By MIKE DAVIS for the Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Last year, Zak Wasilewski opted to forego a college career with the South Carolina Gamecocks for a professional challenge with the Toronto Blue Jays after being selected in the 14th round of the Major League Amateur Draft.
Wasilewski spent the year learning the trade from a different perspective, baseball as a profession instead of just for fun.
“I had a good time, but it was an adjustment for me,” said Wasilewski. “There were better hitters, being away from home, the heat and there were a lot of aspects. I was up and down, but I got better as the season went on.”
“Then, in Instructional League this fall, I got a lot better,” added Wasilewski. “I only gave up one run and I pitched well in all my starts.”
Wasilewski was scheduled to report to spring training on April 2 in Dunedin, Fla.
“I go back to spring training and then I’ll see where I go in June,” said Wasilewski, late last week at Lou Peery Field in Tazewell. “I’ll either go to Vancouver, Michigan or Bluefield — which would be great to see all the fans, that would be nice.”
“I’m more experienced than last year and there’s nothing new and nothing I can’t achieve,” added Wasilewski. “I just have to go out there and throw strikes and the rest will take care of itself.”
While pitching for Tazewell, Wasilewski made noise at the plate as well as from the mound with a .504 batting average with 142 hits in 282 career at-bats and 25 home runs — a Bulldogs’ team record. He scored 133 times with 116 RBIs and 61 stolen bases.
After having a pace-setting career for the Bulldogs and getting picked in the 14th round of the baseball draft, Wasilewski’s Bulldogs No. 13 jersey was retired at Tazewell in January, marking a tremendous effort for the up and coming pitcher.
“It was great to have my jersey retired,” said Wasilewski. “I couldn’t be any happier and it means all my hard work has paid off and how many people get to do that? It was pretty sweet.”
“I’ve been working hard in the offseason and pushing myself with workouts,” added Wasilewski. “I’ve been getting up earlier, eating better, just anything that will help me get better.”
As a senior at Tazewell, he played in 19 games, he batted 63 times, finished with a .524 batting average and scored 16 runs, 19 singles, five doubles, four triples and five home runs with 18 RBIs. He struck out just five times as a senior, walked seven times and was hit by a pitch three times.
When Wasilewski was on base he stole 12 bases. When he was on defense, he had 36 chances and he had 25 putouts, 10 assists with one error for a .972 fielding average.
He started six games, completed three and came on for relief in two outings. He threw 38 innings and faced 161 batters and gave up eight runs, two earned for an ERA of 0.39 and struck out 83 batters.
Wasilewski, an obvious role model for kids who come out to watch him throw in the offseason, is generous with advice for youngsters who are looking to set goals.
“School is first and baseball or any other sport comes second,” said Wasilewski. “If you have some talent, you can achieve anything if you work hard, you can do anything you want to do.”