Shortly after Zach Von Rosenberg inked a professional contract with a $1.2 million signing bonus, I caught up with him while he was on his way to the airport. The last few days have been crazy for Von Rosenberg as negotiations with the Pirates heated up late last week.
"I'm just at a (complete) loss of words right now," he said. "This (signing) is an awesome feeling."
Von Rosenberg will be catching a flight to Bradenton, Fla. tonight where he will be joining the Pirates' Gulf Coast League team. Von Rosenberg said that the Pirates plan on getting him up to speed in Bradenton and he hopes to make a few appearances before the season's end. He will likely be participating in instructional league this October.
He knows he's part of a special group now and the nerves were running this morning after he successfully passed his physical and sat down to sign his contract.
"I was nervous," he said. "I didn't know what to expect. I've accomplished something a lot of people would like to accomplish."
Von Rosenberg had a scholarship to attend LSU but ultimately turned it down for the Pirates. Von Rosenberg attended Zachary (La.) High where he won three state championships (and another at Barbe (La.) High for a total of four) and he grew up rooting for LSU.
"I love the university (LSU)," he said. "You're right in the heart and soul of Tiger-Land. We bleed purple and gold out here. It was a tough decision . . . I just stayed calm and collected throughout the process."
Baseball has always been a huge part of Von Rosenberg's life and he felt that it was best for him to embark upon his professional career.
"It was just too big of an opportunity to pass up. I've wanted to do this my entire life," he said. "I see this (signing a pro contract) as an accomplishment and it also means that it's time to go to work."
Von Rosenberg will likely be ranked in the top 10 of the Pirates' system heading into the 2010 season. At draft time he was the 41st best available prospect and he's earned accolades for his advanced command of three solid pitches. He fell to the Pirates in the sixth round mostly due to signability concerns. Von Rosenberg is a rare polished high school arm that attacks hitters with a fastball in the 88-91 mph range, a 12-6 curveball, and changeup with nice deception. He said his fastball peaked at 94 last spring.
Von Rosenberg noted that his favorite current Pirate is pitcher Zach Duke and that he enjoys watching Andrew McCutchen play the game the way he does. Von Rosenberg could become a big part of the Pirates future and he commends the job the Pirates are doing to right the ship after a decade and a half of losing seasons.
"I believe in the general manager (Neal Huntington). He has guts," Von Rosenberg said. "He's been chopping up the (big league) team to try making one of the best farm systems in baseball. He's building the farm system from the ground up. The majority of good teams have good farm systems and Pittsburgh is trying to build that."
Von Rosenberg said that you play this game to win and not to lose but he realizes that it's not always going to be about winning in the minors and that it will be about development too. He was the starting and winning pitcher in all four of the clinching state championship games he participated in. It's something he would not trade for anything.
"It was an awesome experience. It gave me more confidence," he said. "I feel that I can be successful in the minors and one day in the majors. It's had a huge impact on how I view the game."
The Pirates have high hopes for their latest $1.2 million investment and newest cornerstone in the pipeline. After experiencing championship glory so frequently in high school Von Rosenberg would be the right guy to be on the mound to experience another dogpile in the future for the Pirates. We know this for sure: He's been there before. And he's a winner.