Ward's star ablaze at UAB
Former Tiger Zac Ward is named to All-Freshman team
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
His star shone brightly in high school when he was one of the best players in the state. That star was still ablaze during his freshman season at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Former Hartselle Tiger baseball player Zac Ward has been named as the third baseman on the 2004 Conference USA All-Freshman team.
Ward batted .268 with 12 doubles and five home runs while driving in 35 runs and scoring 42 times in 59 games for the Blazers.
He was also one of the hardest batters in the conference to strike out-he fanned only six times in 224 plate appearances.
Ward started all 59 games as a freshman, which is an unusual occurrence according to UAB head coach Larry Giangrosso.
"He had a really good fall for us," Giangrosso said. "He does a lot of things well, both offensively and defensively. I don't recall another freshman that we've had start every game of the season for us."
The coaches challenged Ward to make an immediate impact in his college career.
"The coaches said that to be a big time player in college you need to prove you can play as a freshman," Ward said. "I tried to be solid in the field and at the plate and they put me in the lineup and gave me my chance."
Although the honor is satisfying, Ward says he prefers to set team goals.
"Being on the all freshman team is nice," Ward said. "The main thing I want is to see UAB get better as a program. I want to see us win 40 games and get to a (NCAA) regional or even to Omaha (site of the college world series). Those are my goals. I want UAB baseball to keep getting better.
"It's frustrating seeing two teams go (to the NCAA baseball tournament) that we whipped," Ward said.
"We beat TCU two-of-three, and Tulane, we beat them three-of-four and they are both playing in the regionals. I know we can be there next year if a few breaks go our way."
Ward remains humble despite the honor he received from the votes of the head coaches in Conference USA.
"I don't think of myself as a star," Ward said. "I just want to be a leader by example. I'm not a rah-rah guy or a guy who wants a lot of attention. I know of other guys in this league who have better numbers than me, and I know they could have made the team instead of me."
The mental outlook that Ward has toward the game caught the eyes of the Blazer coaching staff.
"He brought a winning attitude here from day one," Giangrosso said. "He came from a winning program and he knew what it takes to win. That's the biggest reason we felt he could handle a starting spot as a freshman."
Ward says that everyone who plays baseball at Hartselle develops that attitude.
"You have to have a winning attitude as a Tiger," Ward said. "The community there doesn't take it well if you don't win. It's not a choice of winning or losing at Hartselle-you've got to win."
Ward says that life off the diamond now is very different from his high school days.
"You're not in class as much," Ward said. "So you have got to be more self disciplined to get your work done. The spring is really tough.
"You get back from a road trip late Sunday night and have a test Monday morning. You have to study before you can sleep. It's much harder to stay on top of your school work."
Ward, who is majoring in business management, would like the chance to play pro ball some day, but it's not his top priority.
"Getting my degree would be huge," Ward said. "It would mean a lot to my family and me. Baseball is great, but before I would give pro ball a try, I'd have to get my degree first. That's my number one concern."