Streator native Clay Zavada earned his first major-league victory Thursday as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Florida Marlins 4-3. This appearance was the relief pitcher’s major-league debut. He struck out two batters while pitching a perfect seventh inning.
Ironically, the losing pitcher, Cristhian Martinez, also made his major-league debut in that game. I wonder how often this has happened: both the winning pitcher and the losing pitcher in the same game made their major-league debuts in that game.
Zavada has an interesting backstory. A few months after Zavada finished his first professional baseball season (playing on a summer rookie team for the Diamondbacks), his father unexpectedly died of a heart attack. His mother died when he was 3, and his older brother was serving in the Navy at that time, so Clay dropped out of baseball to take care of his family’s property. He returned to baseball last year, first playing for an independent league team, then again in the Diamondbacks’ farm system.
Katie Thomas of The New York Times wrote an excellent story about Zavada last December. She obviously spent time in Streator (a city I covered for seven years as a reporter for the local daily newspaper), including great details about the former “Glass Capital of the World” in her day-in-the-life profile of Zavada. I highly recommend reading it, even if you aren’t too interested in baseball. It is an excellent “people profile,” as such stories are called in newsrooms. You can find it by clicking here.
(Incidentally, the then-director of player development for the Diamondbacks who is quoted in the New York Times story, A.J. Hinch, is now the team’s manager.)