By Robert Stevens │ Utica Blue Sox Communications Assistant
On February 18, Zach Vennaro will be presented a chance to show the Milwaukee Brewers the very best New York Mills, New York has to offer. It is this day that he will report to Maryvale, Arizona, along with other non-roster invitees, to compete for a spot on the roster.
We were fortunate enough to have Vennaro train at Blue Sox Academy during his winter break.
Good luck, Zach. We’re rooting for you 🤜🤛 pic.twitter.com/atEbYR8KCm
— uticabluesox (@Ubluesox) February 6, 2021
Vennaro has been waiting patiently after signing a minor league contract in June of 2019 and immediately being assigned to the Arizona Rookie League. It was here that Vennaro appeared in 21 games as a relief pitcher. In those 21 games, Vennaro totaled 28 innings on the bump. He struck out 35 batters en route to a 3.86 ERA. Prior to the pandemic last March, Vennaro was preparing for a full season with the Brewers’ Class-A affiliate Carolina Mudcats as a result of his impressive rookie league performance.
Vennaro has been dreaming of playing Major League Baseball for as long as he can remember. The fact that it can become a reality has Vennaro ecstatic. He believes that once Spring Training comes on Thursday, his talent and abilities will get the nod of approval. According to Vennaro, his pitching speed and consistency will be in the spotlight, but his determination will be what separates him from the rest.
“I have a lot of determination and I work really hard,” Vennaro said. “I’ve felt what it was like to have everything taken from me. I’ve crawled my way back to where I want to be so I will never take that for granted again.”
Despite the pandemic, the former Mohawk Valley DiamondDawg found himself just as busy preparing for when the chance to shine on the ballfield would come. This included a visit to where it all began — in Utica, New York. One specific destination for Vennaro was the Blue Sox Academy, which is located at the Sangertown Square Mall in New Hartford. It was here that he put his 100 mile per hour fastball to the test after having most facilities closed down since March.
Pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, Zach Vennaro, was bringing the speed today 🔥🔥
The right hander’s fastball hit as high as 99 mph in front of a packed house at Blue Sox Academy 👇 pic.twitter.com/y9qxs49cgz
— uticabluesox (@Ubluesox) December 24, 2020
“The Blue Sox Academy is unreal,” Vennaro said. “It’s gorgeous. The people there are great. I was happy to see a place like that to open up right there in Utica. It was nice to get a chance to get to know everybody and be able to work out there and continue to get better.”
Pros train at Blue Sox Academy 🎥
— uticabluesox (@Ubluesox) December 22, 2020
Prior to entering the big leagues, Vennaro spent his collegiate career at Monroe Community College before attending North Carolina’s University of Mount Olive. It was at Mount Olive that Vennaro became a major league threat, as he became a NCAA Division II All-American. He was able to achieve this during his senior season, where he posted a near-perfect 6-1 record coupled with 11 saves. Vennaro added 52 strikeouts on 44.2 innings of work while finishing the season with a lights-out 0.81 ERA.
Vennaro’s unforgettable senior season made it very clear that he could play at the next level and possibly hear his name called during the MLB draft. However, as Vennaro mentions, things don’t always go the way you want them to after he didn’t receive that dream call. Rather than giving up, Vennaro found himself taking the next step at K-Zone Baseball.
Entering K-Zone in Raleigh, North Carolina, Vennaro discovered just how much untapped potential he had. Vennaro entered the facility with a fastball topping off at 87 miles per hour in 2018. Fast forward 18 months and his fastball was topping off at 100.3 miles per hour. Vennaro credited this to his increased mobility and flexibility that he developed during his time training at the facility.
“Going into my first time ever at K-Zone, I thought my body was where it needed to be,” Vennaro said. “I felt like my mobility was where it needed to be, but in reality it wasn’t and it was eye opening.
The evaluation process was the true difference-maker for Vennaro.
I went through a movement screening and came to realize that I am terrible at moving,” Vennaro said. “We really hammered out strength and mobility the entire time I was there, but the biggest thing for me was truly unlocking my body.”
Vennaro’s journey has been one filled with ups and downs. One thing that has remained constant is his determination, passion and love for the game of baseball. Despite the pandemic looming large over another chance at the MLB, he remains locked in to his dream and optimistic that his talent will prevail as he competes for a shot on the roster.
“It’s relieving to know that things are kind of going back to normal,” Vennaro said. “Obviously, things aren’t back to the way they once were but we’re on the right path and they are taking the right precautions while I’m here. So, I’m just excited. It seems like we’re definitely having a season so I’m excited to get things started.”