Righty reliever Jason Zgardowski had a solid season in 2015, a year after he was signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent. In 34 games combined at short-season A level Williamsport and Class A Lakewood this season, the 22-year-old sported a 4-1 record with two saves, a 3.12 ERA and a .182 batting average against.
The Texas native was honored by the Phils organization this year, representing Lakewood as the player that best displayed leadership through community service.
This weekend I talked with Jason to learn about how he’s spending his off-season and what he is doing to stay in shape during the fall and winter months, balancing fatherhood with being a pro athlete and more. Read ahead for the full interview.
-How much time off do you take from picking up a baseball and what other methods do you use to work out during the off-season?
I like to go at least a month and a half before I pick up a baseball, but to keep my arm in shape during that time I still do bands and arm care programs that our trainers give us before we leave for the off-season.
-What is your routine for knocking the rust off? Where do you throw and who do you throw with?
To knock off the rust I start off at 60 to 90 feet for the first two weeks then start building up. I throw at this place called Hack Shack, which is where I played summer baseball and it’s a really nice complex where you get to throw with anyone who’s not that busy and living in Texas, you get to throw outside everyday since the low so far this year has been 57 (degrees).
-Is there anything mandated from the Phillies that you have to work on improving this off-season?
The main goal going into this off-season was to get bigger and stronger and just get more consistent on my off-speed. I left Lakewood at 194 (pounds) and today when I checked I was 215 and I’m trying to go into the season about 220 to 225.
-What stands out as your top memory from last year, your first full professional season?
Best memory hands down has to be after every game my son came out and watched us play. I got to bring him onto the field and just watch him run around and just take it in because its the best feeling a dad can have! Also, was when I got to catch his first pitch before a game this year as well.
-Is it hard to be a dad during the season and what is that trip home like in September following a long season?
It’s hard in a sense that I don’t get to see him in person everyday, but during the season I was able to Skype him and see him grow. That people back in the day wouldn’t have been able to do, since they didn’t have cell phones or computers. The trip back home went by so fast just because I couldn’t wait to be back home with family after not seeing them for about seven months.
-What are you doing to keep busy during the off-season? Do you have a job or do you work any sort of clinics or anything like that?
For part time work I’m actually an Uber driver until I go back down to Florida, hopefully in January. Also I’ll give out pitching lessons here and there, just to get some extra money for the holidays. But being a Dad is also a job in itself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-Any other interesting details about your 2015 or your off-season worth sharing?
During the off-season I was lucky enough to win the community service award that the Philadelphia Phillies have been doing the past four years and got to go to Citizens Bank Park and get introduced on the field and meet some of the guys. I thought I would be nervous meeting some of the guys but I already knew most of them from spring training and having some guys rehab start down in Lakewood for us. So that was a great experience and I was able to share it with my son as well.