“You can go to a baseball game and see him and he’s leagues above everyone else there,” said Brendan Black, a senior infielder on Lebanon’s baseball team.
Coaches around Missouri have sure noticed the play of Lebanon shortstop and pitcher Zack Stewart, voting him all-conference, all-district and all-state last season. Maybe they noticed his pitching and defense.
“He’s a great shortstop for us,” said Lebanon head coach Dustin Young. “He’s a bulldog on the mound.”
Stewart also boasts a batting average near .500. “His bat speaks for itself,” said Young. He’s got a loud bat.”
So loud they heard it in Springfield, where Missouri State has invited him to come make noise for the Bears next year. “I just want to fill a role that they need and play as soon as possible,” said Stewart.
For Stewart, signing with the Bears is the result of making this sport his passion. “He eats, drinks and sleeps baseball,” said Black.
“With Zach, at any point in time he’s probably got a bat in his hand,” said Young.
“It’s the thing I love,” said Stewart. “I eat and breath it. And I’ll practice any day and any time.”
The batting cage is his favorite place to be. “I’ll be there two, three hours sometimes and drive to Springfield and go to Marucci Clubhouse,” said Stewart.
His coach knew he had potential when he first saw him hit as a freshman. “He hit 90 miles per hour off the bat right away,” said Young. “And that’s something you don’t see a lot of.”
His friends knew in 7th grade when they asked him to play whiffle ball, but he had a baseball game the next day. “His parents wouldn’t even let him play whiffle ball because they didn’t want him to jack up his swing because his swing is so nice,” said Black.
But Stewart has known since way before that. “I fell in love with it at a young age,” he said. “When I was four years old.”
What he would love now is to take care of some unfinished business. Lebanon fell in the district championship game a year ago, and he has his sights set on the Ozark Conference.
“We want to win the [Ozark Conference] and we want to win the district championship,” said Stewart. “We always want to hang that banner and be the next team to do it.”
And perhaps along the way, he’s hoping his preparations for the next level can help this Yellowjacket squad.
“He’s giving me a hard time about trying the outfield this year,” said Young. “With the speed that he’s got, and the baseball savvy he’s got, that’s the potential that he has. He could go out and play the outfield and do just fine.”
For Stewart, it’s about contributing any way he can. “I want to open up any possibility of playing any position at the next level,” he said.
Wherever he plays, he wants to be just like a former Bear who has since made it to the Major Leagues.
“I want us to be the [Missouri Valley Conference] champs,” said Stewart. “I want to be the next Jake Burger. Whatever it takes.”