Former Seton Hall baseball player Zack Granite’s MLB career may be just three months old, but in the eyes of those who donned the Pirate blue after him, he might as well be a star.
Some new faces who look up to him in this year’s SHU baseball team, as well as some old faces that mentored him, showed up at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to spend some time with the former Seton Hall Pirate.
The moment proved to be a special one for Granite.
“I thought that was really cool,” Granite said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, to have the team come out.”
Granite even mentioned the individuals who attended that were a part of his journey to Seton Hall that are no longer with the program.
“The guy who recruited me, who doesn’t even work at Seton Hall, was there,” Granite said.
The man who heads the group of young Pirates that are set to take the Owen T. Carroll Field turf this spring, Rob Sheppard, was on hand. Sheppard has stayed in touch with Granite since the former Pirates outfielder was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2013. The recent trip to Yankee Stadium served multiple purposes for Granite, with the utmost being to support his former player.
“We planned the trip to get a chance to see Zack and obviously to give him a little bit of support from our end, but also to provide our players a little incentive,” Sheppard said.
The gesture was not missed by Granite, who has developed a relationship with Sheppard beyond the ordinary player-coach relationship in the many years they have interacted.
“I’m really close with coach Sheppard,” Granite said. “We talk a decent amount during the season, and he’s always been there for me. He’s always been a big part of my life. He had me when I was pretty much a kid…It means a lot to me that he came out.”
Even though Granite is now in The Show, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He’s a Staten Island kid, playing in Minnesota with the Twins, but all the while holding the lessons he was taught at Seton Hall close to him.
“My time at Seton Hall was unbelievable,” Granite said. “I did everything I wanted to do when I was there. I won a Big East Championship, I was an all-star, I got drafted.”
However, it wasn’t just on-the-field lessons that Granite took away from his time in South Orange.
“I stayed out of trouble playing baseball, I grew up there,” Granite said. “I became a man at Seton Hall, and I think the baseball program really helped me become a man.”
To say Granite has an appreciation for his time at Seton Hall would be an understatement. Granite was able to bring the skills he learned from the coaches at Seton Hall with him to professional baseball. Granite learned the philosophy of Seton Hall baseball, and has used those lessons to help him climb the ranks of the minor leagues.
“At Seton Hall, we do a lot of the little stuff, we bunt a lot and we run a lot,” Granite said. “We worked so much on the little things at Seton Hall that when I got to pro ball, it was not a big thing for me to put a bunt down or make plays in the outfield because it was ingrained in me at Seton Hall. I think that really helped me in pro ball because I was able to impress people just on the little things.”
That experience proved worthy on Oct. 3, when Granite played in the American League Wild Card game against the Yankees. In that game, Granite became the first former Seton Hall baseball player to get a base hit in the MLB postseason since Craig Biggio in 2005, according to SHU associate athletic director Jim Semerad on Twitter.
Even when he was at Seton Hall, Sheppard could see a major league ballplayer in Granite.
“He definitely had the talent, but what separated Zack from the other guys on the team was that he really believed in himself,” Sheppard said.
It has been that belief in himself that as carried him all the way, from the ballparks of Staten Island, to Owen T. Carroll Field, and now to Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn. Granite has become the best embodiment of Seton Hall baseball, on the sport’s’ biggest stage.
Matt Ambrose can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mambrose97.