By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio -- Young men generally do not play Division III baseball with the intention of playing professional baseball after graduation. Generally, the thought is the student-athlete is extremely talented to even play at the Division III level, but the goal is to play baseball and have a great deal of fun playing a sport you love while getting an outstanding education.
Despite the many obstacles in the way of a Div. III baseball student-athlete making it to the Big Leagues, BW graduates Mark Zimmerman '16 and Danny Cody '19 are defying the odds and are currently playing in the minor leagues. Zimmerman is in his fourth season of pro ball with the San Diego Padres and Cody is in his first season with the Houston Astros
Regardless of whether Zimmerman or Cody make it all the way to the Major Leagues, each is well-positioned for their future. At BW Zimmerman (his BW biography) majored in pre-physical therapy, served as a student athletic trainer and carried a 3.4 grade point average. Cody (his BW biography) graduated with a degree in finance and accounting and last spring earned CoSIDA Google Division III Academic All-America honors.
"We are extremely proud of Mark and Danny," said BW 10th-year Head Coach Brian Harrison, who knows what Zimmerman and Cody are experiencing as he played minor league baseball too. "We are proud for many reasons but in particular that both young men were emblematic of the philosophy of the student-athlete and Division III.
"Mark and Danny had a lot of fun playing baseball at BW, won a lot of games, conference championships, played in the NCAA Division III National Tournament and got a great BW education," continued Harrison with his typical giant smile! "How many Division III players ever have that experience. They did, and right here at BW.
Zimmerman Recovers From "Tommy John" Surgery
Four years ago, Zimmerman had just graduated from BW and was drafted in the 33rd round by San Diego. He ended his first season being selected to play in the Padres' prestigious "Futures Game" at Petco Park. Zimmerman was on top of the world.
In his second season, he advanced to the next level at full season High Class A, but suffered a slight arm ailment, so he finished the season back in Low Class A where regained his luster.
But, then it happen. Elbow pain led to the doctor's diagnosis that no baseball pitcher wants to hear --" You have to have Tommy John surgery".
Now, following more than a year of rehabilitation, Zimmerman is in Arizona at the Padres Spring Training facility where he is playing in the Arizona Rookie League. He made his way back to the mound to pitch in his first game in two years on August 15 and tossed a scoreless inning.
"Zimmy [Zimmerman's nickname] is back throwing again, and that's great to see," said Harrison. "He had a year and a half of recovery time, so they are going to be careful with him."
What is "Tommy John" Surgery"?
UCL reconstruction is a surgery commonly used to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament inside the elbow by replacing it with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The goal of the surgery is to stabilize the elbow, reduce or eliminate pain and restore stability and range of motion. This procedure was introduced and first performed by Frank Jobe, M.D., on baseball pitcher Tommy John in 1974—hence the colloquial name Tommy John surgery. Click HERE for more information on "Tommy John" surgery.
What Has the Surgery Done to Zimmy's Baseball Career?
"Zimmy was progressing well prior to the injury," said Harrison. "The fact that he got to play in the Futures Game that first season tells you that the Padres respect his talent and ability."
Zimmerman split the 2016 summer between the low Class-A Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Washington in the Northwest League and Lake Elsinore in the Advanced Class A California League in Lake Elsinore, California and progressed as far as High Class A with the Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Tincaps in 2017. That's when the injury-bug hit him.
Statistically, Zimmerman has appeared in 58 minor league contests and covering 93 and two-third innings pitched. He has a 2-4 record with three saves, a solid 2.88 earned run average with 121 strikeouts and just 35 bases on balls (walks). Two stats that the Padres like the best are the 121 strikeouts and his 1.20 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).
"My goal was to be back on the mound and making an impact by the middle-to-the-end of the summer," said Zimmerman, who is 25 years-old and nearing the make-or-break point in professional baseball. "My timetable is short, partly due to my age and partly due to my injury."
That sentiment also was echoed by one of his former minor league team's President, who just happens to be another BW graduate!
Cody Moving Up Fast in His First Season
For Cody, who ended his BW career in Mid-May and was the highest drafted Division III player in 2019, it has been the "fast track". He started his career in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, advanced to Short Season Class A at Tri-City (N.Y.) in the New York-Penn League and is now with Quad City (Iowa) in Full Season Class A. The hard-throwing right-hander
The Results So Far
Statistically, Cody has made 10 minor league relief appearances and covering 17 innings. He is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA with 15 strikeouts. He had just one bad outing, and when it is subtracted, Cody is 0-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 12 whiffs in 15 and two-third innings.
"Danny has pitched well, said Harrison. "He's consistently throwing 93-to-94 miles mph (miles per hour), and that's what they want to see on a consistent basis.
"Right now, the Astros are working with his on his mechanics and his delivery," said Harrison. "Danny has a very high upside, and they know it and want to develop him so that he is ready to compete at High A and then the next level. Plus, he's just such a great young man!"