LAKELAND, Fla. – Kevin Ziomek always knew that he would play baseball, but while he continues to pursue his dream he came to the realization that there was a life after the game that he had to prepare for.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Ziomek in the 13th round of the draft in 2010, he decided that he was not ready at the time to go pro.
As a senior at Amherst Regional High School, the young lefty was named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year and despite his impressive showing that year, Ziomek and his parents came together to make a crucial decision regarding his future.
“It was definitely a family decision, I think we kind of talked about the process, just from the beginning of senior year on just knowing that the opportunity could be available if things went well,” Ziomek said while preparing for spring training workouts at Joker Marchant Stadium.
“We were very strong on education and I really wanted to go to school. I went to Vanderbilt [University] for a visit and loved it, my parents loved it, and they loved the city…Obviously I knew that playing professional baseball and making it to the major leagues would be my dream, but I just didn’t feel like I was ready from a maturity standpoint.
“Maybe from a baseball standpoint I feel like I could have competed, but I just felt like going to school would have been the best thing for me. I really enjoyed my experience there and I don’t regret it at all.”
What Ziomek gained out of joining the Commodores was more than he originally expected. There was validation for him and his family as he gained friends that he will have for a lifetime and the southpaw felt he grew as a person.
Most importantly, Ziomek felt like the degree he got from Vanderbilt will allow him to avoid the trap some other athletes who finish playing professional sports fall into. He did not want a void to be left in his life once he finished playing baseball.
“I took Managerial Organizational Studies, [it’s] similar to a business major…It’s something that’s broad,” said the Massachusetts native. “At Vanderbilt they teach a lot of life skills, especially throughout the baseball program too.
“So I think it’s something I could potentially use after baseball. I don’t want to be someone who after I finish playing just kind of sits around, I want to do something and I think it’s definitely something I could use.”
Ziomek turned all he learned at Vanderbilt into success onto the mound, especially down the stretch in 2014 with the West Michigan Whitecaps. The 22-year-old posted a 2.27 earned-run average with 152 strikeouts over 123 innings.
With his 10-6 record, he turned into one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League last season.
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