Every summer, millions of American kids pick up baseball bats and balls, many of them with dreams of playing in the major leagues.

Brad Ziegler once had those dreams, and on May 31, the Oakland Athletics made the call every minor league player hopes for.


Every summer, millions of American kids pick up baseball bats and balls, many of them with dreams of playing in the major leagues.
Brad Ziegler once had those dreams, and on May 31, the Oakland Athletics made the call every minor league player hopes for.
The son of Greg and Lisa Ziegler, he was born in Pratt, but the family moved to Springfield, Ill., when Brad was about six months old.
His grandmother, Rita Rhodes, lived in the Isabel area until moving to Texas in 2006.
After living in Lubbock, Tex., while Greg attended school to become a preacher, the Ziegler family settled down in Odessa, Mo., a town of 4,800 located thirty minutes east of Kansas City.
After graduating from Odessa High School in 1998 and Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in 2003, Ziegler was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round.
After a short stint in the Phillies system, Ziegler was released by Philadelphia.
He then played for the independent Northern League Schaumburg Flyers before being signed by the Oakland Athletics, who had drafted him in the 31st round of the 2002 draft.
Oakland assigned Ziegler to the high-A Modesto Athletics, and he helped Modesto reach the playoffs before fracturing his skull in his first playoff appearance.
“It was very life threatening,” Ziegler said Tuesday afternoon. “I got hit in the right temple by a line drive during a game. I was in the ICU for six nights and there were a couple of times the doctors were really concerned about whether I was going to make it.”
But make it he did, and Ziegler returned to the mound in 2005, when he was promoted to the double-A Midland (Tex.) Rockhounds.
He reached the triple-A level in 2006, but struggled as a starter for the Sacramento River Cats.
That prompted minor league pitching coordinator Ron Romanick to suggest Ziegler switch to a sidearm/submarine style of pitching.
“The idea was to be a specialized relief pitcher.,” Ziegler said, noting that there aren’t any sidearm starting pitchers in the major leagues.
Sidearm pitchers remain rare in the major leagues, but the style is becoming more popular with relievers, as the change in arm angle can cause problems for hitters.
Sidearm pitches also leave the pitcher’s hand with a side spin, which allows for more movement and makes breaking pitches more effective because it tends to move side to side rather than vertically.
Ziegler spent the 2007 season as a reliever in both Midland and Sacramento while he learned the new delivery.
“It took some time, but it was mostly physical stuff, the everyday repetition trying to get the mechanics down so I didn’t have to think about what my body was doing when I was on the mound and I?could just think about what pitch I was throwing,” he said.
Ziegler got off to a strong start in 2008 with Sacramento, going 2-0 in 19 relief appearances with a 0.37 earned run average for the River Cats. He had allowed just one earned run on 15 hits in 24 1/3 innings before being called up May 30.
The next day, he made his major league debut in an 8-4 loss at Texas.
Ziegler made 12 relief appearances in June and 11 in July, all without giving up a run.
His scoreless streak continued into August, reaching 39 1/3 innings before Tampa Bay ended it with a run in the ninth inning Aug. 14.
That broke the American League record for consecutive scoreless innings to start a career, prevoiusly held by Dave Ferriss, who pitched 22 scoreless innings with the Boston Red Sox in 1945.
Ziegler also broke the major league record of 25 innings from 1907, having passed George McQuillan of the Phillies.
On Aug. 12, he broke the Oakland record for most consecutive scoreless innings at any point in a career, passing starting pitcher Mike Torrez, who reached 37 in 1976.
So far in August, Ziegler has also earned saves in all three of his save opportunities, and he is expected to be Oakland’s closer in tonight’s game at Minnesota.
Ziegler also earned his first major league win by pitching the final five outs of a 12-innng game against the Los Angeles Angels on June 8.
Mark Ellis hit a walk-off grand slam in the 12th to lift the A’s over the Angels, 7-3.
Despite the record-setting start to his major league career, Ziegler continues to set more goals for himself as a pitcher.
“I started out with that streak, and my goal is to have that not be the one thing I’m remembered for in baseball,” he said. “I want to make this a lasting career and be known as a solid reliever, not someone who just started out hot.”
“I want to be known for who I am off the field too. I want to be someone people realize has their priorities straight in life too,” he added.
A big part of Ziegler’s success has stemmed from the Oakland defense, which has helped him strand 94.9 percent of baserunners this season.
“I rely on my defense a lot, and they’ve made plays for me all year,” Ziegler noted.
When he’s not busy throwing strikes and stranding runners, Ziegler writes a blog for sbnation.com.
“I did that in response to a request from the guy who runs that Web site,” he said. “The idea was to make it a season-long journal and answer questions from the fans. I wrote 30 or 32 last year, and I’ve written five or six this year,” he commented, adding that the increased time demands as an Oakland A are a big reason he hasn’t been able to blog as much this season.
But as the strikeouts and saves continue to pile up, Ziegler fans are likely to be satisfied watching him on television as the A’s closer.