August 8, 2022
From the beginning, Nick Zona’s childhood dream was to play in the Major Leagues. He started playing baseball when he was five years old and has been around the sport his entire life. That dream became a reality on July 19, when he was drafted to the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round of the MLB draft.
“Obviously as a little kid, it’s a far goal [at] that young of an age,” Zona said. “As I’ve gotten older and older … the more I feel like I could make it happen.”
The day he got drafted, Zona was working out with friends at James Madison University’s Memorial Hall. Once he got home, he got a call from a Philadelphia area code. He was thrown off at first by who it could be that was calling him. When he picked up the phone it was Scott Hunter, the scouting director from the Mariners.
“For a second, I was thinking it was a joke,” Zona said. “It was still the 20th round and I was expecting to go after the draft … then he popped up with that and I said, ‘Yes sir, I’ll take it.’”
Since getting drafted, Zona has been working out and getting back into the baseball routine at the Mariners’ training complex in Arizona.
A former JMU infielder, Zona is fortunate to have played for the Diamond Dukes because he said his development in college baseball has him ready for the professionals. “I feel like I have a better skill set than some other guys in some aspects because we’ve been working on drills and stuff at JMU,” Zona said. “It’s definitely a whirl of a difference.”
Zona was a big part of the Harrisonburg Turks family, having played 33 games in 2019 and averaged a .243 at the plate.
This past summer, he was the Turks’ game day operations intern until the time he was drafted. He said it was “crazy” how he both played and interned for the Turks and that the 2019 summer season was another step in improving as a player.
“I loved it there, being with the Turks with Bob Wease and Teresa,” Zona said. “They treat their players good, it’s a famous organization. That was the first time I was playing every single day, compared to college baseball … where you have some day breaks. I definitely needed that to start off my career.”
Zona compared summer ball to professional ball because they play almost every day and that if a player has an off night, they have to prepare for a quick turnaround and come back stronger the next day. Whereas in collegiate baseball, they have more days off.
When playing for JMU, the biggest thing Zona learned was how to communicate with other players. “I’m a Virginia kid going all the way out to Arizona with a bunch of random people,” Zona said. “It’s just meeting guys on the team again … intertwine, get to know each other, and come together as one. I think it [JMU] prepared me in that aspect.”
As Zona begins a new journey in life, he credits his family the most for helping him get to where he is today — especially his two older brothers, Jeffrey and Anthony. Without their willingness to help Zona, he doesn’t know if he’d be in the spot he’s in. Whether he’s playing good or bad, his brothers are there to talk to and build him back up.
“They want to sacrifice whatever they can to make me a better player,” Zona said. “Whether it’s throwing to me in the [batting] cages, throwing with me [or] hitting ground balls. I’m very fortunate to have them … they’ve made me who I am today.”
As Zona ventures off into the professionals, he’s going to take serious notes of his off-season work.
Now that he’s graduated from college, he can focus on bettering his skills 24/7. His goal is to take it one step at a time and not focus on the next step until he finishes what’s right in front of him.
“That’s the only thing I can control at this moment, so you can’t control anything outside of that,” Zona said. “Great players that make it into the Major Leagues … they can control how they can control. That’s the only thing I really want to take away, work really hard where I’m at right now in Arizona … and hopefully climb the ladder as fast as I can and make it to Seattle.”