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Eddie Zosky

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Edward James Zosky

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[edit] Biographical Information

Eddie Zosky is a former shortstop who played five seasons in the major leagues, non-consecutively, from 1991 to 2000 for the Toronto Blue Jays, Florida Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros. He also played in the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league systems. He is Jewish.

Zosky was a collegiate star prior to playing professionally, becoming a member of Fresno State University's athletic Hall of Fame. He developed into a promising shortstop prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays in the early 1990s, being named their starting shortstop of the future multiple times, though elbow problems and a lack of offense ended his hopes of stardom. In total, he played 1,100 games over 12 seasons professionally, though only 44 of those games were at the major league level.

[edit] Early and personal life

Zosky was born in Whittier, CA to Ed and Yvonne Zosky. He attended St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, CA, graduating in 1986.

On February 2, 1991, he married Shelly Snylander.

[edit] College career

After his graduation from high school, he matriculated into Fresno State University, where he mostly played shortstop. He hit .292 in his first season there, earning second-team all-league honors. In May 1988, he suffered from mononucleosis and an ankle sprain, slightly shortening his sophomore season. As well, Zosky was selected to try out for the United States Olympic baseball team in June of his sophomore season, along with teammates Tom Goodwin and John Salles. Though he was considered the front-runner for the shortstop position on the Olympic squad, he did not make the team. During his junior and final seasons at Fresno State University, Zosky was named Sporting News and Baseball America All-Americans after posting a .370 batting average. He appeared in the 1988 College World Series. In addition, he was named first-team All-Big West Conference, along with teammates Goodwin, Bobby Jones and Rich Crane.

[edit] Draft and early minor league career

Zosky was drafted by Major League Baseball teams twice. Originally, he was drafted out of St. Paul High School by the New York Mets in the 5th round of the 1986 amateur draft, 128th overall. He did not sign, choosing to attend college instead.

He was next drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays 19th overall in the first round of the 1989 amateur draft, out of Fresno State. He was one of three Fresno State alum drafted in the first round that year, the others being Steve Hosey (14th overall) and Goodwin (22nd overall). It was the first time since the 1979 amateur draft that one school had three different players selected in the first round. The last school to do it was the University of Michigan. The next school to do it would be Rice University in 2004, who had pitchers Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend drafted in the first round.

The Toronto Blue Jays gave Zosky a $185,000 signing bonus. The initial plan was to have Zosky begin his professional career with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Single-A Florida State League. However, citing poor performances by his current shortstops, Double-A manager Barry Foote had Zosky start with the Southern League Knoxville Blue Jays. He made his professional debut on July 4th, collecting a hit and driving in the team's lone run in his first professional game. He played 56 games at shortstop for Knoxville, batting .221 with a .303 slugging percentage.

In 1990, Zosky was ranked the third-best prospect in the Southern League. Though he attended Major League spring training, he spent the entire season in the minor leagues, playing for Double-A Knoxville and hitting .271 in 115 games; he tied William Suero for the team lead in triples with seven.

Prior to the 1991 season, Baseball America named Zosky the 22nd-best prospect in professional baseball, ahead of Jeff Bagwell (32nd), Chipper Jones (49th) and Jim Thome (93rd). That season, he attended his second Major League spring training, and was in competition with Manuel Lee and Rene Gonzales for the starting shortstop position. However, after making six errors during the spring, he was deemed unready for Major League action and sent to minor league camp on April 1st.

He spent most of the season with the Triple-A International League Syracuse Chiefs, hitting .264 with 6 home runs, 39 RBI and 69 runs. He led the team in both plate appearances and at-bats, and, despite committing 24 errors in the field, he led league shortstops with 221 putouts, 371 assists and 88 double plays. He played the full 1991 AAA All-Star Game at short for the American League, going 0 for 4 with a RBI in a 6-5 loss. His performance for Syracuse landed him a spot on the 1991 International League All-Star Team, as well as a September 1st promotion to the major leagues.

[edit] Major league debut

Though Zosky spent the majority of the 1991 season with the Syracuse Chiefs, he made his Major League Baseball debut that season as well. He appeared in his first big league game on September 2nd, against the Baltimore Orioles replacing shortstop Manuel Lee, who had been feeling dizzy and suffering from a stiff neck, in the top of the 4th inning. In the 5th inning, facing pitcher Dave Johnson in his first at-bat, Zosky singled to left field. Later in the game, he was replaced by Rance Mulliniks.

So anticipated was Zosky's debut that Toronto Star writer Dave Perkins compared Zosky's debut to Lou Gehrig in 1925, asking "Did Manuel Lee just become Manuel Pipp?" (in reference to Gehrig usurping Wally Pipp's first base position that season). Given his modest offensive numbers in the minors, this may have been extreme hyperbole.

The next day, September 3rd, he made his first Major League start, again against the Baltimore Orioles. Batting ninth in the starting lineup, he collected no hits in three at-bats, striking out twice against pitchers Ben McDonald and Mike Flanagan.

