Zavada enjoys Wrigley debut
CHICAGO — So Clay Zavada did get into Friday’s game with a large contingent of fans from his hometown of Streator, Ill. in attendance.
The left-hander threw a scoreless ninth inning on the field that he dreamed about setting foot on as a kid.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I kept the ball, it’s right up there in the locker. I put up a zero and I was happy. That’s all you can ask for.”
A contingent of about 300 came up from Streator for the game including three busloads of fans.
“There was a little bit of pressure to pitch good for them because they spent a lot of time and money, sat through the cold weather,” Zavada said.
Of course, what Zavada may be most remembered for Friday was a play that happened in the seventh inning.
With runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir hit a bullet down the right-field line. Because the bullpens at Wrigley Field are located just on the other side of the foul line, a pitcher typically will stand behind whoever is catching the pitcher warming up so as to protect him from, well, a bullet down the line.
Zavada was playing the role of protector while Blaine Boyer warmed up and he snagged the ball before it could hit bullpen catcher Jeff Motuzas.
The only problem was the ball was fair so Zavada quickly flipped the ball back down and took two steps back in hopes no one would notice.
His teammates watched the video over and over again in the clubhouse after the game laughing hysterically each time.
Here’s how Zavada explained things to us after the game:
“I thought it was foul. First of all it was going to smoke our catcher, alright? It was going to hit him right in the back, it was curving. Now on the TV it didn’t look like that, but it was, the angle of the camera wasn’t good. I’m not making excuses, this ball was screaming.
“I made a great stab, OK and I look at the ump and he points towards fair and I go, ‘That was fair?’ And he goes, ‘Yep’ and I say oh no and I didn’t know what to do so I just threw the ball back into fair territory and took a couple of steps back. I did a good job, I protected my guy. I looked like an idiot in front of all my hometown and the rest of the world on WGN. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If I had to do it all over again I would have done the same thing.”
Of course it should also be noted that Zavada possibly did save a run on the play since it was ruled a ground-rule double which prevented the runner on first from scoring.
“I thought I did good even though I screwed up,” he said. “It was stupid, it will be on not-so-top-10.
The ump did say I did a good job because it was going to smoke it. The only thing he said I screwed up on was throwing the ball back out there.”