RAPIDS, Iowa — Kyle Zimmer has been with the Kane County Cougars
for less than three weeks, but he’s already making a big
his last start on Friday, Aug. 10 — a three-hit, 10-strikeout
performance in 6.2 innings against the Clinton LumberKings — Zimmer
endured a two-plus hour bus ride with his team back to Geneva, Ill.
His next start will come five days later, and there’s much work to
be done before then.
after Zimmer pitches is no walk in the park. He’ll wake up around 8
a.m. and head to the gym for a two-hour workout, which consists of
anything from core to legs to conditioning. Then he’ll get some
food and go to the ballpark around 1:30 to get his shoulder work in.
Then he’ll throw. Then he’ll run. Then he’ll do more core work
before shagging balls during team batting practice.
it’s 6:30, game time. For the next three hours his body will rest,
but his mind will not. He encourages teammates with claps and
butt-slaps. He watches fellow pitchers and tries to learn something
new. And he watches opposing hitters, hoping to pick up on their
tendencies. It’s a grueling day that doesn’t end until around 11
p.m, 15 hours after it began.
just the first day.
Day two is
another demanding one at the ballpark: Throwing, conditioning, band
work and shoulder work. Batting practice. Game. Bed.
starts early. Instead of a throwing program at the park, it’s a
bullpen session. Here, he focuses on improving one thing. On this
day, it was throwing fastballs to his opposite arm-side of the plate.
about a half of a ball off today,” Zimmer said. “I’m trying to
pound that pitch in on 0-2 counts, so I need to perfect that a little
and fourth days are similar to the second: Throwing, conditioning,
band work and shoulder work. Batting practice. Game. And then
And then he
awakes on the fifth day, prepared to show why the Royals drafted him
fifth overall in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft.
League Baseball recommends a $3.5 million signing bonus for the slot
Zimmer was selected in, but he didn’t hold out for it like some
draft picks do. He signed for less money — $3 million — no more
than 72 hours after he was drafted.
“I was in
shock, speechless,” he said of the moment that Bud Selig called his
name. “I felt more relief than anything, because you’re nervous
and you want your name to get read so you can celebrate with your
family. Just knowing that all the work and all the long hours paid
off in that moment, it was crazy.
really wanted to get out here and start competing and be on a team.
Everybody I’ve met throughout the organization has been great and
has welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a great experience so
experience that many young players, such as the 48 incoming high
school seniors who participated in the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings on Sunday, will face very soon. To
them, Zimmer offers a bit of advice.
in the moment. Don’t worry about anything that’s out of your
control and take it day-by-day. A lot of people are going to be
coming after you to get different things. Whatever ends up happening,
you can look back at that point, but you don’t want to look back
and say, “I wish I had done this or that.” Just enjoy it and have
fun with it.”
most importantly, be receptive to change, something Zimmer learned
his freshman season at the University of San Francisco.
a third baseman as an incoming freshman, but the team already had a
starter at the position. The coaches at USF saw potential in his arm,
so they put him on the mound.
“It was a
tough transition at first, it wasn’t something that clicked right
away,” he said. “Slowly I started trying every pitch I could
think of. I finally started clicking with a curveball and then I
developed a slider. I used to throw a splitter but I switched over to
a straight change. It’s been a process that’s come to this point.
It took a lot of long days and hard work but I think it’s paid
transition to pitching, adjusting to the everyday rigors of
professional ball has been a big change for Zimmer, who’s used to
pitching every seventh day in college, not every fifth. Fortunately,
the Cougars have an off-day on Tuesday — their first in three
weeks. Zimmer will spend it with his teammates on a boat in Lake
actually only been fishing two or three times,” Zimmer, a
California-native said. “I’ve been a surfer my whole life and
done the beach thing. But a lot of these guys love fishing and they
invited me to go, so I’m going to see how it works.”
Wednesday, it’s back to the grind as Zimmer continues to prepare
for his next start. And then his next, and then his next. The
20-year-old (he’ll turn 21 next month) will likely finish the
season with Kane County, but should ascend quickly towards the top of
the Royals’ organization.
minor leaguers set their sights on a big-league promotion, Zimmer has
set his goals even higher.
to win a Cy Young award and a World Series in a Royals uniform,” he
said. “I don’t like to put limitations on myself and I feel like
I have the God-given abilities to go as far as however much I put
into it will give me. I set my goals as high as I can and hopefully I
can reach them.”