BY STEVE KRAH
Zach Britton might have to wait to put on a uniform and stride to the plate in a professional baseball game for the first time.
But he is ready for that to happen.
Britton, a lefty-swinging outfielder/catcher at the University of Louisville, was selected Thursday, June 11 in the fifth round (No. 136 overall) of the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2017 Batesville (Ind.) High School graduate has two years of college eligibility remaining with a extra year being granted by the NCAA when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 season to be stopped in mid-March.
But he came out of high school with 21 college credits thanks to Advanced Placement classes, took summer classes prior to his first year at Louisville and during two collegiate summer league seasons (2018 with the Newport Gulls in Rhode Island and 2019 with the Orleans Firebirds on Cape Cod) and finished his Sport Administration degree this spring.
“I feel confident that I’m going to sign with the Blue Jays,” says Britton, who has been consulting with area scout Nate Murrie. “I’m excied to start my career with them.
“I’m a winner. I’m a guy who plays the game hard.”
With no live baseball at the moment and the 2020 Minor League Baseball season in doubt, Britton awaits his next move.
“It’s a waiting game,” says Britton, 21. “I’ll see what (the Blue Jays) tell me to do.”
Before the 2020 season was stopped, Britton was hitting .322 with one home runs, 12 runs batted in and an NCAA Division I-leading 12 doubles in 17 games (all starts) for a 13-4 team.
In what turned out to be the final game, left fielder Britton batted No. 3 and went 3-of-5 and plated three runs against Chicago State on March 11.
After the shutdown, Britton spent a few weeks training in Florida then came back to Batesville and has been there ever since.
Always a left-handed hitter since he began organized baseball at 5 or 6, Britton grew up big leaguers with lefty swings like Ken Griffey Jr., switch-hitter Chipper Jones and Chase Utley.
“I definitely watched those guys coming up,” says Britton. “I took pieces of their swing and tried to put it into mine.
“I like to think of myself as a professional hitter with a good approach. I like to use the whole field and hit the ball where it’s pitched. I’m not going for home runs and I’m never swinging out of my shoes. I take what the pitcher gives me and I know the situation.”
Britton played for head coach Dan McDonnell at Louisville.
“He’s a very intelligent baseball mind,” says Britton of McDonnell. “He knows what it takes to win. He knew what I had to do to get into pro ball and one day become a big leaguer. He helped me tremendously along the way.
“He taught us how to be professional on and off the field and to be accountable. He does a good job of running a team and a program.”
Eric Snider is the Cardinals hitting coach.
“We’ve worked together a lot the last few years,” says Britton of Snider. “He’s been a tremendous help to me.
“He’s always a guy I can talk to and learn from in terms of the swing.”
Britton played four varsity baseball season at Batesville — two for head coach Alex Davis and two for current Bulldogs head coach Justin Tucker.
A 2017 Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American and three-time all-conference selection, Britton hit .553 with six homers, 16 doubles, 27 RBIs and 41 runs scored as a Batesville senior.
Chosen as a catcher for the South in the 2017 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series, Britton did not play because he was already enrolled in summer school at Louisville.
He’s been mostly an outfielder in college. So where does he play as a pro?
“Wherever they want to develop me, I’ll be happy to do that,” says Britton.
After playing in local leagues, Britton began travel ball at age 10 with the Indiana Prospects. He was with the Indiana Nitro at 11 and 12 and then the Indiana Bulls from 13 until he went to college. Sean Laird and Dave Taylor were among his Bulls head coaches.
Zach is the son of Barry and Debbie Britton and has two older siblings. Half brother James served in the U.S. Marines and played football at Franklin (Ind.) College. Half sister Devin played volleyball at Anderson (Ind.) University.