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Zach Von Rosenberg Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 29

Zach Vonrosenberg Getty
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“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.

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Zach Von Rosenberg always wanted to be an LSU Tiger.

Not an unusual thing for any kid growing up in Louisiana to wish for, but after a high school career in which he was the winning pitcher in four state championship games and became the top prep pitcher in the state, the Tigers wanted Von Rosenberg on campus just as badly.

 

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By his senior year Von Rosenberg was ranked by BA as the No. 41 prospect in the 2009 draft, and set a seven-figure price tag to be bought out of attending his dream school. After signability pushed him out of the top few rounds, Von Rosenberg figured he was headed to Baton Rouge. The Pirates, whose 2009 draft strategy revolved around handing out above-slot bonuses to high school pitchers, took Von Rosenberg in the sixth round and handed him $1.2 million to change his mind.

For Von Rosenberg, the decision to sign and forego college baseball wasn’t nearly as difficult as the actual adjustment to the priorities of the professional game. Whereas heading to college would’ve meant consistently pitching to win at LSU, opting for the professional ranks meant a constant focus on development over winning—pitch counts, limited repertoires, and sometimes borderline comical instructions on the mound, all for the sake of development.

“There was an outing I threw five innings in extended spring (…) sixty-five of my sixty-seven pitches were fastballs,” said Von Rosenberg. “The only time I could throw an offspeed pitch was when the coach called it.”

The Pirates, like with many of their projectable minor league arms during that era, attempted to turn Von Rosenberg into a sinkerballer in the mold of Charlie Morton—adjusting his arm angle and aspects of his delivery in the process. For whatever reason, his body didn’t take to the changes.

Von Rosenberg saw early returns from the changes but eventually began to have arm troubles, leading to severe fluctuations in velocity and uneven results. After signing, he’d had the goal of making big league camp by his age-21 season of 2012, but instead finished that 2012 season stalled out in Low-A.

The 2013 season was going to be the year Von Rosenberg turned his career around. He entered spring training in the best shape of his life to that point and reverted back to his old style of pitching. Unfortunately, he tore his hamstring at the end of camp and upon returning began to suffer nerve issues in his arm.

“It was just one thing after another,” said Von Rosenberg. “[Sometimes] you only have so many throws before things start really going wrong for you, and that for me was true.”

Von Rosenberg’s health never allowed him to realize his potential on the mound, and he never threw another professional pitch after being released by the Pirates in spring of 2015. He returned to the Baton Rouge home he’d purchased after signing, and enrolled at LSU with a plan to be a part of Tiger athletics in a different way.

He walked onto LSU’s football team, first attempting to play quarterback, then tight end (a position for which he put on forty pounds, something he will “never do again”), and finally ending up at punter—the position in which he’d been an all-state performer at in high school.

Battling years of rust and an excessive amount of “grandpa” jokes in the locker room while playing with players sometimes 10 years younger, Von Rosenberg eventually excelled as LSU’s starting punter. He started on the 2019 National Champion team, and in his final season in 2020 was named 2nd  team All-SEC. On Sunday, Von Rosenberg signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, looking to make a second run at the professional ranks.

On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former Pirates farmhand and current Vikings punter Zach Von Rosenberg joins to discuss his journey from pro baseball to college football.

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