Zach is Back!

By on February 20, 2019
Lititz’s Zach Shank signed a contract last week with the Lancaster Barnstormers for the 2019 season

Lititz’s Zach Shank signed a contract last week with the Lancaster Barnstormers for the 2019 season

Warwick grad rekindles career by signing with the Barnstormers

As 2018 started to wind down, Zach Shank began to realize that he missed baseball.

Last summer was the first time in a long while that the Warwick grad hadn’t been on the diamond, having retired in May from playing in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.

The itch came back, however.

And last Wednesday, Feb. 13, Shank got his foot in the door again when he put his signature on a contract with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers for the 2019 campaign.

“I’m excited for it,” said Shank, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Jan. 6. “I just want to have fun.”

A 28th-round selection of the Mariners in the Major League Baseball Draft in 2013, the super utility player advanced as high as Triple-A, competing in 229 games for the Tacoma Rainiers from 2015-17.

But a short time into last season, Shank felt the time was right to step away.

“At the time, going through some personal stuff, I just didn’t feel like I could give everything I needed to give to the game if I was going to keep playing, and I don’t regret my decision,” he said. “I think it was the right decision at the time. And as the months have gone on, I started to get that itch again and I was ready to give it another try if any teams were willing.”

Shank started out by emailing Mariners’ Player Development Director Andy McKay about three weeks ago, and although Seattle didn’t have any roster spots, the club did grant him a favor.

“(Seattle) still had my rights because I had retired, so I was still under their control,” Shank said. “So if I wanted to play anywhere else, I needed to get a release and they were kind enough to give me that.”

From there, he contacted other organizations, but with no luck.

“Right now, this isn’t a good time, obviously,” Shank said. “Most rosters have already been filled, but I got a lot of feedback, like, ‘Go try to play independent ball somewhere and we can keep an eye on you over the summer, and if anything happens, maybe we’ll give you a call.’”

With the Barnstormers still in the early stages of compiling their roster, Shank reached out to manager Ross Peeples, with whom he has developed a relationship through lessons at Spooky Nook Sports and Bible studies.

Signing with the ‘Stormers turned out to be a good fit for both sides.

“I know (Ross) pretty well, I feel like he knows me pretty well, and so he was happy that I wanted to play again,” Shank said. “He was excited.”

In a press release issued by the club, Peeples said, “Zach is very versatile, and we will probably play him all over the field. He is a guy that has a great work ethic and plays the game the right way. You don’t have to worry about him putting the work in.”

During his career in the Mariners’ system, Shank played every position except catcher, batting .259 with 459 hits in 518 games. He will now bring that versatility to Clipper Magazine Stadium, where he often made the short commute with his father, John, to watch Barnstormers’ games in his youth.

“It will be fun to be out there and be on the field that I’ve watched baseball players playing on when I was growing up, so that will be really cool,” Shank said. “I have a bunch of friends here that have never gotten to see me play and it will be nice for them to have an opportunity to not have to travel and come out to catch a game here or there.”

The signing makes Shank the eighth player under contract with the Barnstormers, who open their season Friday, April 26 vs. the High Point Rockers.

No promises, though, have been made to Shank regarding his playing time.

“I had a conversation with Ross,” Shank recalled, “and I said, ‘I hope that us knowing each other doesn’t influence you in any way. I don’t want to get any kind of special treatment. If I’m playing well, I hope you play me, and if I’m not playing well, I expect you to treat me as if I was any other player.’ I don’t want to go into it and have people thinking that I’m getting some sort of special treatment because I knew Ross going into the season.”

Although it’s been roughly nine months that Shank has played, he continued to work out at the gym even after retiring last May.

“I’ve stayed in shape,” Shank said. “It’s not like I’m going into this having not done anything for months, and when I began feeling like maybe I wanted to play again, I started hitting off the tee and stuff like that. So I’ve been taking swings here and there. It’s not like I’m completely rusty. I haven’t seen live pitching since May, but I have been swinging and throwing. I feel like I’m in good baseball shape right now.”

Idleness isn’t Shank’s game. In fact, he is currently taking a couple classes at Millersville University right now too as he works toward his teaching certificate. An education major at Marist College (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), Shank graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics while also batting .307 in a four-year career with the Red Foxes.

As he ventures into his career with the ‘Stormers, Shank is prepared for anything that comes his way.

“I would like to (join an affiliated organization), but I just want to have fun,” he said. “I want to get back and enjoy myself playing the game again. If it leads to an opportunity, that’s awesome. If not, that’s fine because I’ll go back to school in the fall feeling like I’m right back on track where I was going into the summer anyway.”

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