By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Zach Plasschaert learned to swing a baseball bat before he learned his ABCs. In fact, those practice swings helped him learn the alphabet.
Zach was born to Julie and Gavin Plasschaert in 2004, and as a young child, Zach struggled to learn the alphabet — so his parents had to get creative. They decided to put letters on baseballs and make Zach memorize what each letter was. Gavin would throw to his future star in batting practice but wouldn’t throw the ball to Zach until he said the correct letter.
Fast forward to 2022, and Zach is a University of Arizona baseball commit who, as an incoming senior, is preparing to take more of a leadership role after shining on a 2021 Saugus High School squad with 18 seniors.
Plasschaert has made a name for himself through his high school and club play. The future Wildcat has been playing baseball since he was 4 years old and has dedicated years of hard work to the game he loves.
“Really falling in love with baseball for me was just playing the game but with some of my favorite people,” said Plasschaert. “I don’t remember not playing baseball. It feels like something I can’t not love.”
The slugger’s favorite, early memory would come several years later in Cooperstown when Plasschaert was playing with the Simi Tribe youth team. The future Wildcat was just 12 years old when he went yard in three consecutive at-bats and threw a complete game on the mound.
Years later, in a competitive high school baseball valley, he found himself heading to Saugus.
“I grew up out here,” said Plasschaert. “I’ve been in the same area most of my life. I’m big on loyalty. I came [to Saugus] my freshman year and knew this is where I wanted to be for the next four years.”
Plasschaert made an impression early on with Centurion baseball head coach Carl Grissom. Even when he was just an eighth grader entering high school, Grissom knew he’d be something special.
“He stood out from the beginning,” said Grissom. “He’s grown and matured but has always stayed the same person, which in this time is really rare. He’s a coach’s dream.”
Plasschaert was called up to varsity as a freshman and managed to get some playing time. As he was heading into his sophomore campaign, he thought he might be able to have a big impact on the team. However, a knee and shoulder injury sidelined him for the vast majority of the shortened 2021 season.
“That was one of the hardest years of my life with the injury I had to my shoulder,” said Plasschaert. “It really took baseball out of my life. I was here every practice, I was here at every game but not being able to play. I struggled. But it was a good realization that I’m going to have setbacks in this life and that I’m going to have to come back stronger. That time of my life I look back on and I’m grateful for because I came out of it stronger. It was a learning experience that built up my grit and character.”
Plasschaert’s first playing time since the injury would come in the playoffs against Santa Barbara. The future Wildcat hit one of his two RBI singles in his first at-bat of the year, to put the Centurions on the board early in Saugus’ 4-2 win. It was Grissom’s favorite memory of Plasschaert… at the time.
In the summer before his junior year, Plasschaert began playing travel ball with the SoCal Giants. After a Saugus summer game against Newbury Park, the opposing coaches and Zach talked and got him connected with the club.
“I got in over there and it was a culture shock,” said Plasschaert. “I was so used to playing high school and seeing the speeds I see here. Then I go and play some of the top competition with the Giants. I struggled early on but the way I was being treated, you would never know I was struggling. It was like a family. It’s a culture I love being part of.”
After a slow start, the Centurion broke out of his slump and was invited to the Arizona Fall Classic. Plasschaert had a great tournament and his game was on full display for several NCAA coaches.
Within a week, Plasschaert had an offer from Hawaii to play for the Rainbow Warrior baseball team.
The Centurion was then invited to a private camp at Arizona with about a couple dozen players. He shined yet again when the lights were brightest and the Wildcat offer finally came.
“I got the Arizona offer and I kind of sat on it for a little bit to see if anything else would come but deep down I knew Arizona was really the place I wanted to be,” said Plasschaert.
The Wildcat commit knew he saw everything he wanted in a college experience at Arizona, including: good college life, big school, small community and most importantly somewhere he would attend even if he wasn’t playing baseball.
Plasschaert also attended a football game and just so happened to be sitting around Arizona season ticket holders for multiple sports. The group chatted him up, showed him around and sold the Centurion on Arizona, all without knowing he might come play baseball for the school.
The slugger sat on both offers for a while before officially announcing his commitment to the Wildcats before taking a swing in his junior season.
It was a bumpy season for Saugus to say the least, but the team battled and won the games they needed in the final stretch. The Centurions won eight of their last nine games, including a tiebreaker game they forced with Castaic.
The game was tense and low-scoring, but tied at 2-2, Plasschaert made one of his own favorite baseball memories: The slugger launched a bomb past right field in the bottom of the sixth to register the go-ahead run that would eventually send Saugus back into the playoffs.
Plasschaert has kept his family on the move all summer as they try to keep up with all the elite baseball invites. Julie, Gavin and his younger brother Brody usually make the trip along with Zach while his older sister Mackenzie makes it out when she’s not too busy at TCU.
“[My family] means the absolute world to me,” said Zach. “They support me in everything. From baseball to life in general, they have my back no matter what. I can’t thank them enough for everything they do for me. They’re the ones that should be getting the glory for everything that’s happening to me. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them.”
Zach has played in the Future Stars National Showcase in Louisiana and the Perfect Game National Showcase at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay this summer. Plasschaert’s play in Louisiana also earned him an invite to the New Balance Future Stars game in September at Fenway Park in Boston.
Plasschaert will also be defending his team’s title at the Perfect Game World Series with the SoCal Giants in Surprise, Arizona, at the Texas Rangers spring training facility July 27-31.
Now heading into his senior year, the future Wildcat is anxious to get back on the field but is most excited about taking a leadership role.
“I’m super excited for this year and to take on the leadership role for this team,” said Plasschaert. “I’m excited to become a mentor, take these guys under my wing and show them what needs to be done in order to develop and do what they want to do.”
Plasschaert has about a year left before he heads to Arizona, where he plans to major in communications. For now, he’s staying busier than ever playing the game he loves.
For the upcoming school year, the captain will aim to handle his senior year academics while still training in the offseason. The team will need everything from their new leader in the senior Centurion’s final year as Plasschaert prepares to leave his mark on Saugus baseball.
“The opportunities will be coming,” said Grissom. “Zach has that kind of ability. He could be the next number we put on the wall in the outfield.”