Zacharias to Play Baseball at Cornell

Clare Ravizza, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

NDA senior Jonathan Zacharias has verbally committed to continue his academic and baseball career at Cornell University.

Zacharias, a pitcher, has been playing on the NDA Varsity Baseball team since his freshman year. But he’s been playing the game much longer.

“I’ve been playing pretty much as long as I can remember,” said Zacharias. “I started with organized baseball when I was about 7 years old, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Zacharias explained that he still holds onto that “childlike wonder” for the game. He especially enjoys “the mental process” behind pitching.

“It’s kind of like a game of chess. I’m trying to figure out what the hitter’s expecting and trying to throw something that will beat him. Also, I enjoy the competitive aspect, just trying to be better than the person you’re going up against.”

Zacharias said he is “extremely excited” to commit to the Ivy League. “Cornell has everything I was looking for in a school: a very prestigious education, a very strong baseball program, as well as a great campus and overall atmosphere.”

Typically pitching fastballs between 87 and 90 mph, Zacharias began the recruitment process by sending out a recruiting video of his pitches that “was able to be viewed by a number of schools,” according to Zacharias.

“Once you get to the higher level, you have colleges coming to watch you play,” explained the pitcher. “With Cornell, they actually sent their head coach to watch me pitch at a game in Green Bay. I was very fortunate to have that happen.”

Coach Barker, NDA’s head coach, talked to Cornell’s head coach, Dan Pepicelli, and “helped to arrange for him come to watch me pitch,” said Zacharias.

During the summer, Zacharias also plays for Rhino Baseball, “which is a team based out of Appleton with kids from all over the Fox Valley.”

“Rhino really offered a lot when it came to the recruiting process,” Zacharias explained. “It’s designed to provide an environment conducive to having schools look at you. Also, they helped me with the whole process of making my recruiting video.”

At this point, Zacharias has verbally committed to Cornell, “which basically is just my word that I will be attending school as long as everything goes well with admissions.”

“With Ivy Leagues, they extend an admission pass to the players. That pretty much guarantees that the player will be admitted into the school as long as they have a high enough GPA and test scores and the right kind of extracurriculars,” said Zacharias.

Zacharias explained that although, once he’s reached this point, admission is merely a “formality,” there’s still, “nothing official at this point. Not until I’m officially accepted to the school will I be officially committed.”

The NDA senior is especially excited about Cornell as it allows for him to have a balance between athletics and academics.

“What’s interesting with Ivy Leagues is that they play fewer games, and we miss a lot less school due to the rigor of the academics. They definitely put an emphasis on academics,” he said.

Zacharias also recognized that attending Cornell will provide him with a wide array of opportunities. His “Plan A” is to be drafted into Major League Baseball.

“I think that’s a possibility as long as I continue my development,” said Zacharias.

Cornell has had three pitchers drafted to the MLB in the last year.

“I would definitely love to continue playing baseball for as long as I can,” stated the senior.. “Once I’m done with my baseball career, (and hopefully it will be longer rather than shorter,) I would have a lot of options later in life, whether it be to start businesses or make investments that I find interesting. I think there’s a lot I could do with baseball and a lot of good that could come out of it.”

However, Cornell will still set Zacharias up for success whether or not he goes pro.

“I wanted a school that would have a strong academic atmosphere. That way, if baseball doesn’t work out as a profession, then I’d have something to go back on. I’m confident that with Cornell, I’ll get a degree and find something I’m interested in.”

Zacharias is considering studying Economics and Biology or Physics at the collegiate level as it would offer him “a lot of flexibility” if he decides to attend medical school or enter the field of environmental engineering.

“I want to put myself in a position where I would be doing something exciting, something on the cutting edge,” he said.

Zacharias feels confident in the process, as he’s had four role models who have gone before him: his four older brothers.

“My older brothers all played baseball and all played in college. I saw them go through the same process that I’m going through, and I was able to learn a lot from their high school experiences,” explained Zacharias.

This baseball season, which begins in late March, will be the senior’s last at NDA.

Although he pitched in the sectional final game that brought NDA’s team to State his freshman year, Zacharias and the NDA baseball team has not returned to the State Championship since.

“We’re hoping to make a run this year,” said Zacharias. Though he keeps himself busy on the Men’s Volleyball team in the fall, Zacharias is looking forward to the NDA baseball season and his future as a part of Big Red.