The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Clay Zavada in the 30th round of the 2006
Amateur Draft, and he proceeded to go 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA, 51 strikeouts, 15
walks, and two saves in 22 appearances at Rookie-level Missoula.
Tragedy struck when Zavada's father died, causing him to take a year off of baseball and complete his degree at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. He joined the Southern Illinois Miners in January, '08 upon Diamondbacks' suggestion. Then in June, the D-backs and Miners completed a historic deal that swapped Zavada with power prospect Brad Miller, marking the first trade between a major league organization and an independent league team.
"The plan all along was to come here and put up some decent numbers, because they told me if I could show I was interested in getting back in baseball, and my head was in the right spot, that they'd take me back," Zavada said. "And so far it's been in the right spot."
Zavada went 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA and four saves in 12 appearances out of the Miners' bullpen this season, showing the same promise that he exhibited in 2006. The 24-year old southpaw throws a 90 MPH fastball, a cutter, and a changeup, his best pitch. Miller, after a stellar 2006 in which he became the first Silver Hawk ever to lead the D-backs organization in homers (22), really struggled this year in the more hitter-friendly California League, hitting just .178 with an OBP of .199 in 59 games.
"It's never been done before,"Miners manager Mike Pinto said of the groundbreaking transaction. "There's never been a deal between a major league organization and an independent league club, player for player. So it's a good thing for us. The Diamondbacks are a class organization and to have any ties with them that could be long-term is certainly positive for us."
The trade also sends a message to some of the Diamondbacks' draft picks this year that will elect to attend college rather than sign: if the Diamondbacks show interest in you, they won't forget about you. And if they make you a promise, they will keep it.
"The Diamondbacks lived up to their word," Zavada concluded. "They're a quality program, and I'm happy to be back with them."
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