Bradley Zimmer grew up in California, so playing
in the New York-Penn League will be an adjustment
By Steve Ruman
In many ways, Bradley Zimmer resembles a fish out of water as he settles into his new surroundings in the Mahoning Valley.
A San Diego native, Zimmer grew up on the beaches of Southern California. Even when he wasn’t surfing the ocean waves, he could be found in the pool as a member of his high school’s water polo team.
“Water polo is actually very competitive, it seems like you’re always getting attacked in the water,” Zimmer said. “It kept me in shape. It was strenuous.
“The surfing and the beaches, it’s just something I have always loved. It’s always been a part of me.”
By contrast, the only water Zimmer has seen since arriving in Niles this past Wednesday has been the torrential rains which plagued the Valley for several days.
“I know the winters here are cold, but that’s pretty much the extent of what I know about the area,” Zimmer said.
However, put Zimmer in the outfield grass at Eastwood Field, and suddenly he is in his element. Give him a bat and put him beside home plate, and he feels right at home.
Earlier this month, Zimmer was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the first round (21st overall pick) of the June draft. On Tuesday, he agreed to terms on a deal which included a $1.9 million signing bonus. By Wednesday, he was a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
“The past few weeks have been so hectic, and it has been quite surreal,” Zimmer said. “It’s a dream come true. Turning pro is something that I’ve dreamed about my entire life.”
Zimmer is a left-handed hitting outfielder who batted .368 with 10 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 31 RBI this spring in his junior year at the University of San Francisco. He played center field this year, but has experience at all outfield positions.
The 21-year-old Zimmer was ranked the 10th-best prospect in this year’s Draft class by MLB.com.
“Coming into the draft, I had an idea of where I might be picked, and I had a few teams in mind because of the interest shown,” Zimmer said. “But you never know what can happen.
“On draft day I was sitting around, surrounded by family and friends. When word came that I was picked by the Indians, there was a feeling of relief, then a feeling of sheer excitement.”
Zimmer was drafted out of high school by the Chicago Cubs in the 23rd round in 2011. Rather than sign, he joined his brother Kyle at San Francisco. Kyle was a collegiate All-American who was rafted in 2012 by Kansas City in the first round (fifth overall) and is currently regarded as the Royals’ top pitching prospect.
“Growing up, me and Kyle always had a competitive nature toward each other, but at the same time there was a ton of mutual respect and admiration,” Zimmer said. “It was a thrill to play with him at San Francisco, and he has been a big help the past few weeks, telling me what to expect and all.
“It’s ironic that now we’re both playing for organizations in the AL Central. Hopefully one day down the road we’ll face each other.”
For now, Zimmer (6-foot-5 and 205 pounds) is embracing his role with the Scrappers. Despite the lofty expectations and signing bonus, he expects the road ahead to be a challenging one, “because I have to prove myself all over again.”
Still, Zimmer is confident in himself and his abilities, and believes that one day he will achieve his ultimate dream of playing in the major leagues.
“Baseball has been my life for as long as I can remember, and the past three years I have really been focused on making it my future,” Zimmer said. “I want to go out, have fun and give it everything I got. If I stay focused, I believe that I can make it.”
Zimmer hasn’t yet played since arriving in the Mahoning Valley. He is expected to find his way into the Scrappers’ starting lineup by the time the Scrappers return from their current four-game road trip.