Baseball is great in many ways, one being that players don't always follow a linear path to reaching the big leagues. Zinter's trying road reads more like a weathered Rand McNally map, dotted with highlights and heartache.
"I love this game so much," Zinter said the other day.
Why else would Zinter, a first-round pick in the 1989 Draft who kicked around the Minor Leagues and Japan for 14 seasons before reaching the big leagues for the first time in 2002 at age 34, stick around chasing the same dream for so long?
"The one thing I never wanted to do was quit," he said. "People always asked me, 'Why not quit?' I told them the same thing every time: I love the game of baseball and I always believed I could get there."
It's this sense of humility and passion, Zinter said, that will serve him well as the Padres' hitting coach. He replaced Mark Kotsay, who has accepted the bench coach position with the A's.
Zinter, 47, will arrive in San Diego soon, his head swimming with ideas of how he'll help to get the Padres' moribund offense going in 2016. His hire hasn't been officially announced by the team, but he'll be the guy next season to preside over the team's hitters.
Zinter, big on approach more so than mechanics, said the first step for him will be to build a relationship with the position players. The assistant hitting coach for the Astros last season is itching to get started.
He's an advocate for his players, too. When Zinter was a coach in the D-backs' system, he pushed hard for the organization to give Paul Goldschmidt a look when others weren't entirely sold at that point.
"I feel I have a real sense of what a hitter is; a great sense of feeling where he is," Zinter said. "I've learned from watching such great hitters.
"What I've done in my career has prepared me to be a coach and teacher. I don't want these guys going through what I did."
Zinter was picked 24th overall by the Mets in the 1989 Draft, a catcher and first baseman from the University of Arizona -- Trevor Hoffman was a teammate -- who didn't profile as someone who would be in the Minor Leagues long.
"It went so fast. It started out pretty well, I was a first-round pick and then I was in Triple-A for 14 years," Zinter said. "You can say [it was] pure hell … at least a couple of times."
Which is why, Zinter said, he's going to work so hard to make sure that the team's hitters don't follow the same route he did.
"I don't want them to go through the agony and pure hell if they don't have to … this game is hard enough," Zinter said. "There are ways to peel the layers back and see the light. I want [the player] to know I'm walking through the fire with him."
Zinter might have been the assistant hitting coach with the Astros last season, but the job was presented and carried out more on equal footing with Dave Hudgens, the team's primary hitting coach.
"During the interview process, the first thing they told me was they wanted this to be a partnership," Zinter said. "They didn't want me to feel as if I was being delegated to certain guys, the cage or just video. And Dave had no ego … which made it easy."
Zinter's prevailing message to the Astros' hitters: Don't overcomplicate things.
"It's going to be process. It's not going to happen overnight," Zinter said. "I try to stay away from guys trying to get hits. I'd much rather have guys interested in the process."
Zinter plans to reach out to the Padres' hitters, and he hasn't ruled out visiting them in their hometowns if that's what it takes.
"Nothing is going to get done unless I build a reputation with these guys," he said. "These guys aren't going to care unless they know I care. I think that's one of my strengths. Everyone has a different personality. Everyone is different, and they have a different perspective. I'm not going to come in and tell them what to do. My job is to help them get where they want to be. But I'm going to push a little, too."