CHANDLER, Ariz- This year was to be a year in which former Arizona State Sun Devil Sebastian Zawada was looking forward to. Coming into 2017, he was going to be a senior on the baseball team. With the team being young, and a lot of new faces, he would be counted on to provide leadership as well.
However, that was all on paper. Once the season started, Zawada’s playing time was not there. A lot of the younger guys were getting the at-bats. This being just a season removed, where he was tied for the team lead in home runs in 2016 with eight.
Looking in the mirror of his career, his dreams, and not wanting to miss an opportunity, Zawada made a bold, and hard decision to leave the program and explore professional baseball.
“It was hard, a big decision. It was hard to leave the locker room above all. I was treated so well there between alumni, fans, and others there. It was a great experience, however, I had to leave,” said Zawada.
It’s well known Zawada has big time power potential and is looking forward to displaying that for the Southern Illinois Miners in the Frontier League. The Frontier League is an independent baseball league and will be in its 25th year of operation this upcoming season.
The road through independent baseball is tough, and the conditions are not the best, however, Zawada is ready to embrace this.
“I think it’s just hard ground baseball every day. You’re on the bus every day, you don’t fly. You don’t have the best equipment, but this experience definitely teaches you about yourself, and makes you produce more.”
Whether its affiliated baseball or independent baseball, everyone is out for themselves at the lower levels of this game. It’s going to be a fight. Players looking for their moment to shine so they can have the opportunity to advance their own career, but it was clear during the interview that Zawada is ready for this challenge.
“I’m definitely up for a little battle here. I definitely have what it takes to move past a lot of guys and get to the highest level.” Zawada went on to say “I’m excited to step in there, maybe upset some people (established players) and take their position.”
As for the next stage, what sets Zawada apart is his dedication and preparation to his craft.
“All the hours and preparation. I’m just so confident in my ability. If I get the chance to maintain consistent field time, during my career the past has shown I have stupid power. Overall, I can really bring something to the team from an offensive perspective.”
In professional baseball, players have to make a change from aluminum bats to wood bats. In preparation for that, Zawada has been making the transition by picking up hitting sessions with others and feels he has no issues with that change.
“I went back and hit at my old junior college (South Mountain Community College) with some friends that are preparing for their professional seasons. Honestly, I like wood so much more. To hit a baseball pure, you have to know what it feels like to hit it with a wood bat. It’s basics broken down baseball. You don’t have a lot of room to miss. Your swing has to be on to catch up to pitches. When you get it right on, there is a payoff that you get with wood that you don’t get with aluminum.”
It’s common for players to reinvent themselves at the independent level. Zawada, known as a one-sided player, will be going through that reinvention of making himself a complete player that can not only produce offensively but play and contribute defensively.
“I plan on completely removing myself from the name DH (designated hitter). I’m going back to the field, and I’m gonna play the field hard, and I’m gonna hit hard. I’m gonna be a constant threat every day either defensively or offensively.”
The first professional game for Zawada is on May 5 in an exhibition game vs Florence Freedom. The regular season for the Miners and Zawada begin on May 12th as they open up at home vs the Evansville Otters at Rent One Park.