Zehner Learning the Value of Being in the Moment – Pinstriped Prospects
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Zehner Learning the Value of Being in the Moment

“You play the game to win the game and not worry about what’s on the back of the baseball card at the end of the year.” – Paul O’Neill

Tampa, FL- Earlier in the day, Zack Zehner, 23, explained that he’s taking each day as it comes, and is confident in his approach. Later, he’d hit two solid singles for the Tampa Yankees, showcasing that approach and continuing his offensive success this season.

The outfielder showed an ability to hit the fastball offered up by Clearwater Threshers starter Renfi Casimiro. He also exhibited a healthy dose of patience, fouling off pitches and finding his comfortableness against the hard-throwing righty.

It was an example of the mindfulness he’s applying to his mechanics and emotions.

“I had a good year last year, but it wasn’t consistent,” said Zehner. “I was pretty streaky. I really simplify my mechanics every spring, and this time it got me to a foundation or a base where I can be consistent on a daily basis. “

In 2015, Zehner hit .232 with 31 RBI, and 24 walks in 59 games for the Class-A (short season) Staten Island Yankees of the New York Penn League. Through 36 games this year, he’s hitting .264/.370/.360 hitting down in the lineup, usually in the 6th or 7th spot. This year he faced a bit of a challenge by an old pesky problem from college: back spasms and was placed on the 7-day DL, but insists that it was more of a precautionary move.

He’s taken time to tweak his mechanics, noticing some issues that he credits for helping him produce more consistently.  Getting that out of the way has helped ease his approach and enhance that all important ‘X’ factor.

“I think I’m just more comfortable. In Spring Training, I started a little bit with my mechanics. I was really working through a lot of things with the coaches. But now that I’m not worrying about [that] and just being in the box, it’s allowed me to be in the zone and focus on hitting,” he said.

Zehner’s adjustments included cutting down on hand movement on the bat, to decrease movement in his swing. He’s staying more in his legs, he said.

Much of his work with Tampa hitting coach Tom Slater has been collaborative. Slater’s known for his constant availability to players and his open, spirited approach and Tampa players have talked about the positive impact he’s had on them.

“I love bouncing ideas off him. He’s very receptive to hearing new things and what I have to say about hitting. He gets his work in with me every day. He gets me prepared,” Zehner said.

The jump from Short-Season hasn’t been all smooth. When asked if he’s working it out at the plate still, Zehner’s emphatic that the pitching-friendly Florida State League is a whole new ballgame.

“[I] definitely am. Pitching here is much better,” he said. “I’m still working a few kinks out. Pitch-wise, it’s location selection. I think you’re always working on it, day in and day out. But I’m in a good spot right now.”

The emotional response is always a key factor in how players handle each new jump. Can they handle the lights as they get brighter? Can they check their egos and feelings when the game isn’t going their way? Using their energy wisely is as important as those mechanical tweaks. For Zehner, the mental process is about appreciating the good moments, the successful days, and balancing that with the short-term memory trick every player tries to master.

“Don’t stress the days, because when you’re coming out of college, [you learn] it’s a long season, and you’re tired already,” Zehner said. “You’re going to have bad days. There’s always another game. You have to move past the bad days, and keep the good days rolling. If you think too much about what you’re doing, you’ll get stuck and just spiral.”

He continued by saying, “I try to keep it day to day and get the W. If that’s your daily goal, the big picture comes together. “

In other words, pressure to produce isn’t going to lead to producing. Keep it even-keel. At the end of this season, Zehner insists he isn’t thinking about how the numbers will add up, but, rather, how he handled the challenges and success. The daily goal is less about having specific goals, and more about a mantra.

“Keeping that daily mindset. I don’t want to move away from my plan,” he said. “Don’t slip away from that.”

The righty-hitting Zehner was previously drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays (2014, 7th round) before the New York Yankees in 2015 in the 18th round out of California Polytech. You can follow him on Twitter @zzehner.

Photo Gallery

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New York Yankees minor leaguer Zach Zehner with the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (Bryan Green)

New York Yankees minor leaguer Zach Zehner with the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (Bryan Green)

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Zack Zehner (Bryan Green)

Zack Zehner (Bryan Green)

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Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zehner with a double (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zehner with a double (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zehner in his first professional at bat (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zehner in his first professional at bat (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zehner jogging down to first base (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zehner jogging down to first base (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zehner with a base hit (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zehner with a base hit (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zack Zehner at the plate (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner at the plate (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Staten Island Direwolves left fielder Zack Zehner celebrated his 23rd birthday on Meet George RR Martin Night. (Robert M Pimpsner)

Staten Island Direwolves left fielder Zack Zehner celebrated his 23rd birthday on Meet George RR Martin Night. (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Staten Island Yankees LF Zack Zehner against the Brooklyn Cyclones (Robert M Pimpsner)

Staten Island Yankees LF Zack Zehner against the Brooklyn Cyclones (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zack Zehner wearing a Staten Island Flag Jersey on Fan Appreciation Night (Robert M Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner wearing a Staten Island Flag Jersey on Fan Appreciation Night (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Jeff Hendrix has found a solid partner at the top of the order with Zack Zehner, (Robert M Pimpsner)

Jeff Hendrix has found a solid partner at the top of the order with Zack Zehner, (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Staten Island Yankees left fielder Zack Zehner in his Kids Against Cancer Jersey. (Robert M Pimpsner)

Staten Island Yankees left fielder Zack Zehner in his Kids Against Cancer Jersey. (Robert M Pimpsner)

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Zack Zehner collides with the outfield wall (Robert M. Pimpsner)

Zack Zehner collides with the outfield wall (Robert M. Pimpsner)

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Staten Island Yankees left fielder Zack Zehner had one hit and walked once in his profefssional debut. (Robert M. Pimpsner)

Staten Island Yankees left fielder Zack Zehner had one hit and walked once in his profefssional debut. (Robert M. Pimpsner)

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