Gettin' Ziggy With It (1st Edition)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Brad Ziegler is only 27 years old, but he’s already lived eight of his nine baseball lives. He’s been through one of the scariest moments a pitcher could ever encounter when he was hit in the head with a line drive. He’s also being converted to a Chad Bradford-type submarine style reliever despite his 3.37 ERA in Midland last year. This from a guy who used to be a starter. You can read more about Ziegler’s career here. And if you subscribe to Baseball Prospectus, this is a must read about Ziegler.

So when Ziegler recently contacted me about the site, I jumped at the chance and asked him about giving ANers a little more insight into the mind of someone right on the cusp of being in the Show. Brad has graciously offered to provided a column for AN throughout the year about his transition. The following is the first installment of Ziegler’s contribution to AN. I want to thank Brad for taking the time and effort to give us fans something really special. A look inside something we love.

Here is a quick summary of some of Ziegler’s baseball accomplishments:

• Promoted to Sacramento (AAA) (July, 2006)
• 2nd in Texas League (AA) in ERA (2006)
• Texas League All-Star (2006)
• Texas League mid-season All-Star (2006)
• Texas League Pitcher of the Week (4/16/06)
• Promoted to Midland (AA) (August, 2005)
• Oakland A’s organization strikeout leader (2005)
• California League (high-A) strikeout leader (2005)
• California League Pitcher of the Week (8/9/04)
• Signed free agent contract with Oakland A’s (June, 2004)
• Signed with Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League (2004)
• 20th-round draft pick and signed by Philadelphia Phillies (2003)
• 31st-round draft pick by Oakland A's (2002)

• Harwich Mariners Pitcher of the Year Award -- Cape Cod League (2002)
• Eastern Division All-star – Cape Cod League (2002)
• Southwest Missouri St. (SMS) all-time career wins and strikeouts leader
• ABCA 3rd Team All-American (2003)
• ABCA Midwest All-Region 1st Team (2003)
• NCAA Lincoln Regional All-Tournament Team (2003)
• Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Pitcher of the Year (2003)
• 2-time All-MVC 1st Team (2002-2003)
• 3-time Academic All-MVC 1st Team (2001-2003)
• 3-time MVC Pitcher of the Week (4/1/02, 4/29/02, 2/24/03)

- Enjoy the look inside baseball from someone living it. – Blez]

Hello, everyone! My name is Brad Ziegler (pronounced "ZIG-luhr"), and I'm a pitcher in the A's minor league system. Blez and I have been kicking around some ideas, and he threw out the possibility of me doing a journal during the 2007 season. For now, the plan is to post an entry every other Monday throughout the year. Please feel free, at any point, to share opinions about what I write, topics you'd like me to discuss, and any questions you have about professional baseball. I'll do my best to cover as many readers' suggestions as I can.

For starters, Blez thought it would be a good idea to give a summary of my baseball career for those who aren't familiar with my story...

I grew up in Odessa, MO, and played my college career at Southwest Missouri State (now known as Missouri State) in Springfield, MO. In the fall of 2001, I was married to my lovely wife, Kristi. A year and a half later, I was drafted in the 31st round by the A's following my junior season, but opted to return for my senior season. After graduating with a degree in mathematics, my teammates and I were fortunate enough to make it to the 2003 College World Series, and I was drafted in the 20th round by the Philadelphia Phillies.

I fought tendonitis in my shoulder during my first season with the Phillies, and I was only able to log six innings in short-season Batavia. After three weeks of workouts at the following spring training, I was told by the farm director that I "was not good enough to pitch in Low-A," and I was "too old to return to short season." Consequently, the Phillies released me a week before the season started.

After returning home, I signed a contract to play in the independent Northern League for the Schaumburg Flyers. After a month, I received a few contract offers, and I elected to sign with Oakland to go to High-A and pitch in the starting rotation. I went 9-2 that summer in Modesto, and we won the 2004 California League championship.

However, in game five of the Cal League semifinals, I was hit in the head with a 103-mph line drive off the bat of Giants' prospect Fred Lewis. I was diagnosed with brain swelling, a 1.5-inch fracture in the right temporal area of my skull, and 80% hearing loss in my right ear. I spent five nights in ICU (6 nights total) in the Modesto hospital. Two weeks later, most of my hearing had returned, and I was cleared to return home to Springfield, MO.

After spending nearly the entire off-season recovering, I was cleared to pitch again at the end of January. I returned with Oakland to play in 2005, my first full season. I spent most of the year in high-A Stockton, going 9-7 as a starter. I was promoted to AA Midland in August, and we were able to win the Texas League title.

In 2006, I returned to Midland to start the year. In July, I was promoted to AAA Sacramento, where I made four starts, going 0-1. In August, I returned to Midland in time for an exciting run to the Texas League playoffs. I ended the year with a 9-6 record for Midland.

At the end of the season, Ron Romanick (A's minor league pitching coordinator) approached me about becoming a submarine reliever. After some thought and prayer, I agreed to make the switch. After re-signing with Oakland for 2007, I went down to Arizona to instructional league to work with Ron on the new delivery. It has been a lot of hard work, because I'm basically re-learning how to throw. However, early results have been positive, and the delivery is becoming more and more comfortable each day. I'm hoping to go to spring training and earn a spot in the Sacramento bullpen.

In my career, I've been very fortunate to play with and against some tremendous players. I had the misfortune (haha) of facing Albert Pujols on a regular basis in high school, as well as playing alongside him on a couple all-star teams. Also, among my college teammates were Phillies first baseman and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, Rangers' pitcher John Rheinecker, and Blue Jays' pitcher Shaun Marcum. In addition, it goes without saying that I've been around some outstanding players in pro ball, including MANY in the Oakland organization.

I'm very excited about the upcoming season, and I hope this diary will provide some insight to you about life as a pro ballplayer. Questions and comments are welcome, and I will try to respond to as many as possible in my next entry two weeks from now (from Phoenix, AZ).