You grow up watching sports, and watching your heroes take the field day-in, day out. But what are they doing when they are finished the game they've been a part of their whole life.
Gregg Zaun was drafted in the 17th round of the 1989 amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He enjoyed a 16-year career in the bigs. Spanning over 1200 games, Zaun batted .252 with 88 home runs and 446 RBI and was a member of the 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins.
Now that his playing days are done, Zaun has been a fixture on Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts as an analyst on Rogers Sportsnet. He is also the founder of the Gregg Zaun Foundation, an organization dedicated to giving back to Canadian families and children worldwide.
The GM’s Perspective: You’ve done as much as anyone in the game of baseball; player, World Series Champion, analyst, and broadcaster on Blue Jays Central on Rogers Sportsnet. Do you ever see coaching in your future, or is behind the desk your calling?
GMs: I'm always intrigued with a player’s life after baseball. When you are playing at the highest level, did you find it difficult to transition once your playing days were over?
GZ: My decision to retire was the only one in my professional career that was 100% on my terms. The transition was easy after that.
GMs: I have to admit, when yourself, Mr. Jamie Campbell, and Mr. Dirk Hayhurst are on camera, I'm always intrigued and entertained.
You have a very distinct style when the camera is on. You're very honest, and compared to many of the others broadcasters on different networks, you tell the truth. You never sugar coat it. It may not be what a lot of people like to hear, but it’s the truth.
Is that something you worked on (style), or is that honest opinion what got you to where you are today?
GZ: I have a unique position. The folks at Rogers want me to be honest about the on-field play and the off-field decisions. We all have a role to play. I’m not a storyteller right now. For the sake of the fans and my own integrity, I give honest opinions. That’s why they tune in.
GMs: You played 16 seasons at the highest level of baseball in the world. You also played during a time when steroids and performance enhancers were at its peak.
Coming off the strike when attendance was low and the fans weren’t showing up at the park, the home run was the savior and the biggest draw the game has seen.
MLB has been cleaning up the game at an alarming rate. From your time on the field until now, is the overall quality/performance of the game better? And is today’s player more well-rounded than the players from 10-15 years ago.
GZ: I think the game has deteriorated fundamentally. High-level players are rushed to the bigs too soon. They don’t get enough reps in the minors anymore. Just look at the bunting and the inability to command the fastball. Pitchers who throw 95 are out there trying to trick guys and end up with Tommy John surgery from throwing too many sliders, etc. Players focus on the areas of their games which get them paid.
GMs: The Blue Jays were pre-season’s golden boys, unfortunately those blockbuster deals didn’t translate into a championship.
They have the leadership in R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and the established bats of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. In your opinion, what/why was their downfall? Is it chemistry or talent?
GZ: Don’t assume that a veteran is automatically a leader. Poor starting pitching, defense, and situational hitting were the reason they stunk. Refer to the previous answer for clarification. The formula for winning is almost always good starting pitching, timely hitting and defense.
GMs: Can you see a complete turnaround next year if this nucleus stays together, or is another so-called “rebuild” on the horizon?
GZ: I can’t see a COMPLETE turnaround. These guys should already know how to play the game the right way. They are in THE SHOW after all. The current nucleus of players needs guidance and discipline. They need to put in the work to do the little things and excellence needs to be demanded of them. It feels like a Country Club atmosphere to me. There just aren’t any consequences for poor play or behavior. One of the reasons may be that a lot of guys are a little too comfortable at too young of an age. I looked over my shoulder for 16 years. It motivated me. It’s healthy.
GMs: Along with the off the field work, you also run the Gregg Zaun Foundation. Can you give us some background on the foundation and your motivation for starting it?
GZ: I like to have fun. I like to do for others who are less fortunate. I feel like I owe. My foundation tries to combine fun and philanthropy.
GMs: The events that you put on, are they open to the public to attend? And how has the public and the industry responded?
GZ: Anyone can come to our events and I think we’ve done a nice job so far to involve all demographics. Some people thought our Beer Pong tournament was an inappropriate way to raise money, but it got college kids into doing charity work and I guarantee they’ll be a part of the Zauntourage when they hit the business world. Win Win
GMs: How can sponsors get involved if they want to participate? Would they reach out on the contact section of your website?
GZ: Sponsors, both private and corporate can reach us through gzfoundation.com. We’re still looking for that great corporate relationship. HINT HINT