Shank at home playing for the Barnstormers

By on May 1, 2019
Lititz’s Zach Shank studies High Point’s pitcher from the on-deck circle while preparing to bat for the Lancaster Barnstormers last Sunday. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Lititz’s Zach Shank studies High Point’s pitcher from the on-deck circle while preparing to bat for the Lancaster Barnstormers last Sunday. Photo by Matthew Libhart

As Zach Shank was leaving the field Sunday at Clipper Magazine Stadium, he bumped into a friend.

Turned out to be his former sixth-grade teacher at Lititz Elementary, Bob White.

White, actually, was one of several buddies and family members who came out to see Shank play in the Lancaster Barnstormers’ season-opening series against High Point (N.C.) last weekend.

For the first time since graduating from Warwick in 2009, he is back on a local diamond, and it’s been a great opportunity for all involved.

“I’ve gotten some friends out to see me play already, my family’s been out,” Shank said, “so that’s really what I was looking forward to — getting to play in front of those guys.”

That was a luxury he didn’t really have after being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 28th round in 2013, playing hundreds of miles from home. He retired last May, but found himself getting the itch to compete again, and signed with the ‘Stormers in February.

Standing outside of Lancaster’s clubhouse Sunday, Shank was right at home.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed everything so far.”

In the finale against the Rockers, Shank came off the bench to play left field for Devon Torrence in the top of the seventh, then batted in the bottom half and stung a two-out single to left field on a 1-2 pitch from High Point reliever Nicco Blank, as Lancaster beat the Rockers 8-5 for its first win.

“It’s always tough coming off the bench, but I was just looking to get a fastball and get my barrel to it, honestly,” said Shank, who is 3-for-7 (.429) through the Barnstormers’ first three games.

It wasn’t evident, but Shank admitted that he’s still knocking off some rust.

“Definitely. It’s just getting live reps back in,” he said. “I think it will take a little bit of time still.”

Regardless, Barnstormers’ manager Ross Peeples is glad to have Shank on the roster.

“Zach’s great, I love him,” he said. “Great ball player, he can play anywhere. He comes to work every day, works his tail off and even more important than that, he’s a great human being. He’s a class-act guy. You don’t have to worry about him on and off the field and we’re going to depend on him to play multiple positions and help us with the bat. It’s good to see him get that solid hit (Sunday).”

Shank started in left both Friday and Saturday, and played errorless ball, despite dealing with howling winds in a 7-1 loss in the opener.

“It was an adventure,” he smiled. “I was probably the most stressed out I’ve ever been playing in the outfield. It’s a place I’ve played before in the past, so it’s just getting used to it again. It’s not all new to me or anything like that.”

At the plate, after going 0-for-3 Friday with Matt Sergey starting for the Rockers, Shank picked up his first two Atlantic League hits Saturday, finishing 2-for-3 off of righty Seth Maness and Co.

“The pitcher was good (opening night),” he said. “I hit a ball well my third at-bat, and it got knocked down by the wind, but I felt good at the plate. (Saturday) night, same thing. (High Point’s) starter was in a groove. He was working fast and we didn’t start hitting until we got in the bullpen a little bit.”

In six seasons in the Mariners’ system, Shank batted .259 with 18 homers and 181 RBI.

“(Zach can bring) a little bit of everything,” Peeples said. “He’s got a little juice in (the bat), he gets on base, he can spray the ball a little bit, and he runs well. A little bit of everything. He’s a contact hitter, if you want to say, but he can get on one as well.”

The Barnstormers have others who have a little juice in their bat, with former Milwaukee Brewer Caleb Gindl and ex-Atlanta Brave Joe Terdoslavich each going yard in their 8-5 win on Sunday.

“I think we can be really good, just from what I’ve seen so far,” Shank said. “All the guys in here are good ball players.”

That includes pitcher Bryan Harper. You might have heard of his brother, Bryce, a superstar outfielder who just signed with the Phillies.

“He’s just another one of us,” Shank said. “He’s a good guy.”

For many in the Atlantic League, their hope is to get picked up by an affiliated team. Shank, though, is glad for the opportunity to play with the Barnstormers and isn’t looking too far ahead.

“I just want to compete and try to help the team win any way that I can and kinda let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

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