SOUTH BEND — How about spaghetti for breakfast?
Zach Hedges loves to cook and just because it’s 8 a.m. doesn’t mean he has to make bacon and eggs.
While studying and playing baseball at Azusa Pacific University, Hedges didn’t let the clock dictate his moves in the kitchen.
“I would make any meal anytime,” Hedges said. “I wasn’t typically making breakfast for breakfast. My roommates would laugh at me.
“I make a pretty mean bowl of spaghetti.”
Attempting to make noodles of opponents’ bats on the professional level is what Hedges does now as a starting pitcher for the Class A South Bend Cubs.
Hedges, a right-hander from Glendora, Calif., and a 26th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, is part of a six-man staff which also includes Jake Stinnett, Jeremy Null, Erick Leal, Trevor Clifton and Ryan Williams.
In Hedges’ mind, his strength as a pitcher comes as much from between his ears and with his arm and his lanky, 6-foot-4 frame.
Being mentally strong and slowing the game down allows Hedges (@Zhedges12 on Twitter) to stay calm in the eye of the storm.
“It’s being able to focus on one thing at a time,” Hedges said. “If you are pitching, you have one goal and that’s to make your pitch. Once you get on the rubber, you have to be locked in and have the conviction for that.”
It’s a quality he credits Azusa Pacific head baseball coach Paul Svagdis for developing.
“I learned a lot from him just in terms of the mindset and the game and just giving 100 percent. He cared about you not just as a baseball player, but also as a person.
“Paul is an awesome guy. I still talk to him on the regular.”
Hedges’ best pitch is a sinker.
“My goal is to throw strikes and let them get themselves out,” Hedges said. “That way, you can stay in the game longer.”
Hedges, who was born in Anaheim, is a lifelong southern California boy. Before playing three seasons at APU, he played three at Santa Rosa High School. As a Panther, he was also captain of the basketball team.
When he’s not playing baseball or cooking, Hedges might be found fishing, taking photos or hanging out at the beach. Some South Bend players have already been talking about heading to Lake Michigan when their busy schedule permits.
Hedges’ time between starts is typical of the other members of the staff. The day after, he does his running and works out. Two days after, he does light work on the mound to maintain “touch and feel” around the plate. Three days after comes the bullpen “side” session. The two days leading up to the next start are focused on relaxing, stretching and mentally preparing for the next start.
Starters typically chart pitches or work the radar gun the days before and after their start to help themselves get familiar with opponents.
“On the first day of a series you have to look at some stats, do what the coach tells you and just roll with it and see how it goes,” Hedges said.
While they cheer each other on, Hedges said there is also competition between pitchers. If his teammate had a great outing, he wants to do as well or better.
It just might be cause for a celebration breakfast.
Bring on the pasta.