Right before Spring Training, Daniel Zamora got a call from Pittsburgh Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations, Larry Broadway, who informed him he had been traded to the Mets in exchange for Josh Smoker.
Zamora, 25, viewed it as a positive, and embraced his new chapter with a new organization.
The southpaw was selected by the Pirates in the 40th round of the 2015 draft out of local Stony Brook University, where he pitched his freshman and junior year.
After a strong 2017 season in Pittsburgh’s organization (2-4 record, 1.86 ERA in 37 games), the Mets targeted the left-hander and it has paid off.
A native of California, Zamora hopes that the next step will be a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas this season. The lefty has a 4.42 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 54 strikeouts compared to 13 walks this season in 38.2 innings for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the Mets pitching prospect recently where we discussed being drafted, his career, what it’s like playing alongside Tim Tebow and some guidelines he had to follow while with Pittsburgh.
Piersall: How’s it been adjusting to the Mets organization this season?
Zamora: At first it was kind of hard because I didn’t know anybody, but once I got to know the guys, it’s been really good. I have really enjoyed my time here.
Piersall: What was it like for you when you first got traded for Josh Smoker? How did you feel and how did you find out?
Zamora: I found out through Larry Broadway (Pittsburgh Pirates Director of Minor League Operations). Larry Broadway called me and he told me that I had been traded, and I was just like, “Oh wow.”
I was packing up, getting ready to drive to Spring Training with my buddies, but it was really cool. I was really excited, I thought it was a huge opportunity for my career.
Piersall: Has it been any different for you than the Pirates organization? Do the Mets do anything differently?
Zamora: Not really, we play baseball the same way. The only difference is with the Pirates, you have to shave and stuff and our pants have to be worn up, so the Pirates had a little bit more rules like that, but other than that, it’s just baseball.
Piersall: I didn’t realize the Pirates organization required players to do that.
Zamora: Yeah, in the minor leagues we have to be clean shaven and wear our pants up at every minor league level. Once you get to the majors with the Pirates you can do whatever you want, but in the minors you have to do that stuff.
There are a couple teams out there that make you clean shave
Piersall: You’re an All-Star and you’ve had a really strong year out of Binghamton’s bullpen. What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Zamora: Definitely to improve on some things I know I need to work on, and just get through this second half the best that I can. Just compete and try to be a better pitcher.
Piersall: Do you foresee yourself getting bumped up to Vegas this year?
Zamora: I don’t know. It’s not something I can control, so I try not to think about that stuff. I just try to control the things I can and go from there.
Piersall: I know that you went to SUNY Stony Brook for college, but you’re originally a California guy. How did you end up at Stony Brook?
Zamora: When I was getting looked at for schools, I didn’t really have that many options. Stony Brook was actually my only offer for college. I was talking to a couple other schools, but they never offered me anything.
My high school pitching coach and my college pitching coach coached together in the Cape Cod League. My coach made a call and they called me and came to visit me to watch me throw. I got a scholarship and I took it and decided to go.
Piersall: Did you play all four years that you went there?
Zamora: No, I played my freshman year, sat out my sophomore year because I had shoulder surgery, and then played my junior year. Then I was drafted.
Piersall: Do you still keep in contact with your coaches from Stony Brook?
Zamora: Yeah, absolutely. They were great, I loved my coaches. I still talk to them every once in awhile.
Piersall: Going into your professional career, who have been your biggest influences throughout your life that have gotten you to this point?
Zamora: Growing up, my parents were my little league coaches, so they kind of took the reigns from there and helped guide me to the person I am today.
Piersall: Do your parents ever get to see you play ball at all?
Zamora: My mom came out my first year when I signed, and my dad has come out two times but both times something has happened where I didn’t play.
One time I got hurt and the next time he came out, I got promoted. *laughs* So he’s gotten kind of unlucky, so hopefully this year he will get to see me play, so we’ll see.
Piersall: Do your parents still live out in California?
Piersall: You’ve played predominantly on the East Coast since you’ve been drafted?
Zamora: Yeah, I’ve played on the East Coast exclusively since I was drafted.
Piersall: If you get promoted to Vegas, that’ll be a little closer to home.
Zamora: That’d be awesome because my whole family would come. It’ll be cool because they’d finally get to see me play baseball. They haven’t seen me play since I was in college, so that’d be cool.
Piersall: I’m sure you get this a lot, but what has it been like playing alongside Tim Tebow?
Zamora: He’s just normal like one of us. We don’t try to treat him like he’s a big time celebrity. I really don’t think much of it, he’s just a normal guy on our team. He might have an extra story or so, but that’s about it.
Piersall: Do members of the media make it a big deal that he’s playing with you guys?
Zamora: I mean yeah, that happens. It’s going to happen everywhere we go, but he definitely brings in people for us. There’s definitely half the fans that come to the game (that are there for Tebow). He does have that effect, but it’s cool having fans at the game.
Piersall: How has it been for you working with your pitching coach, Frank Viola?
Zamora: He just tries to make sure we are always confident, and that we are always being aggressive and pitching how we pitch and sticking to it. If we are doing something good, then keep on going if we need to work on something, we will work on it. But once it’s game time, he does a great job of making sure we are out there competing.
Piersall: Growing up in California, was there a team you rooted for?
Zamora: I used to be an Angels fan.
Piersall: Was there any players or pitchers in particular you model your game after?
Zamora: I used to watch Chuck Finley, Bartolo Colon and Francisco Rodriguez. Those are the guys I used to watch all the time. I wouldn’t say I model my game after them, but they used to be my favorite pitchers.
Piersall: It’s funny that Bartolo is still kicking after all these years.
Zamora: That’s crazy. He’s never going to stop either! He’s having fun with it, so good for him.
Piersall: Are there any guys you play alongside that the fans should keep their eye on.
Zamora: I think the fans should keep an eye on the whole team, we’ve got a great group of guys.
Piersall: With the trade deadline approaching, does that affect you guys at all?
Zamora: No, we can’t control that stuff. That’s not our department. Our job is to just go out there and play baseball. If something happens, then that player and the team adjusts and we keep going from there.
But that’s not in our control and that’s just something on the side that if it happens it happens, but that’s not what we do. We are out here to play baseball and if someone gets traded, we wish them luck and keep going.
Piersall: Having been traded once in your career already, what advice would you give to someone who gets traded?
Zamora: It’s nothing to worry about, really. It’s never a bad thing, it’s always a good thing. It shows that somebody wants you and wants you to be apart of their organization.
It does take a little time to adjust if you don’t know anybody in the organization, but there are a lot of great people out there, so it’s awesome.
Piersall: For the readers who are going to be scrolling through this who might not know you, can you give me a little scouting report on yourself? What are your biggest strengths in your pitching game?
Zamora: The biggest thing is that I throw strikes. I have a good slider and can throw it whenever I want, a fastball I can throw whenever I want. I have a changeup developing right now and I just mainly throw strikes and try to go after guys.
Piersall: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me today, Daniel. I really appreciate it.
Zamora: Thank you very much!
Make sure to give Daniel a follow on Twitter: Daniel_Zamora32.