He spent 18 games in total with the Blue Jays in 1991, batting .148 with 2 runs and 2 RBI in 27 at-bats. Though he did not hit a home run, two of his four hits were for extra bases: the first was a triple off Bob Welch and the second a double off Denny Neagle. He also drove in his first career run against Welch, plating John Olerud and Candy Maldonado on the same play.

[edit] 1992-1994: Zosky's Blue Jays career

Prior to the 1992 season, Baseball America ranked Zosky as the 82nd-best prospect in professional baseball, ahead of Rico Brogna (87th), Doug Glanville (93rd) and Kevin Young (100th). Though he was expected to unseat Manuel Lee as the starting shortstop for the major league team, he began the year with Triple-A Syracuse after posting a batting average of .151 and committing five errors during spring training. Rather than giving Zosky the backup job, the Blue Jays gave it to non-roster invitee Alfredo Griffin, who had been signed previously.

He struggled early during the season with batting averages of .150 and .160 in April and May, respectively, and though he batted .350 in June, his season batting average was only .231. Following the conclusion of the minor league season in September, Zosky was promoted to Toronto, with whom he appeared in 8 games. He batted .286 in 7 at-bats, with one of his 2 hits being a triple (which he hit off Jose Mesa on September 14th — exactly one year after his first extra-base hit, which was also a triple). Following the regular season, Zosky played for the Tucson Javelinas in the newly-formed Arizona Fall League, hitting .326, while the Jays went on to win the 1992 World Series.

In January of 1993, Zosky was still expected to be the Blue Jays' starting shortstop for the upcoming season. However, at the end of that month, Zosky was shut down due to a muscle problem in his throwing elbow. To provide insurance in case Zosky floundered, the Blue Jays signed veteran free agent Dick Schofield Jr., who had played for the California Angels and New York Mets the previous season. They also re-signed Alfredo Griffin and traded Kelly Gruber and cash to the Angels for Luis Sojo, who would provide even further insurance in case Zosky failed. Schofield became the leading contender for the position. Due to his struggles in 1992 - not only did he hit .231, he also committed 27 errors - and his injuries, the Blue Jays began looking beyond Zosky as their future starting shortstop, paying more attention to another prospect Alex Gonzalez who would quickly inherit Eddie's mantle.

After undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his bad elbow on March 16th, Zosky's starting prospects dimmed even further - he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on March 26th, spending later some time in extended spring training. He returned to the playing field in late July, and played in 33 minor league games - 5 in a rehabilitation stint with the Hagerstown Suns, for whom he hit .100 in 20 at-bats, and 28 for the Syracuse Chiefs, for whom he hit .215 in 103 at-bats. Overall, he batted .195 with no home runs and 9 RBI, while committing 5 errors in the field. He did not play in the major leagues that season as the Blue Jays repeated as World Series champions. Instead, Schofield was the Opening Day starter, though Tony Fernandez seized the starting job after he was acquired from the New York Mets in a trade on June 11th. Following the season, Eddie played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

By 1994, Alex Gonzalez had all but replaced Zosky as the Blue Jays' shortstop of the future. Though he had some bright moments during spring training, including a game-winning three-run home run in an exhibition game on March 23rd, Zosky had become relegated to back-up status as Schofield was set to make another Opening Day start - this time as a placeholder for Gonzalez, rather than Zosky. As it turned out, Gonzalez won the starting shortstop job outright and was the Opening Day performer at the position. By April 28th, however, Gonzalez was struggling, Schofield had reclaimed the starting shortstop position, and - because he was performing well with the Syracuse Chiefs - Zosky was back in the mix as a potential suitor for the position himself. Schofield retained a hold on the job, however, and Zosky spent the entire year in Triple-A with the Chiefs, batting .264 with 7 home runs and 34 RBI in 85 games, rattling off a 16-game hitting streak at one point. Though he played a shortened season due to injury, he tied Robert Montalvo for the team lead in sacrifice hits with 6. Despite hitting .264, his on-base percentage was only .287 as he walked only 9 times in 284 at-bats. Though a shortstop by trade, he played more games at second base (41) than shortstop (34) that season. He did not get a chance to return to the majors because Toronto's season ended prematurely as a result of the 1994 strike.

[edit] 1995: Florida Marlins

On November 18, 1994, Zosky's Blue Jays career came to an end when he was traded to the Florida Marlins by for a player to be named later, who ended up being minor league pitcher Scott Pace. That was the first trade ever made by new Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash, who replaced Pat Gillick following the 1994 season. Zosky made the Marlins' Opening Day roster for the 1995 season and on April 29th, he played in his first major league game since October 4, 1992. Facing Trevor Wilson of the San Francisco Giants, Zosky singled in his first big league at-bat in over two years. He played the whole game, going 1-for-3 at the plate. Appearing in only 6 games at the major league level that year (with the single in his first at-bat his only hit), Zosky spent most of the year with the Triple-A International League's Charlotte Knights, to whom he was optioned after the Marlins cut their roster from 28 to 25 players on May 15th (teams had been allowed to carry some extra players at the start of the year because the previous season's strike had only been settled in the last days of March, cutting spring training short). With Charlotte, he hit .247 with 3 home runs and 42 RBI in 92 games, walking only 7 times in 312 at-bats. On October 16th, he was granted free agency.

