Former Comet looks to become new home run king of Pioneer League
Many baseball players with aspirations of reaching The Show ran into a roadblock for their dreams called COVID.
But with former North Stanly and Catawba standout Zac Almond, a chance in independent baseball has led to a record-setting season.
After being traded in March to the Missoula Paddleheads of the Pioneer League, Almond has made the most of this season.
Entering the final three games of the season, Almond had knocked out 25 home runs, breaking a league record of 23. Right behind him in second place with 23 homers is Jakob Goldfarb, playing for Ogden.
Almond enters Wednesday’s game hitting .359 for the season in 82 games and has more walks (50) than strikeouts (46) this season. He is tied for fourth in the league with 90 RBIs and also has 20 doubles and three triples in 2021. His slugging percentage is .675, and he has a .441 on-base percentage.
He is also the only catcher among the league leaders in home runs and the other offensive categories.
With COVID cancelling many careers, Almond said he felt blessed to get back to playing baseball every day.
“I had motivation coming into (the season) to see what I could do…the numbers speak for themselves,” Almond said.
Playing in Missoula with the newly formed Paddleheads in the now-independent Pioneer League “was the best thing for me,” he added.
With his stats, Almond said, “you would think I would get another opportunity in affiliate ball.”
Having hit the long ball often both at North Stanly and Catawba along with in pro ball, Almond said he has not made major changes to his swing.
“My hitting coach has been around the game for a long, long time. I got some advice from him and a scout and made a minor adjustment,” Almond said.
That adjustment is one hitters used many years ago, he said, finishing with two hands rather than one.
“That could be a career-changing move for me,” he said, adding when he started doing that in late July, the trajectory of the ball off his bat changed. He can pull the ball to left but now the right-handed batting catcher has power to right field as well.
All he needs, he said, is for a Major League Baseball organization to give him one more shot.
“I think I can play in the big leagues one day,” Almond said.
His team won the North Division first-half title and entered the final three-game series with second-place Billings leading by one game.
Almond said he is thankful to be 25 years old and still be playing professional baseball.
“It’s kind of cool…it’s a blessing. I don’t take a day for granted in this game because you never know when it may be your last.”