Here’s a video of one of Mike Zunino’s most recent home runs, against South Carolina in the SEC tournament.
You can’t tell everything from an interview — no one was more personable than Jeff Clement, who had off-the-charts character — but Mike Zunino came off well in his conference call with the Seattle media. He was earnest, displayed humility, yet also came across as quietly self-confident in his abilities. Now let’s see how he does on the field.
Overall reaction: I’m just extremely honored. I didn’t have any inclination that I was that pick right away. I got a call maybe 15, 20 minutes before the draft. I was just extremely ecstatic when I heard my name called by the commissioner.
What do you remember about having dinner with Tom McNamara? I just remember it was a very good dinner. We got to know each other extremely well. We talked baseball, we talked life. Just talked about everything. We got to know one another and get on a good relationship with each other. I was extremely happy to have that, and I think it turned out extremely well. It definitely gave me a little bit of a feel. It was the only team that had done that. It definitely showed they had interest. It was one of those things that helped me breath a little easier.
What makes you a leader? I just like to be able to command as much as I can on the field, whether it’s the pitching staff, or helping the defense out. I like to communicate with all the players, get their views and their ideas. I just like to take charge and help the team out as much as I can. That’s what I look forward to doing.
Where have you grown the most since high school? Honestly, everywhere. I’m matured so much since high school. I’ve learned there’s much more to the game than, honestly, hitting, catching and throwing. I’ve learned how to think through things, learned to take one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time and just focus. Off the field, I’ve just matured knowing to get my priorities in the right line, work hard and let everything fall into place.
What is your timetable to the major leagues? I couldn’t tell you. Obviously, as quick as possible. I’d love to make it up there as soon as possible to help the major-league team win. I just love playing the game, so hopefully, God willing, it’s as soon as possible, and I can make an impact and help the organization.
Did you feel pressure during the year as likely high pick? Honestly, I didn’t feel much pressure throughout the year. I have a great bunch of coaches and a great bunch of teammates who keep me level-headed and working hard. The most pressure I felt was, honestly, about an hour before the draft. That was when I first started thinking, OK, where will I go play, what organization will it be. That’s when I started feeling some of the pressure, but I was handle it throughout the year and focus on my games at the University of Florida, one game at a time.
Have you prided yourself as someone who does everything well? I just want to be a well-rounded player. My most important thing is, I take pride in my defense, whether it’s calling games or receiving or blocking, that’s what really defines me as a player, I believe. I want to just be a good, solid figure back there and help the pitcher out. Whatever I can do with the bat I just try to do to help the team out.
Set the scene today prior to the draft: I was at home at our house in Gainesville with a couple of my roommates, my fiancé, my family, a couple of my good friends from back home. I didn’t to get it too big. Just a small group of people. I really just kicked back and relaxed and wait to hear everything. I got a call from Tom and Rob (Mummau), the area scout, right after I was selected. They called and congratulated me. We touched base right after I was selected.
How feels to be the highest draft choice from his home county in Florida? It’s unbelievable. I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever get that honor. I’ve tried to work extremely hard. I was blessed to have great coaches at Mariner High School, great coaches in Little League.
Did you find humor being selected as a Mariner being a Mariner High School (Coral Gables) grad? Yeah, one of my good friends brought that up to me a couple days before the draft. I thought it was pretty funny that the chances where there it could happen. It was pretty funny that it could.
What role did your dad play growing up? A tremendous role. I look up to him in so many ways, and he’s been able to show me the game and teach me the game, and just relate to me. I’m so grateful he has so much knowledge, and he’s so supportive of everything I’ve done. He’s one of the biggest factors that’s gotten me to where I am today.
Do you feel a marked man in NCAA Super Regionals? Whether it’s the first game of the season or the last game of the College World Series or any game in between, I’m going in with the same mindset. As big an honor as it is to get drafted, I’ll have to put that aside when I suit up to go play.
How did college baseball prepare you? Coach O’Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff have taught me so much about the game of baseball – as much the mental part as the physical part. Our strength coach, Paul Chandler, has done an amazing job with our players and has gotten me in the best shape I could be to play. It’s just helped me tremendously to be in the facilities and have the one-one-one work with the coaches.
Did you see the story about Montero getting grief in Mariner clubhouse? No, I actually didn’t see that. It’s one of those I was celebrating with my family and talking to a few people on the phone. I’m looking forward to getting to playing, and hopefully all that works out well and I can compete for a position.