Ball State baseball has a long and proud history of sending players to the major leagues. Zach Plesac, ’17, is the latest and has shown the potential to be one of the greatest.
Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB draft, Plesac spent two years in the minor leagues before bursting onto the scene in a big way with the parent club this past season.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound, right-handed pitcher made his MLB debut May 29 at Fenway Park against the Boston
Red Sox and worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run and four hits. From there, Plesac went on to establish himself as a regular in the Indians’ starting pitching rotation by posting an 8-6 record with a 3.81 earned run average (ERA), 88 strikeouts, and 40 walks. A highlight of his season came September 10 when he threw a sparkling four-hit, complete game shutout in Los Angeles against the Angels.
It’s been like a dream for me. I always believed I had the potential to make the big leagues, but until you actually get there and have some success, the overall experience is just hard to grasp. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to understand it’s real.
The native of Crown Point, Indiana, enjoyed a standout high school career before accepting a scholarship to play baseball at Ball State University.
“I knew Ball State had just built a really nice stadium and had a great baseball tradition,” he said. “And it was close to home and seemed like a great fit for my college career.”
It didn’t take him long to make an impact in Muncie. In his freshman year of 2014, Plesac posted a 12-2 record, a 2.11 ERA, and was named the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman of the Year.
In 2015, Plesac recorded a 5-5 record with a 3.27 ERA in 16 starts and was off to a 3-2 start in 2016 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in the same year he would ultimately be drafted by the Indians. The surgery repairs a torn ligament on the inside of an elbow.
Best is yet to come
Ball State head baseball coach Rich Maloney believes the best is yet to come for Plesac.
“I’m not at all surprised at his success,” said Maloney. “He’s a freakish athlete and would excel at just about anything he chose to do. I think he’ll have a long, very solid career in the major leagues. It’s in his genes.”
Genes indeed! Plesac’s uncle, Joe Plesac, was a pitcher drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 1982 MLB draft but spent his six-year professional career in the minor leagues. But another uncle who was also a pitcher, Dan Plesac, enjoyed an 18-year major league career that included stints with the Blue Jays, Brewers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Phillies, and Pirates, earning three All-Star appearances in the process.
“To say I have a lot of family support is probably an understatement,” Plesac said. “And my time at Ball State, especially the support and counsel of Coach Maloney, was fantastic.”
He was drafted before he was to graduate, so Plesac finished his degree in communication studies by taking online courses and earned his degree in 2017.
“Regardless of where my baseball career takes me, it was always very important for me and my family that I finish my Ball State degree,” he said. “And I’m happy I did.”
Plesac’s career next takes him to the Indians’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona, when pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.
“I can’t wait to get to Arizona” he said. “I can’t wait to get back on the diamond again.