MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Ringolsby's Cowboy Chat with Brad Ziegler

D-backs closer goes extra mile to give back to military families

Ringolsby's Cowboy Chat with Brad Ziegler

D-backs closer Brad Ziegler has baseball's pressure job.

There's no backup plan when he takes the mound in the ninth. The team is relying on him to get the job done.

Pressure?

Not compared to what those in the military face, said Ziegler.

One of the benefits Ziegler has with the recognition he receives for being a baseball player is the opportunity to help others, which Ziegler is using to provide support at home for the families of military troops overseas.

Ziegler is one of 16 nominees by Major League teams for this year's Bob Feller Act of Valor Award, presented in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who enlisted in the military days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The D-backs will honor Ziegler for his actions prior to Monday's game as part of a Fourth of July celebration.

Ziegler is the subject of this week's Cowboy Chat.

MLB.com: Is it surprising what your status as a ballplayer can do to open doors for helping others?

Ziegler: My parents instilled in me the idea of giving back and helping those less fortunate. Just living in this country, we're more fortunate than a lot of other people around the world. To be in the position I am, I'm blessed.

MLB.com: Talk about the first steps in your involvement with the military programs.

Ziegler: It started with Pastime for Patriots when I was in Oakland. It is a ticket program primarily for the families. A trip to a ballgame can be pretty expensive for a family of four. This program gets the wife and kids out -- or the husband and kids out if the wife's deployed. It is something to help take their mind off of what's going on halfway around the world, and their loved one risking their life. Once we got to know these people -- talked to them, visit with them -- we realized there's a whole lot more we could be doing. It is why we got so actively involved with the baby shower program.

Ziegler joins IT

MLB.com: Can you explain the baby shower program?

Ziegler: Operation Shower stages baby showers around the country for wives of deployed people who got pregnant, their husband was deployed, and they're about to have a baby. I've got kids. I know how hard it is to raise them when I'm on the road. These wives who are doing it while their husbands are clear across the world risking their lives -- it can't be easy. We actually heard about this program on Fox News, and we were like, "Let's reach out to those people, find them online, whatever, let them know we want to help."

MLB.com: So involvement with Operation Shower has led to more involvement?

Ziegler: Once we made that connection with them, we worked on a way to create a scholarship fund for military kids whose parents were killed -- one or both parents were killed in service. I had parents to support me, helped support me through college. I don't want these kids to be hindered because their parent died in service to our country. There were programs set up and the one we got put in touch with was the Freedom Alliance Fund that was started by Oliver North. We sponsor a couple of scholarships every year, and it's been neat to continue that program.

MLB.com: And there is more?

Ziegler: We also do a deal with the Navy SEALS in San Diego, the Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation, NSWFF. It supports the families of fallen SEALS. The guys are on the front lines doing the nastiest stuff and the hardcore missions that you can't just send a battalion in to do. A lot of their stuff is secret. I have had a chance to meet a lot of the SEALS and people who work with them. That's become a lot of my focus. When you start hanging around with those guys, you realize they are the tip of the spear. They're putting themselves at a greater risk than oftentimes a lot of others are, and we want to make sure those families are taken care of as well.

MLB.com: Other than the personal contributions from you and your wife, what type of fundraisers have you developed?

Ziegler: Sure. We did a baseball autograph sale at Chase Field one day and raised quite a bit of money. We have a campaign going on with PledgeIt.org, a fundraising website company in which we're asking people to go out and pledge per Diamondbacks win. We didn't want to do anything statistically individual for me, because I don't have any statistics that are easy to predict. With team wins, people can get a general idea of what they are contributing. Say it is $10 per win, their commitment is going to be between $800 and $1,000 at the end of the year.

Ziegler seals 16th save

MLB.com: But nothing on personal stats?

Ziegler: It can vary so much. If they pledge $50 per save, I might get 15, I might get 40. It could be anywhere in between, and that could be a big jump for them. We decided to do the team win thing, and a lot of times my saves help seal a win. We opened the campaign on Memorial Day this year. We don't have a ton of publicity with it. I've never been one to really just constantly push. I don't want to be annoying to people with my foundation.

MLB.com: And you do have other groups that are showing support?

Ziegler: There's a group called D-Backs Nation, a group of fans. They auction items online. Some of my teammates have been really generous signing stuff for them. They get bobbleheads, stadium giveaways, balls, bats, whatever. Then the players will sign them, and then they will auction the items off. A couple times of year, I get a check from them for the Foundation. It'll be a couple thousand dollars here, a couple thousand dollars there. It is awesome that they're doing this, because they definitely don't have.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.