The mood was bittersweet Monday, but it wasn't only about the 12-4 loss to Cal that ended the team's disappointing 2014 campaign without a trip to the postseason. Bradley Zimmer was likely wearing his home whites for USF for the final time while savoring the moment with coach Nino Giarratano.
"That's probably the most we've actually shared right there at the end," Giarratano said. "He was just doing his work trying to get everything done, and then that was the moment when he kind of figured out that his college career was over."
For the past three years, Zimmer has called Benedetti Diamond home. Foul territory down the first-base line is basically non-existent and the umpire sets up just a few feet away from where the field ends. Don't park on Hemway Terrace behind home plate or your windshield is fair game for a foul ball. Even home runs can clear the 50-foot netting in right field and end up on busy Masonic Avenue.
But Benedetti Diamond is a far cry from the stadiums Zimmer will be batting in soon as he takes a few visits to Major League parks for pre-Draft workouts. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, the athletic outfielder is expected to be taken in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on June 5.
The Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And fans can get into the Draft conversation by tagging tweets with #mlbdraft.
In his final year for the Dons, Zimmer batted .368/.461/.573 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 32 attempts while playing a stellar brand of defense in center field. He showcased his cannon in the finale by easily gunning out a runner at home with a throw that didn't even bounce, and he held two more runners at third base with strong strikes toward the plate.
Though he went 0-for-3 with two walks, Zimmer was given a nice sendoff by Giarratano in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"I think it kind of set in yesterday after my final at-bat," Zimmer said. "I ended up walking, and [teammate] Blake [Valley] came out and tagged me out of the game, and I came out and everyone was clapping for me. It was a pretty special moment."
Eric Zimmer is the proud father of his two sons, and it was no surprise that he was on hand Monday to take photos and share the moment with Bradley, family and friends.
"The guy flew to Japan this summer to watch me play," Bradley said of his father. "He has, like, 67 Southwest flights this year."
Giarratano and the Zimmers have a history that dates back to the recruitment of Bradley's older brother, Kyle, who is a rising star in the Kansas City Royals organization. With Bradley's parents in San Diego, grandmother in Riverside and aunt in Santa Barbara, the team often stops by a Zimmer household for some home cooking during road trips to Southern California.
"The last time at the Zimmer house, there was probably 85 people," Giarratano said. "Grandma made spaghetti and meatballs for everybody. He's got great support, and that's what makes him so mature. He's one of those kids that was born to be really good, and he knows how to handle his gift."
The tale of Kyle's rise from non-scholarship backup USF third baseman to fireballing righty and 2012 No. 5 overall pick is a good one. As he and all-West Coast Conference player Stephen Yarrow took ground balls at the hot corner one day, Eric said, the coaching staff noticed something.
"They were like, 'What? Who is that kid? What is going on over there,'" Eric said. "And his glove's OK at third base, so they said, 'You know, you seem to have a lively arm. Let's put you on the bump here.'"
Kyle posted a 1.37 ERA in 46 innings in the 2010 summer Cal Ripken League, and by the time he came back for the 2011 season, he went from 14th on the pitching depth chart to No. 2 starter in the USF rotation as a sophomore.
Kyle, who is 14 months older than Bradley, let his kid brother wade in the thoughts of playing for a Pac-12 school like Oregon or traditional powerhouse Arizona during his high school recruitment. After Kyle let Bradley get a taste of the big-school attention, Eric said, the older brother laid down the law and told him he was coming to USF.
"Out of high school I always wanted to go to a big school with a football team and experience that whole lifestyle," Bradley said. "That was pretty much what I was set on. My parents and my brother kind of bring me back to reality."
Eric grins when discussing the competitive nature of his sons' relationship, but there's a definite code of respect. And while Kyle is more a "rah-rah" type according to his brother, Bradley is more quiet as he goes about his business.
"As it should be," Eric said, "Bradley listens to his brother maybe more than anybody else in the world."
While Bradley gets set to make the transition to pro ball, Kyle is ramping up his workload in extended spring training before reporting to Double-A. If all goes according to plan, the 22-year-old could add a boost to the Kansas City staff for the stretch run of the season.
So has Bradley already thought about the possibility of facing his brother in a big league ballpark down the road?
"We've joked about it here and there," Bradley said. "I'm sure if that ever occurred, I'd get one high and tight, or he'd throw it off the backstop or whatever. But that would be pretty cool, I think, to someday match up against him on the big stage."