In the 2015 MLB Draft, the White Sox drafted catcher Seby Zavala in the 12th Round out of San Diego State University. In his senior year, Zavala had a slash line of .290/.399/.537 with 14 HR and 67 RBI. Interestingly, Zavala started 61 of 62 games of his 2014 season in LF, meaning his transition to catching came in his 2015 season. Zavala has worked his way through the entire minor league system for the White Sox in just these three years, and he is now knocking on the door of the Major League roster. Seby took some time out of his days to talk about his career, working through the minor league system, the life of a catcher, and his advice for young players.
When did you decide you wanted to make a career out of baseball, and what was the greatest sacrifice or risk you took by choosing this path?
Well, as any young kid, playing baseball in the big leagues was my dream. I have always put everything into baseball. In high school, that was the turning point. I wanted to go into the army out of high school. I told my dad that I appreciated everything he had done for me up to that point, but I decided I wanted to go into the army. He said that was fine but I needed to go to college first. So I told myself, well I’m going to play baseball in college, then I’ll see where I was at. As for sacrifices, it wasn’t just me; it was my parents who sacrificed everything. For me, the only sacrifice I made was missing time with friends and family. But for my parents, who made all of the sacrifices (time, money, and themselves), I really owe it all to them.
You had Tommy John surgery in 2013. Can you talk about what the process was like for you coming back from this injury?
The process for Tommy John as a position player is pretty similar as far as a pitcher – lots of rehab exercises and stretching. For me, I spent a lot of time talking to Tony Gwynn. I couldn’t do much at practices so I made an effort to have a conversation with Gwynn about baseball or just about life everyday before practice. This is where I believe my “baseball IQ” sky-rocketed.
You’ve advanced all the way up the White Sox system. How has your life on and off the field changed throughout the years/advancement through levels?
Through my years with the White Sox, I don’t believe my life has changed much. The only difference is the level at which I am playing, and the players I am playing against. The higher levels obviously have more consistent players.
This season, you were called up mid-season to AAA. What is the biggest difference between these leagues, and what is the adjustment like – as both a hitter and catcher – when you change levels midseason?
As a catcher, the game in AAA can be a lot more fun. The hitters usually have a game plan and the pitchers don’t always have over powering stuff, so you have to be more creative with your pitch calling. As a hitter, it’s the same game. Pitchers control their stuff better and locate pitches. It’s all about staying with your approach.
What preparation do you go through/what is your role in creating a strategy for an upcoming opponent? Does it change by your team’s pitcher/the team you play?
Being in the minor leagues and splitting time with other guys behind the plate makes it a little easier to come up with a game plan, at times. For example, if I’m not playing or am the DH in the first game of a series, I can watch the hitters and their approach and create a game plan off of that. But if I’m catching against a team I’ve never faced, I would watch film on the hitters and create a game plan through that. And of course the game plan is adjusted with the pitcher that day or guys coming out of the bullpen.
What do you do during the offseason to better prepare yourself for Spring Training?
In the off-season, I will take some time off after the season. But after a couple weeks, I’ll get in the gym and start getting the body ready for the next year. About two weeks to a month before Spring Training, I’ll start doing all my baseball activities so I’m prepared for the year.
Do you have any advice for young ballplayers hoping to be where you are some day?
One thing that has been told to me that I remind myself of is that the most important thing to remember is to never give up. No matter what you’re doing, never give up. I’ve surprised myself with things I didn’t know were possible by simply not giving up. I know it could be a little dramatic to say, but I would rather die trying to do something than give up. Everything you do should be done at your best effort because you will never know your full potential.
Over his 2018 campaign, Zavala slashed .258/.317/.418 with 13 HR and 51 RBI. Zavala continues to be an important part of the White Sox system, and should get some deserved attention during Spring Training.
On behalf of SoxOn35th, I’d like to thank Seby for taking the time out for this interview, and we wish him nothing but the best. Catchers are often the most cerebral players on the field, and it is awesome and insightful to get to talk to a player who has worked so hard to get up the system. We hope to see him on the South Side soon.
You can follow Seby on Twitter: @__piece36
Featured Photo: NBC Sports Chicago