Imagine a job that moved you to 10 different cities around the world since the beginning of 2014. Then imagine doing it with a family of five, three kids all under the age of nine. This is life for Lamigo Monkeys starting pitcher Zack Segovia.
“It does take a toll on you. The hard part is the time away from family whenever they don't travel,” Segovia revealed. “But I've been fortunate and gotten some good breaks and been able to make up the lack of quantity with some quality family time. With still four months left in 2016, there’s no telling what will happen this time. Last year, I had no idea I’d be pitching in the gold medal game at the Tokyo Dome [in the WBSC Premier12]. God is good and always in control so I just enjoy the ride.”
Culture shock sets in as well, especially when making the move halfway around the world to Asia.
“The first time, I'm not gonna lie, it was hard. Very, very difficult. The culture, the food, the smells, the noises, oh my! I really had no idea. But as I went along, I was very grateful to have met more and more English-speaking people and learn a lot, where to go and what to do, and just meet people. I never thought I'd appreciate Taiwan so much but I'm very grateful. And the people are so nice and just friendly. I really, really enjoy the island and the way people will help you and even though we don't speak the same language, there is always a way to communicate.”
Segovia (賽格威) is now back in Taiwan for the third time in the past year. He pitched in 2015 for the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, then returned as part of Team USA at the WBSC Premier12 in November, and is now getting set to make his 2016 CPBL debut for the Monkeys.
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Now that he’s used to the culture of Taiwan, he can focus on baseball. The 33-year-old has spent the past month getting stretched out as a starting pitcher with Lamigo’s second team where he went 3-0 in five starts, posting a 2.57 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He struck out 24 and walked just three over 21 innings.
Bouncing around from team to team can be tough on a pitcher’s arm depending on the role he’s put in. Most recently Segovia has been pitching in relief for Monclova in the Mexican League. Before that, he was a starter at the Premier12, and prior to that a reliever for the Uni Lions.
“Bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen is difficult the first time you do it, and maybe even the second time. However, it's probably like the tenth or twentieth time I've swapped roles since I've been drafted. In fact, one year in winter ball, I would start and then on my bullpen days I'd be the eighth inning guy and sometimes close if the closer wasn't available. So I've gotten accustomed and I’m grateful that my arm and body know how to adjust accordingly. The main thing is to repeat your delivery and be consistent and understand that your job is to get outs as quickly as possible. There are no extra points for style or swag.”
Segovia begins his second stint in the CPBL on Wednesday. Last year was a learning experience for him as Taiwan’s professional league wasn't quite what he thought it would be.
“The CPBL, well, it's completely different than I expected. It's by far the most underrated league I've ever seen and I've played in many. The talent here is good and the fact that there is such a concentrated amount of talent, and that it is only a four-team league, it makes for some very interesting matchups over and over again. That is why I say the league is very hard for everyone. The hitters see the pitchers over and over again so weaknesses get exposed. Both must make changes or suffer the consequences and nobody likes having flaws exposed. The fans and the stadiums are great. I have seen such passion on this island. My kids love it and I do as well. I look forward to seeing what it’s like in the playoffs. I can only imagine. But the league is a great league with many talented hitters and pitchers, as well as some of the greatest fans and cheerleaders I've ever seen.”
The former Philadelphia Phillies second-round draft pick had mixed results with the Lions last season. He gave up eight earned runs in his first 14 innings as a starter. He then moved to the bullpen, where he threw seven scoreless appearances in his final 11 games.
“The CPBL is a hitter’s league, but that is really due to the familiarity that the hitters have here. The key to getting guys out, I feel, is the same everywhere: Just don't be afraid to throw anything at any time. Patterns will kill you here since you only have four teams and they will know what you're doing. Don't worry about what you can't control. Strike, ball, who cares. Just throw the pitch you want, when you want. Once the ball leaves your hand it's completely out of your control and that's okay.
“Hitters [in the CPBL] are aggressive and very unpredictable. That's why you must always be adapting and staying within yourself. Hitters here attack, attack. USA hitters are more into Moneyball where taking a walk is as good as a hit. In this league, there are not many walks because hitters want to make the fans happy and hit, hit, hit.”
While personal success on the mound is important to him, Segovia is the kind of guy who puts family and teammates first, and that’s clear when he talks about his goals for the final few months of the 2016 season.
“Well, the best thing and the most personal thing I want is to have my family enjoy Taiwan as much as I do and I look forward to them being here. As far as baseball, I want to continue to pitch to the best of my capabilities and help Lamigo win again. I would like to enjoy the playoffs and be a part of a three-peat by winning the Taiwan Series championship.”
He has one final goal, though it’s not exactly performance related.
“I'd like to take my kids up in that spaceship at Taoyuan Stadium. That looks so, so cool!”