Zack Cozart has been a hot topic as of late. After a slow start, he’s now batting over .320 and has Reds fans everywhere at least considering the possibility of him joining the big league club. Zack was kind enough to join me for an interview Saturday to talk about the season he’s having and why he ended up playing baseball instead of his first love…basketball.
Blog Red Machine: Zack, on a scale of one to ten, rate your season for me so far.
Zack Cozart: I’ll give it an 8 because of the way I started. It’s been a whirlwind, I didn’t think I’d be where I am now. But, that’s the way baseball is, and that’s why baseball’s such a great game because you get to come out and prove yourself everyday.
BRM: Talk about that slow start you had, you were at .225 at the end of April, now you’re batting over .320. What’s been the biggest key to that turnaround?
Cozy: First off, about the first month, I was happy to end that month at .225—that’s when I went 5-5 (April 30 vs Norfolk, Cozart had 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI)—I was hitting like a buck seventy so when I saw .225, I was like “Yeah! .225!” But the turnaround’s just my mental approach. Our hitting guy came in, Rodney Ortagon, I talked a lot about mental (stuff). Not much physical, but mental and it’s really helped me out a lot just going up there, relaxing a lot more and it’s helped me a lot.
BRM: You’ve been leading off for about a month now, you’re over .400 (in the lead off spot). Have you found your niche?
Cozy: I don’t think they’re gonna want me to lead off up there, but I love leading off; especially in the first at-bat I feel like I see a lot of fastballs, I think yesterday was the first time in a couple of weeks I hadn’t got on in my first at-bat. It’s been good for me, I think it was the spark we needed about a month ago to get us back to where we need to be.
BRM: How much does your mind-set change leading off versus batting in the middle of the order?
Cozy: It changes a little. Say it’s a new pitcher we haven’t seen before, I’ll wanna see some pitches, let some guys behind me see it. But then you see a guy that you’ve seen a lot, like the guy yesterday we had already faced a couple of times this year, I’m up there looking to get a pitch. So, it changes from pitcher to pitcher, but for the most part I’m going up there and if they throw it in my zone, I’m swinging.
BRM: When you were are Ole Miss, one assistant coach was Dan McDonnell, current University of Louisville head coach, how much do you talk to him?
Cozy: I talk to him every once in a while. He’s one of my favorite coaches that I’ve ever had. He left my junior year at Ole Miss to come here to Louisville. We got knocked out of a Super Regional and he, of course, took Louisville to the College World Series. He’s a great coach, he’s a prefect fit here in Louisville, I know he loves it. He’s probably my favorite coach I’ve ever had.
BRM: What’s the most important thing you think he’s ever taught you?
Cozy: Probably just to come to the field just ready to get after it. I know college ball’s a little bit different than pro ball because you don’t play everyday and you gotta be a little more conservative on getting after it every day in pro ball, but just come to the field ready to work—that’s the key thing that he taught me.
BRM: There’s been a lot of clamoring amongst Reds fans; They want you in Cincinnati. What do you think about that? Do you try not to think about that too much? How’s it play in your mind?
Cozy: I try not to think about it too much. What can I control? The only thing I can control is what I do here and let the big guys upstairs make the decisions. I know my wife stresses about it more than I do and I’m like, “Why are you wasting all your energy on that?” I just come to the park trying to play hard everyday and everything will take care of itself.
BRM: Your durability definitely is not an issue. You played 136 of 144 games last year. You’ve played 60 of 69 this year. What do you do to maintain your body to be that durable?
Cozy: We have workout routines that we get with our strength coach Gabe (Moreno) and we do some agility stuff. Not so much weight lifting. A lot of light lifting and body weight stuff, just to maintain. We’re not trying to gain weight or get stronger during the season because that’s pretty much impossible playing everyday. (We’re) just trying to maintain what we have from the offseason. That’s pretty much what you have to do–stay in shape. Like you said, we play everyday; it’s a grind. That’s what I’ve learned over the past two or three years is to be more conservative, like I was talking about earlier. You come ready to work, but you also know that you rarely get an off day.
BRM: Our last question comes from BRM reader Sharon Marmon (@drewstubbsfan). She wants to know at what age you started playing baseball and what other sports you played.
Cozy: I probably started when I was five or so. Baseball wasn’t my first love—I like basketball. I played basketball all through high school. I like football too; I played until I was the quarterback and I got blind sided in practice and actually broke my wrist. I was like, “Oh, I’m done with this.” I went and played basketball and I love basketball, but I’m a 6-foot white guy, so I don’t know how much that’s gonna work for me, but I still like to play. Baseball’s just one of the things where I knew I had a future in it and it’s working out well so far.
Baseball is working out pretty well for Zack Cozart. How soon will he be in a Reds uniform? Only time will tell. One thing is certain, though; if Cozy keeps playing like this, eventually he’ll kick the door to the big leagues down.
To hear the audio from this interview, go here.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @kevingeary10 and BRM @blogredmachine.