SOUTHINGTON - With the pick tracker on the computer and the broadcast on the television, UConn junior catcher and Southington native Zac Susi was waiting anxiously for his name to be called in the Major League Baseball Draft.
Then, in the 12th round and with the 354th pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Susi Wednesday afternoon.
It was a dream come true and one Susi shared with his parents, John and Mary-Ann; brothers, Brett and Garrett; girlfriend, Maryssa Romano, the sister of Cincinnati Reds pitcher and Southington native Sal Romano; among other family and friends there.
“I waited a little bit for it yesterday but when I found out it was going to be today everyone was ready for it,” Susi said. “I came off the board pretty quick and it went by really fast but it was an experience that I’ve been dreaming about for a really long time. I’m really happy to be a Pirate and part of such a good organization. It’s a really great day.”
Wednesday captured all of the work Susi put in to have his dream of being part of a MLB organization fulfilled.
It all started at the high school level.
At Southington High playing for coach Charles Lembo, Susi had a specific goal in mind at that time in his life, playing baseball for UConn. He went on to be a two-time All-State selection for the Blue Knights and the captain during his senior year before going up to Storrs to play for the Huskies.
Susi attributes a lot of his success to where it all began, in the town he’s called home since moving to Southington as a five-year old.
“It means a lot being able to represent Southington,” Susi said. “This town has given me everything I ever could ask for. Starting from being really young and playing at the Southington Little League, and playing with a lot of my friends I grew up with to playing at Southington High School for under coach Lembo and all those guys. They really helped me out and paved my way to get me through the college process. It was my dream to play at UConn for a really long time and they got that done and helped me become the player I am today.”
While Southington was the first checkpoint on the Susi’s path taken, there was much improvement to be made to hear his name selected.
Susi made 47 starts as the primary catcher for UConn as a freshman. His .250 batting average stood out. Susi needed to improve at the plate.
That began his sophomore season. Susi started 56 games behind the plate and hit .286. Then in his junior year this past season Susi’s improvement in the batter’s box continued with a career best .335 batting average in 56 games started.
The 49-point increase in his batting average was a sign of a player that had always had the defensive gift but had to work extra hard to hone his craft at the plate.
Susi’s career at UConn was outstanding, but the most crucial time in his playing career to reach this point came in the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer following his sophomore season.
He spent the summer with the Bourne Braves and played in 23 games, hitting .276 with 20 hits, three home runs, three doubles, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI.
The most impressive part of those numbers may be the power display. The three home runs in 23 games were as many round trippers as Susi has recorded in 170 total games appeared in for the Huskies and he did so in the premier summer baseball league that features the best pitching talent the country has to offer with a wooden bat.
With it Susi was named to the Cape Cod All-Star team and the buzz around him in Major League circles started heating up.
“After the summer at the Cape things really steam rolled quickly,” Susi’s father John said. “His performance there and making the All-Star team really got things going and then obviously this year at UConn put the icing on the cake.”
Susi’s father has coached the game of baseball for 27 years, this being his 20th at Western Connecticut State University after previously serving as the head coach for Manchester Community College.
His dad always knew the talent was there for his son, but realistically there was something missing as he progressed to higher levels.
“You watch some kids catch and you can just tell they’ll special,” John said. “It was like that for him, everybody knew he could catch. A big thing growing up for him was whether or not he was going to put the weight on to be able to play at the next level. That was the last straw, to see if he could put the weight on and keep it on. This past year was the first year he did that and I think that gave us a good feeling about his chances to continue playing at the next level.”
Susi is once again waiting for a phone call, only this time it’ll be from the Pirates to see where he will be headed next and what pitchers he’ll be working with.
“Catching is obviously really important and that’s why the organization I think probably decided to draft me because of the defensive skills that I have,” Susi said. “But you have to get better every day and with being a catcher I have to learn a lot of new pitchers that I never met before and form relationships like that and that’s a really big thing. That’s probably first on the agenda.”
For now though, Susi and the city of Southington have plenty of reason for celebration.
Dan Orencole can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org