[edit] 1996-2000: Wandering from organization to organization

On January 24, 1996, Zosky signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles. He spent most of the season with the Orioles' Triple-A International League affiliate the Rochester Red Wings, though he also spent a game with their rookie-level affiliate the GCL Orioles. That season, he hit a combined .257 with 3 home runs, 34 RBI and a career-high 23 doubles. With 8 double plays grounded into, he tied Joe Hall for the Red Wings team lead. On October 15th, he was granted free agency by the Orioles.

On November 25, 1996, the San Francisco Giants signed Zosky to a contract, making him a non-roster invitee to spring training. He was cut from the big league squad on March 17th and was assigned to minor league camp the following day. He then spent the entire 1997 season in Triple-A, playing for the Pacific Coast League's Phoenix Firebirds. He began the season with a bang, hitting a grand slam on April 6th against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. In total, he played in 86 games that season, hitting .278 with 9 home runs and 45 RBI. Defensively, he spent more games at third base (42) than at his natural shortstop position (30). On October 15th, he was granted free agency by the Giants.

On December 17, 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Zosky as a free agent, inviting him to spring training in 1998. By the second week of spring training, it looked as though Zosky would earn a spot on the Brewers' 25-man roster, but he was eventually cut after the Brewers purchased outfielder Eric Owens from the Florida Marlins however, and spent the entire season with the Triple-A Louisville Redbirds. That season, he hit .245 with 8 home runs and 35 RBI in 90 games. He pitched for the first time in his career that season as well, appearing as a reliever in one game, allowing one hit and striking out the second batter he faced. He was granted free agency by the Brewers on October 15th, but was re-signed on December 18th and given an invite to spring training.

Like in previous years, Zosky began the 1999 season in Triple-A, playing for the Louisville RiverBats. He remained there through late July, though after catcher Bobby Hughes went on the 15-day disabled list, the Brewers purchased Zosky's contract and brought him up to the major league team. He made his first major league appearance since May 14, 1995, when, on August 1st, he pinch-hit for Brewers pitcher Reggie Harris in the 6th inning and remained in the game, replacing Ronnie Belliard at second base. In his first major league game in over four seasons, Zosky went 1-for-2 at the plate, collecting a single in his second at-bat off Montreal Expos pitcher Dan Smith. Just a few days later, on August 5th, he was assigned back to Louisville. He earned yet another promotion to the major leagues on September 5th with starting shortstop Mark Loretta injured and pitcher Chad Fox placed on the 60-day disabled list. In total, he played in 8 games for the Brewers that season, collecting 1 hit in 7 at-bats for a .143 batting average. He had perhaps the best minor league season of his career that year, as he hit .294 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI (all career highs). Following the season, on October 7th, he refused a minor league assignment and became a free agent.

On January 18, 2000, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Zosky to a minor league contract, also offering him an invitation to spring training. On March 15th, the Pirates assigned him to minor league camp. He began the season in the Pirates minor league system, playing in 53 games for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds (with whom he hit .221 with 2 home runs and 16 RBI) and in 8games for the rookie-level GCL Pirates (with whom he hit .333 with six doubles in 30 at-bats).

On August 23rd, he was traded to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later. He began his stint in the Astros' organization in the minor leagues, playing in 11 games with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs and hitting .273 in 33 at-bats. On September 12th, the Astros purchased his contract, bringing him up to the major league squad. The Astros used him sporadically after his promotion as he played only 4 games with them, collecting no hits in 4 at-bats. His final appearance with the Astros, on October 1, 2000, would be the final game of his professional career. On October 11th, he became a free agent. No team ended up signing him. In the minor leagues that season, he hit a combined .247 with two home runs and 22 RBI in 72 games.

[edit] Career summary

Zosky began his professional career in 1989 at the age of 21 and played for 12 seasons until the age of 32 in 2000. He spent most of his professional career in the minor leagues, spending parts of two seasons at the rookie level, part of one season at the Single-A level, two full seasons at the Double-A level and seven full seasons and parts of three others at the Triple-A level. In total, he played in 1,056 minor league games, hitting .257 with 59 home runs and 407 RBI in 3,670 at-bats. Defensively, he spent 752 games at shortstop, 147 games at third base, 139 games at second base, two games at pitcher and one game in the outfield. As a pitcher, he threw 1 1/3 innings, striking out two batters and allowing one earned run, posting a 6.75 ERA.

Zosky spent parts of five seasons at the major league level - in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1999 and 2000. He played in 44 big league games, collecting eight hits in 50 at-bats for a .160 batting average. Though he never hit a home run, he did collect 2 triples and 1 double, while driving in 3 runs. Defensively, he played 30 games at shortstop (starting 8 of them), 4 games at third base and 3 games at second base. He committed 2 errors for a .967 fielding percentage, while turning 8 double plays.

At all levels, both major league and minor league, Zosky hit a combined .256 with 59 home runs and 410 RBI in 3,720 at-bats.

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