By John Anderson
When Zack Tower steps up to the plate to bat, most pitchers are not thrilled. At 6 foot 3 and 225 lbs., he is an imposing figure and his stats precede him.
Playing for the Pittsfield Suns this summer, he has had 104 appearances at the plate as the DH. Batting .231, he has 24 hits to date including 7 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 homeruns. He’s amassed 17 RBI’s so far this summer. When Zack connects, he makes it count.
I got to witness his triple on Friday, July 25th at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. I was in the Berkshires for the weekend and took advantage of the opportunity to see the Suns play on their home turf. Growing up in Dalton, I was aware that getting collegiate baseball into Wahconah Park was a goal of many. It is working well by all accounts.
Jumping back 15 months, Zack was a senior on the Auburn Varsity Baseball team that lost in the state final game. Although any loss is tough, this was especially hard considering the level of talent. Zack was ranked seventh in hitting in SWCL with an average of .519. He had 3 homeruns and 19 RBI’s that year.
Zack decided to attend UMASS Lowell, and is the only 2013 graduate to play baseball at a Division 1 college. Unfortunately, the university moved up to D1 this year and is, therefore, ineligible for playoffs for the next four years. This is another of those nonsensical NCAA rules. Increase your competition…but you can’t win? Zack was ranked 10th on the team with a .273 batting average. The River Hawks had a 20-22 record.
The Pittsfield Suns are one of 10 teams in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League founded in 2010. There are 6 teams in Massachusetts, 2 in New Hampshire, and 1 each in Connecticut and Maine. Pittsfield is in the West Division where Zack recently came in second in the Home Run Derby with 7 hits over the wall.
Players in the FCBL play without pay for the summer in the hopes of gaining the attention of MLB scouts. They also keep their game in top form. If not from the team’s community, the players live with host families, and this further enhances the experience. As Zack put it, “Having fun in Pittsfield.” Well, at least when they’re home. The schedule can be grueling, but that isn’t different from the Majors.
Although Zack also played football at Auburn High, his first love is baseball. While he would love to become part of a MLB team, for now he’s majoring in business at Lowell. With a smirk, he told me, “Get a degree, get a job.”
During the game I watched, Zack got walked during his first “at bat” and struck out during his second time at the plate. His third was a keeper. He ripped the ball and it came close to clearing the centerfield wall. The centerfielder had the ball in his glove but dropped it when he and his glove hit the wall. The player was slow on the pickup, and Zack was passing second by the time the ball was thrown. Zack was held at third and scored on a subsequent single. This was the second and last run for the Suns as they fell to the Torrington Titans 6-2. This season, the Suns have a 24-23 record.
It was great to see an Auburn Alumnus doing what he loves and performing at a high level. We wish the best to Zack in his future endeavors and hope he makes the cut. Zack is the son of Mark and Cheryl Tower, and he has a younger brother Joshua, a freshman at Auburn High and already a varsity player. Hmm, another one to watch.