Written by Student Assistant Sean Davis
One might think that a student athlete playing a spring sport like baseball would be able to enjoy a relaxed summer doing nothing more than hanging by the pool and sleeping in until 11.
However, the moment the Santa Clara Broncos baseball season ends, many of the players go directly to summer leagues to continue playing ball. Zach Looney (ZL), who is going to be a senior catcher next season for the Broncos is one of these players who will be spending his whole summer playing ball for the Saratoga Brigade in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).
Looney was tied for the most triples in a season for Santa Clara this last year and he was an integral part of the Broncos' season. He was kind enough to answer some of Santa Clara broncos (SBC) questions to give some insight into what he is hoping to gain from his summer league and how the experience is going for him thus far.
SCB: You are going to be a senior next season, what are your goals to end your last season as a Bronco strong? Any thoughts about playing after you graduate?
ZL: The biggest goal of mine is to be a leader for the team and help us win as many games as possible. This program has given so much to me and I want to do my part to help move it in the right direction. If professional baseball is an option for me I would love to give it a shot. Baseball is a love of mine so if I could continue to play that would be awesome.
SCB: How do you feel your time spent playing in the NECBL summer league will help you grow as a player?
ZL: The NECBL is extremely competitive so being able to play here is awesome. My teammates are great and the caliber of players we are competing against is exactly what any one could ask for. The quality of pitchers we have faced so far is really going to help all of our offensive approaches and create consistency in my game. Every time we play we are facing someone who threw significant innings for good teams so that is really fun to be a part of.
SCB: What specifics skills are you trying to improve on this summer? What aspect of your game do you feel you have the most room to grow?
ZL: I want to focus on increasing bat speed and consistently getting into a good hitting position. I think these two areas are huge for any hitter and I hope to improve as much as possible in both to become a more complete hitter and effectively drive balls to all fields. We have excellent sources to go to for advice at Santa Clara in Coach Beauregard and Coach O'Brien and after speaking with them I think those areas are where I can improve the most. I also want to work as hard as I can to get as strong and fast as I can for next season. Strength and conditioning is a huge part of summer ball so we really want to use the time to get stronger. I also want to improve behind the plate with pitch calling, receiving and blocking. In order for us to win as many games as possible, a good defensive catcher is extremely important.
SCB: Your Bronco teammate Jake Steffens is on the same summer league team as you, can you talk a little about what kind of difference it makes having a fellow bronco on your team?
ZL: Having a teammate with you in summer ball is huge. Initially it is tough to mesh with the team, especially since we show up late, so it makes the transition easier when you have one of your good friends out there with you. It is also huge in terms of strength and conditioning. Having someone who is on the same lifting program helps you to push yourself and your teammate to make both of you that much better.
SCB: So far, how would you rate your experience-playing ball on the East Coast this summer?
ZL: The experience has been amazing. The team is full of quality baseball players and great guys. We have a lot of fun while at the same time being very competitive. The quality of baseball has been really impressive and I think it will definitely help Jake and I improve as ball players. The coaching staff is awesome as well. They are very supportive and knowledgeable about the game of baseball. So far it has been a great summer.
SCB: What are some of the biggest differences between playing for a summer league team versus playing for the Broncos?
ZL: I would say the biggest difference is the focus we have at Santa Clara on the "old school" style of baseball. I think that is something that is unique in baseball today and it is really cool to take that mindset to other parts of the country and learn from other styles while staying true to the brand of baseball we want to play at Santa Clara. I am proud to be a part of a program that takes value in that type of baseball and have enjoyed bringing it out to the East Coast.