Sports

Baseball everything to Spartan star Peach

Zach Peach pitches in recent action against Seattle Prep. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Zach Peach pitches in recent action against Seattle Prep.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

He’s played several sports, but America’s pastime remains the senior’s true love.

Zach Peach knows baseball.

The senior has spent almost every waking moment of his athletic career in a uniform, participating in every level of youth baseball before becoming a three-year starter at shortstop for the Bainbridge varsity team.

Peach loves the game so much, he plays and works out at any ball field he can find, takes in as many Mariner games as he can, and coaches Little League teams when he finds the time.

“He’s got the best work ethic I’ve ever seen,” said second baseman Matt Frazee, his teammate and keystone combo partner since they were 14. “That kid just works and works and works.”

Even his babysitter has a connection to the game, as Peach was watched over in his younger days by former North Kitsap star and current major league hurler Aaron Sele.

“He lives, eats and breathes baseball,” said head coach Jayson Gore. “If there was a bed on the field, he’d probably sleep there.”

Peach is also tough: He rarely misses any time with injuries, and even when he gets hurt, he won’t sit out.

Frazee recalls a time when a ground ball broke Peach’s nose during a Babe Ruth game at Battle Point Park, but still traveled with the team to a tournament in Wenatchee and played with a face mask.

“That just shows you how tough he is,” Frazee said.

But Peach also knows tennis.

From the ages of 10 to 14, he traveled from Bainbridge to Bremerton every night for tutelage, not returning to the island until 11 p.m. most nights.

Despite the long travel and the numerous tardies he collected, Peach improved his footwork, lost 30 pounds and was ranked in the top 10 in the state.

He also won two national championships with his baseball travel team the Seattle Stars, but when his coach was caught stealing money, he returned to tennis for a year.

Peach eventually won a national doubles championship with his partner Jordan Prince, the brother of former North Kitsap pitching star Jared Prince and a talented baseball and tennis player in his own right.

“If they didn’t have tennis (and baseball) in the same season, I would love to play tennis,” Peach said. “Looking back on it, I think I could have gone really far with tennis, but it’s such a mentally demanding game. You have to be smart about it, and you get burnt out really easy.”

Peach also played football and golf in his freshman year (lettering in golf,) was a member of the basketball program for three years and was an assistant coach of the girls basketball team his junior year.

He has also been working out with the water polo team for the past month, took up wakeboarding two summers ago and has even tried yoga and tai chi, learning from a former Spartan player.

“I love to play everything,” he said. “I like playing all (kinds of) sports, and I’ve got good hands, so I can pick up a sport pretty quick.”

He’s used those hands to become a star for the Spartans, getting the start in his sophomore year when incumbent Adam Knapp went down with an ankle injury.

Gore has penciled him in the starting lineup ever since.

“I feel privileged to be able to coach a kid that puts so much time and effort into the game,” he said. “It makes it easy for me as a coach. Just throw him out there (and watch him go.)”

Even when he doesn’t start on a team, he finds a way to contribute.

Boys basketball coach Scott Orness recalled when Peach approached him two weeks before tryouts and said he wanted to be a part of the team for his senior year.

Orness was hesitant, but Peach sold him on how he didn’t care if he started, he just wanted to be part of something Peach thought was special.

“It’s how Zach thinks,” he said. “He has the heart and mind of a coach.”

Peach tried out and made the team, but was primarily a practice player and sat on the bench.

Orness said he worked hard to earn his teammates’ trust and found his own way to contribute to the team’s success, even naming him the captain of the white team at practice.

The team voted him the most inspirational player at the end of the year.

“There were some times at the end of the season that we needed guys to step up (and be a leader,) and he did that,” Orness said. “After a game, on the court or off, he had a real knack to say the right things at the right time. The players and even I looked up to him as a leader.”

Peach said he wanted to try out after talking with his dad Charles, who told him how he regretted not continuing his prep career.

He found his own inspiration in the coaches – Orness, his dad Bruce, Stuart Mitchell and Mike Florian – and several players on the team, including Chris Kelly and Steven Gray.

Peach has tried to do the same for his teammates this season by giving them advice, helping them deal with Gore and even yelling when necessary.

The most notable example was after the Seattle Prep game two weeks ago, when the Spartans gave up a seven-run lead in the final inning.

Peach exploded in anger over how he felt a couple of his teammates weren’t taking the loss seriously.

That stems from his competitiveness and his passion to win, emulating two of his favorite players, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada and St. Louis Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein.

“He hates to lose,” Orness said.

Even when he plays his girlfriend of two years, Caitlyn Salo, the starting point guard for the girls basketball team, in a game of one on one, Orness noted “they don’t cut each other any slack.”

But Peach gets strength from her and his parents, Charles and Paula. Both are lawyers, but she is a part of a Seattle firm, while he runs his own practice.

His dad takes the time to attend all of his games and both try to spend as much time as they can with him.

“He comes out all the time to work with me,” Peach said, noting that his dad misses work to support him. “If I didn’t have my dad, I don’t know if I would be where I’m at now.”

He wants to go on with baseball when his prep career is finished. Peach will attend Lower Columbia College and then move onto a D-I school in hopes of becoming a teacher and a coach if his major league dreams never come to be.

“I honestly think he has the chance to be a great coach someday,” Orness said. “He’s got that mentality to do so and he displayed it (this season) with that unselfish attitude he had.”

And Zach Peach will always have baseball.

“Baseball is parallel to everyone’s life,” he said. “It’ll always be a part of my life. Everything fun I’ve done in life is through baseball.”

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