was a blast! Being away this summer and being away from all this I was definitely looking forward to this [slumni game] for a while. Just being back with all of these guys and this program you build good relationships with everyone. But you definitely have a little bit more fun when you’re an alumnus,” said Railey. 

This summer Railey was playing with the San Diego Padres for their minor league affiliate, but Railey said he was ready to come back. “We just came out here to have fun with our old teammates and the new freshmen. I miss this so much. I have so many memories here, this is my home now. I am living here and I’m going to be working out with the team this year.Towards the end [of the summer] I just couldn’t wait to get back. USF is something special.” Soon after Railey finished his sentence he was drenched with the Gatorade cooler by his former teammates as a sign of respect—or maybe just to get him wet.

Other alumnus Jonnie Knoble also came to play on Sunday with the same intentions and enthusiasm as Railey. “This group, you can tell, we’re all just really close. It is cool to see the different groups and how we interact. It is definitely a good experience to come back and to see everybody because we can’t see each other during the summer. It’s cool to see how the new players are going to mold and how they are supposed to act and can learn from us,” said Knoble. Like Railey, Knoble also misses his time playing with the Dons, “I miss it a lot. I was able to play independent ball based out of Michigan, so I still get to play, but I miss playing in college. There is no worries, you just get up and play. But when you’re out in the real world, it’s still fun, but the game is a little bit different; it’s more of a job. Coming here to play is a good change and it’s fun and a great experience.”  

The first inning began with the alumni stepping in the batter’s box with their old intro theme songs playing in the background getting them back into the Dons spirit. Aaron Poreda looked strong on the mound and stood with his White Sox jacket on in the dugout between innings.

The scoring didn’t start until the third inning when current Don senior Zach Kim hit in senior George Lujan on a sacrifice fly putting the Dons up 1 – 0. Then junior catcher Ryan Lipkin hit in both Robert Able and junior Bobby Ethel who both reached on walks. At the end of three innings, the Dons were up 3 – 0. 

The alumni could not answer back until the sixth inning after the Dons scored another run in the fifth. Alumnus Stephen Grandelle hit a ground-rule double in the sixth and was hit in by alumnus catcher Jon Norfolk cutting the Dons’ lead to 4 – 1. But the alumni could not catch up after Able hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to put the Dons up 6 – 1, making that the final score.