Zach Plesac didn’t have a choice.
The RubberDucks right-hander loves baseball, but a lot of that has to do with the fact he was born into it.
The nephew of a famous pitcher, some of his best memories as a child centered around the game.
That’s what happens when your uncle is Dan Plesac, who spent 18 years as a professional with the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies.
Uncle Dan was a three-time All-Star and compiled a 65-71 record with 3.64 career ERA. He finished with 1,041 strikeouts and 158 saves.
“It just brought me into baseball and that’s what really built me into what I believe and what I see as to how possible it really is to be in the big leagues,” Zach Plesac said. “It just seems so attainable. That’s really how I looked at it.
“Ever since I was growing up, it’s what I wanted to do. It seems so real. Because he did it and I have such a good relationship with him, I see that it’s possible if I do everything I’m supposed to do and work hard and become a great baseball player, it’s definitely possible.”
Being around the game 24 hours a day growing up turned him into an all-state pitcher at Crown Point High School in Indiana and an All-Mid-American Conference pitcher at Ball State.
It also gave him memories he has never forgotten.
“One of the greatest memories I have is not even of him,” Plesac said. “When I was in the players parking lot, I saw Randy Johnson’s H1 Hummer and on the side was a picture of Randy Johnson himself and his left arm was a cannon. I’ll never forget that. Showing up to the field with my family, after BP [my uncle] would throw us some balls. We were 20 rows up and thought it was so cool.”
Dan Plesac is still around the game, but now it’s on television.
After working for Comcast Sportsnet in Chicago doing Cubs pregame and postgame reports, he joined the MLB Network as an analyst in 2009. He appears on "MLB Tonight" and is on "Intentional Talk" from time to time.
Talks between Dan and Zach aren’t about the X’s and O’s as much as many would think. Instead, it’s about keeping your head in the game, being mature on the mound and attacking with conviction.
“Most of the things we talk about isn’t with mechanics or the way you’re supposed to throw to guys,” Plesac said. “He always told me I have a left-handed mentality. It’s more a finesse mentality where you try to keep them off balance. The advice he gives me is to live a day at a time. Don’t think you have to change something in one throwing progression. Things take time.”
Ducks manager Rouglas Odor has a nephew, Rougned Odor, who plays for the Texas Rangers, so he has a great appreciation for what it means to have a family member in the game.
“He had an idea what baseball was about before his time,” Odor said of Zach Plesac. “Looking at his uncle and what he did. The success he had and having that mentality on the mound helps out a lot. He has done a great job. It’s a huge help in anybody’s career when you have a family member that had a lot of success in the big leagues.”
Zach Plesac, who is 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA this season, doesn’t see playing in his uncle’s shadow as pressure. In fact, the 12th-round draft pick in the 2016 draft became a leader well before his time.
“Ever since I was growing up, I had that role,” Plesac said. “From Little League, to high school, to college, even from rehab I had to show who I was. I’m not out here trying to be the leader. It’s more my mentality. It’s all about how you handle your business. Working hard, being diligent and just focusing on the things you can focus on and not looking too far ahead.”