Zaun calls an end to MLB playing days

Baseball: Glendale native and St. Francis High graduate hangs it up after 16-year career in major leagues.

March 09, 2011|By Charles Rich,

GLENDALE — After suffering a shoulder injury that stemmed from a violent home-plate collision last season, Gregg Zaun found himself behind home plate for the first time Sunday during a spring training contest against the Oakland Athletics at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Ariz.

Zaun caught three innings and had two plate appearances. Shortly after the game ended, Zaun, a Glendale native and 1989 St. Francis High graduate, took off his equipment and tugged off his uniform for the final time before announcing his retirement on Sunday following a 16-year Major League Baseball career.

"I caught Sunday and I felt fine physically," said Zaun, 39, in a phone interview with the News-Press on Monday from Peoria. "Mentally, I wasn't that into it.


"I told [San Diego Manager] Bud Black and [General Manager] Jed Hoyer where my head was at and I wanted to make sure they knew I had their best interests [in mind]. I had a lot of fun playing and I'm happy it lasted as long as it did.

"It was an easy decision for me to make."

In 1,232 career games, Zaun batted .252 (878-3,489) with 194 doubles, 88 home runs and 446 runs batted in. He began his career in 1995 with the Baltimore Orioles after being drafted in 1989 and played for nine teams. Zaun helped the Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series. He also played for the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers.

After handling most of the starting catching responsibilities with Milwaukee last season, Zaun suffered what looked to be a possible career-ending injury less than a month into season after he was involved in a home-plate collision and sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Zaun landed on the disabled list May 21 and his season was ruled over in June after undergoing surgery. He then publicly stated that he was contemplating retirement.

Zaun, who hit .265 with two homers and drove in 14 runs in 28 games with the Milwaukee Brewers last season, signed a minor-league contract with the Padres in early January and looked at finding a role with them. He played in several spring training games and appeared to regain stamina and strength in his shoulder.

"Everything was fine," said Zaun, a switch hitter and the nephew of former major league catcher Rick Dempsey. "I wanted to come down here and give it another shot.

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