Rob Zastryzny has experienced the ups-and-downs of playing professional baseball, just as many players do. He didn’t go through it alone, thanks to the strong support of family and a strong bond with his college pitching coach Matt Hobbs. Rob and Matt were both kind enough to take time for us to interview them for this story.
Rob’s career in high school can be summed up in one word: exceptional. His resume includes an all-state selection in 2010, second team All-American, All-South Texas Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and he was a member of the Calallen High School State Championship Team in 2008.
With that kind of resume, you would have thought that Texas colleges would have been eager to recruit him. That wasn’t the case and it’s where Zastryzny’s family played a key role in supporting him.
“My family has been there for me from day one. They gave me the confidence to go out of state for college when really no one in Texas wanted me that bad. They supported me, my mom came to a lot of games in my sophomore and junior year. Kind of made it feel like home even though I was 15 hours away or 1,000 miles.”
That decision would play a huge part in Zastryzny’s life going forward. It was at the University of Missouri, that he would meet pitching coach Matt Hobbs.
“He was Fantastic. His first year [at Missouri] was my first year. He had a meeting and laid down the law. He came in and took over that staff from day one. He inspired confidence. Basically, he knew what he was doing and he let us know. “
“I have nothing but great things to say about him. He really turned my career around, I didn’t know if I was any good. From day one he took me under his wing. He didn’t give me any special treatment or anything, but he made me want to work harder, he made me want to be a better pitcher. He pushed me more than any other coach had at that point in my career.”
We asked coach Hobbs, what stood out for him the first time he met Zastryzny and watched him pitch?
“I got to Mizzou after we had signed Rob so the first time I really saw him pitch was the first day of fall workouts in the pen. He was a little banged up after a pretty heavy workload coming into college. He wasn’t at his best, but you could see the upside and the ability to execute at a high level. I met Rob in person on the first day of class his freshman year, what stood out to me was that he wasn’t as wide-eyed as the other freshman pitchers, he knew that he belonged there.”
We also asked coach Hobbs how Rob improved from when he first saw him until he was drafted?
“Rob came a really long way in terms of his overall pitch mix and his stuff. He basically got through his entire freshman year working off of his fastball. He could really locate that pitch in on right handed hitters, which most guys at the college level aren’t used to seeing. He would show his change and rarely throw his breaking ball. He stayed in Columbia over the summer and really developed his change and started to show a slider in addition to his curveball. He became a more complete pitcher during his sophomore year. The real jump came during the fall of his junior year, when he started to dominate his training between outings. His commitment to training changed everything for him, he went for a guy that would work mostly 85-88 to a guy that would pitch in the 89-93 range and touch higher when he needed it.
It hasn’t always been an easy transition becoming a professional pitcher. There was a point during his first season that he was “scuffling a little it.”
“My first professional season, I was scuffling a little bit. At that point, I was struggling. What do I do? I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
With those thoughts lingering, he turned to a familiar face for advice. Matt Hobbs his former pitching coach reassured his doubts telling him “You know who you are. You’re a competitor. You’re a guy that goes out there and fights no matter what. ”
“From that point on it didn’t matter if my arm slot was different or how the slider felt coming out of my hand. It changed everything for me.”
When somebody speaks such kind words about a person it will certainly have an affect on a person. Upon hearing that, Hobbs said,
“It’s always nice to hear those things from a guy that you’ve watched grow as a player. He’s a special one, he doesn’t know this, but he made me work harder. He always wanted more; it’s not like he was looking for a magic button, he knew that this game is tough and took investment to get incremental change. He was 100% invested in himself as a pitcher. He is to this day the bar I compare all of my pitchers to.”
Zastryzny came into the season ready to dominate and in the best shape of his life, but a broken foot derailed his promising campaign.
The 2016 season holds a lot of promise for the soon to be 24-year-old left-hander. An offseason of health and time spent honing the mental and physical side of the game will put him in a position to succeed next season. With his family and relationship with Matt Hobbs in place, look for him to accomplish great things.
You can follow Rob Zastryzny on Twitter @