Kansas City Royals Draftee Kyle Zimmer on Baseball and Beyond: An Interview with USF’s Highest Professional Draft Pick Ever

Why are you here in SF?
I just came back for the week to hang out, see old friends and work out. We had the Cracked Crab Kickoff Dinner that we do every year. It’s a fundraiser for the baseball team.

Where are you headed after this?
Back to Arizona for Spring Training. It starts in two weeks.

Previously you played for a Minor League team? Which team?
It was the Kane County Cougars, about 45 minutes outside Chicago.

How was that?
I had a lot of fun. It was fun to start pro ball in a cool place like that, we had like 15,000 fans or so a game. It was a good experience.

So I know you had elbow surgery…
Yep, and a scar to prove it!

I heard it was pretty minor. Did you have any problems with it afterward?
No, it was really easy. They just cut it open, took the bone chips out and that was that.

And you felt like you came back to full strength?
Yeah, I’ve been throwing and everything feels normal now.

What are you most excited about about heading to Spring Training?
Just getting back on the field, playing every day and competing.

How long have you been off?
Since the beginning of September. It’s been a long offseason. Since like my freshman year at USF, I’d probably been home for three months total in three years. So it was nice to be home for an extended period of time for the first time in a while.
Did you pitch at all in high school?
I threw 20 innings my senior year. I did well, but I didn’t like it that much.

When did you start considering pitching? Did you ever?
I was never really for it but the coaches here had me throw a couple bullpens, throw in some inter-squad games and I did, and I started doing well. So they said I was going to focus on pitching.

Now how do you feel about it?
I feel like it was the right decision.

Do you miss infielding?
Yeah. I miss hitting a lot, don’t get to do that anymore. But I’ve grown to love pitching. It’s a newfound love.

When did you start thinking that pitching was going to take you beyond college baseball?
My sophomore year here I thought, ‘well I’m starting to get the hang of it, starting to get better and better, if I keep working at it I’ll have then I’ll have a shot to play professionally or after college.’

Had that dream always been there?
Yeah, ever since I was a little kid as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but I always thought it would be as a third basemen. So it’s a little strange, but I’m loving it.

Where did this dream come from? Your family?
Yeah, my dad played baseball in college and my mom ran track in college. My mom ran the one hundred meter hurdles at San Diego state, she was actually going to the Olympics and she was favored, but she tore her hamstring in the Olympic trials.

Who are you most excited to pitch against in the majors?
Probably Derek Jeter, I’ve watched him since I was a little kid.

So you really want to strike him out?
Well yeah, I really want to strike him out. But I think it would just be pretty surreal to actually face him. And he’s been one of the greatest hitters of all time. It would be awesome to face him.

Is there anyone you idolized as a kid?
Umm…Nomar Garciaparra was one of my favorite players. I was a shortstop and he was a shortstop.

You were a shortstop? When?
Yeah, growing up I was shortstop and second baseman.

So you played all around the board?
Yeah, I was all over the place.

You played outfield too right?
Yeah, and first base.

So…you never caught?
I did catch actually. I guess now I’ve played every position on the field! I’ve covered them all ha-ha.

Did you ever think you would be drafted as high as you were? What were your expectations?
I guess going in to my junior year, after my junior summer. I played in the Cape Cod League, which is know as the most elite college baseball summer league. There were a bunch of scouts there and I was thinking then, playing against supposedly the best talent in college baseball, ‘I can do this.’ So I sort of set my sights from there, set goals for myself to get drafted in the first round. So I put my head down and started working from there.

Do you ever plan to go back to school?
I do. I only have six classes left to finish my degree.

What is your major?
Business Administration. I definitely want to finish in the near future.

Do you ever want to use your degree?
Nah. I’d love to play baseball forever. Obviously, if my arm blows up, I’d use it. I was always planning on going to law school or graduate school after, but we’ll see.

So does going to Spring Training mean that you have a roster spot?
I’ll break camp on April first, that’s when the teams all break up.I’m probably going to start in either high A or double A, and then like any other job, you get promoted within according to how you are doing and what the team’s needs are. It’s just a matter of how fast they want to move me. Best case scenario would be getting called up to the big league team in September. But more realistically it’ll probably be the start of next year that I’ll be fighting for a spot.

So you grew up in San Diego area, what made you decide to come to San Francisco?
I was actually born here. I was born at UCSF, but I only lived here for the first 14 months of my life and then I grew up in San Diego. The coaching staff here for the baseball team is unbelievable. I loved every minute I spent with them. I like the school a lot and I love the city, I felt like it was a good mix of academics and baseball. And being able to experience the great city for at least a few years.

Do you set goals for yourself?
Last year we had weekly goals. At the beginning of last year, my junior year, I made a goal sheet with future goals for the entire year. I accomplished most of them, one was to get drafted in the first round, another was to win the WCC which we didn’t do. We were close.

Have you met anyone that you’ve been starstruck by yet? Who is the coolest person you have met so far?
I think right when I signed, when I went to Kansas City to sign my contract and do my press conference there, I got to walk through the locker room and all the big leaguers were there and just walking around shaking everyone’s hand was pretty crazy, seeing everyone that I’ve watched on TV for years and know who they are. Hopefully I’ll be a part of that team in the next year or so, so that was pretty crazy. But you get a little bit more numb to it because you meet the guys and realize they are just like me, just other baseball players that like to laugh and make jokes and be stupid.

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