Shank just one step away from ‘The Show’

By on June 24, 2015
Warwick grad Zach Shank, shown here connecting for an RBI single with the Double-A Jackson Generals, was batting .357 in his first three games since being promoted to the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A club in Tacoma. (photo by Nat Thomas/Jackson Generals)

Warwick grad Zach Shank, shown here connecting for an RBI single with the Double-A Jackson Generals, was batting .357 in his first three games since being promoted to the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A club in Tacoma. (photo by Nat Thomas/Jackson Generals)

As a fan of the Phillies growing up, Zach Shank wasn’t very fond of John Lannan.

It was Lannan, while pitching for the Washington Nationals in 2007, who put star second baseman Chase Utley on the disabled list in a late July game at Citizens Bank Park.

Lo and behold, in just his second game after being promoted to the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A club Tacoma last week, Shank – a 2009 Warwick High School grad – found himself digging in against the left-hander.

“I remember watching him make his big-league debut against the Phillies and he broke Chase Utley’s hand in that game,” Shank said. “So I didn’t like him right from then. No, it was cool. It’s fun to see guys who have had a lot of big-league time and success.”

Shank ended up collecting a pair of singles off of Lannan en route to going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI triple last Thursday in the Rainiers’ 12-3 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes, an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

“It felt good. I was just seeing the ball well and everything kinda clicked,” Shank said. “It was one of those nights. Hopefully it continues, but we’ll see.”

As of deadline, Shank was batting .357 (5-for-14) in three games for the Rainiers.

Zach Shank

Zach Shank

Not bad for someone who had no idea that a promotion was coming. After all, he was batting only .241 with seven RBI’s playing for Double-A Jackson (Tenn.) and had just recently returned from a stint on the DL with a sprained ankle. But on an off-day for the Generals last Tuesday, June 16, Shank got a call from manager Jim Horner at about 9 p.m. informing him of the news.

“I was kinda confused, to be honest. I had just gotten off the DL and it’s not like I was tearing it up in Double-A either. But I think Triple-A is just kinda banged up and I can play multiple positions, so I was the guy they called,” said Shank, who played at second, third, shortstop and center field for Jackson this season.

Among those banged up for the Rainiers is third baseman Leury Bonilla. A utility player like Shank, Bonilla landed on the disabled list after breaking his foot with a foul ball. It remains to be seen whether or not Shank will stay with Tacoma once Bonilla returns from his injury.

“I was told by my Double-A coach that I could be here for a week or I could be here for the rest of the year,” Shank said. “He wasn’t sure. I guess only time will tell. I’m prepared for anything.”

It has already been a whirlwind for him. After getting the call from Horner, Shank quickly packed up his belongings. On Wednesday, he boarded a plane in Memphis and flew to Atlanta, then to Los Angeles and finally to Reno, where the Rainiers were closing out a three-game series against the Aces, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arriving at the ballpark just an hour and a half before first pitch, Shank learned he was in the starting lineup playing second base and batting ninth.

“I had to get a uniform, I had to do all that little stuff, then took some swings in the cage and it was time to go,” Shank recalled. “It was a long day, for sure. I was a little surprised to be in the lineup, but at the same time, I had a feeling I might be. I was kinda hoping for the day off, but like I said, they’re pretty banged up here, so they needed me to step in and play.”

At the conclusion of Tacoma’s 9-6 loss to Reno, in which Shank went 0-for-4 with no strikeouts in his Triple-A debut, the Rainiers went back to their team hotel and got about three hours of sleep before leaving at 4 a.m. to fly to Las Vegas and then onto Albuquerque.

Lannan was waiting for them there, and of course, Shank went 2-for-3 against the Isotopes’ starter. In his final at-bat of the night, Shank roped an RBI triple into the right-center field gap past another former big leaguer in Drew Stubbs.

“I don’t know if you can call it good wheels or not,” Shank laughed, “but good enough to get to third.”

While Albuquerque consists of players like Lannan and Stubbs who have been to The Show, the Rainiers have a few of their own in Jesus Montero, Franklin Gutierrez and Tyler Olson. Eventually, Shank is hoping to pick their brains and gain some additional knowledge to aid in his development.

“I’m still trying to get to know everybody a little bit first before I start diving into questions like that,” he said. “But it will be a great opportunity once I get to know these guys to see what they know and what they can help me out with.”

Despite being just one step away from playing in the majors, Shank still has his feet firmly planted on the ground. If he is tasting the realization of a lifelong dream, he isn’t admitting it.

“I’m just trying to take it one day at a time really,” he said. “I haven’t really had time to sit back and think about it. I’m just trying to go out there and play as well as I can.”

The more he plays well, the more he could make it a tough decision for the Mariners to send him back down to Double-A Jackson. The Rainiers arrived back in Tacoma early this week at the end of their road trip, and the Seattle organization will pay for him to stay in a hotel for up to three nights.

“After that, I can stay there, but I have to pay for it,” Shank said, “or I can find an apartment. So I’ll probably ask around and see if anybody has any openings and try to slide in with one of the apartments the guys already have.”

Regardless of what happens, Shank has come a long way from his days playing with the Warwick Phillies as a teenager in the Warwick Travel Baseball Association. He couldn’t help but to reflect a little bit earlier this season after starting at the Double-A level.

“I’ve been to a number of Reading Phillies’ games with my dad (John) and I was thinking this was the same level as those guys that I had been watching and looking up to my whole life, and now I’m here,” he said. “It was definitely a cool feeling and I do look back to those times, for sure.”

Many of his friends and former teammates still recall those times fondly as well. In fact, his climb up the Mariners’ organizational ladder is creating a lot of excitement in the Lititz community. More than 130 people liked a post about Shank’s promotion on the Lititz Record’s Facebook page, and perhaps just as many – or more – contacted the former Warwick star personally.

“I’ve gotten a lot of texts and a lot of stuff on Facebook from friends and family back home,” he said.

Lannan, though, was probably not one of them.

Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express.

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