It's always refreshing to talk to a college athlete who is polite, professional and genuinely cares about people. I interviewed such a guy this week. Brady Zuniga, age 22, graduates from UNLV today with his degree in History. He is a 4 year athlete as well, playing for the UNLV baseball team. Brady was recruited out of high school in Monterey Park, California, by (then) coach Buddy Gouldsmith. At the end of his freshman year, Coach Gouldsmith was let go and Tim Chambers was brought in.
Here is the interview with Brady. Side note, when it gets to the part where he talks about his parents, get a kleenex. It made me tear up!!
Why did you choose UNLV? I came to UNLV because I wanted to experience college away from home. I knew it would help me grow up quickly, but at the same time be close enough for my parents to visit whenever needed. I also enjoyed my recruiting visit because I could tell the team was like a family.
How did you feel when Coach Chambers took over your sophomore year? I was a little nervous when Coach Chambers took over because I had never met him and I didn’t know if I was in his plans. It was a little tough at first because 10 players left the program. I did a little research on Coach Chambers and found out he has been successful everywhere he has coached, so I was definitely excited about that. He called me and told he has big plans for me as a Rebel.
What were your expectations or goals for playing at UNLV? My expectations and goals were quite simple. I wanted to get better at my craft and most of all WIN.
Did you accomplish them? I feel I have improved as a pitcher. In high school, I was a thrower who just tried to throw the ball by everyone. In college I learned how to actually pitch. Most Division 1 baseball players can crush a fastball, so I had to learn to hit my spots and mix in quite a few off speed pitches. The best part of my Senior year is that we are winning. Coach Chambers and his staff have developed a winning attitude to the Rebel Baseball program.
What do you expect to do next after graduation? I’m still holding on to the outside chance that I might get drafted, but if that does not happen, I am very content in what I have achieved on the baseball field.
Side note - the baseball draft is June 6-8 so let's send good thoughts to Brady!
What do you want to do after baseball? Once my baseball career is over I plan to go into federal law enforcement. I have met with recruiters from the FBI, Secret Service, CIA, ATF, and CBP. Another option would be to become a history teacher as well as a high school baseball coach.
Favorite memory of UNLV: I have many favorite memories of UNLV but I will narrow it down to 2. One that quickly comes to mind occurred during my Sophomore year when Brandon Bayardi hit a walk off home run in our conference opener against TCU. The dugout and stands erupted.On a personal note, I will always remember my first start my freshman against Temple. Thankfully, I pitched well and got my first college win. Ok, I lied. There is one more memory I want to talk about. This year’s sweep at Stanford has been the highlight of my baseball career. I pitched a 3 inning save to help beat Stanford 3-2 on Friday night. When I met my parents after the game I was on cloud 9 and I told them “I’m ok if I never accomplish another thing on the baseball field.”
Favorite memory of Las Vegas: My favorite memory of Las Vegas is all the wonderful people I have met. The 335 Club has been extremely supportive of the Rebel Baseball Team. They have shown my teammates and I nothing but love and I am very thankful for them.
Favorite pasttime (hobby) besides baseball? My favorite pasttime other than baseball is working out. I try to go to the gym everyday except when I know there is a chance I might pitch. I feel very guilty when I skip a day.
Favorite food or place to eat in Vegas? You can never go wrong with a Bobbie from Capriotti’s, but my all time favorite place to eat in Las Vegas would have to be Yama’s. I was first turned onto this place by my former teammate, Aaron Asato. This is a sushi lover’s delight. I definitely get my money’s worth here.
Favorite MLB team? (I'm a Braves fan!!) Growing up 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium makes this question very easy to answer: Dodgers. The whole pageantry and spectacle of the Dodgers makes them easy to root for. No other franchise can claim the best announcer (Vin Scully), most recognizable owner (Magic Johnson), and the best ballpark food (Dodger Dog). My former teammate Rance Roundy and I argue all the time about Vin Scully being the best all the time. Growing up though I did idolize Ken Griffey Jr.
I know a lot of athletes aren't lucky enough to have their parents at almost every game, how did that motivate you? My parents, Anthony and Sally, are incredible. Ever since I started playing at 4 years old, they have been my biggest fans. They have sacrificed so much for me to play the game I love. Every time I thought about skipping a sprint, a workout, or a class, I would think about them busting their butts for many years to make this all possible. It’s funny because even with so many fans cheering and yelling, I can always hear my mom in the crowd. I want to take a moment to tell them both “I love you very much.”
Brady was injured in a game on 4/12/11 in UC-Riverside when a line drive hit him right in the eye. He was unsure if he would ever be able to see again. He made a miraculous recovery. You can find a story on it here: http://www.reviewjournal.com/sports/unlv-rebels/other-sports/rebel-returns-traumatic-injury
How were you able to come back so quickly after the injury on 4/12/11? I came back 5 weeks to the day of my injury, ironically against the team I got hurt against UC-Riverside. The support I received was phenomenal. I received phone calls from the coaches at UC-Riverside, Nevada-Reno, San Diego St, New Mexico, UC-Irvine, UCLA and USC. They were all behind me. All of my teammates and coaches were also behind me. The medical staff at UNLV did an outstanding job in aiding my recovery. A couple days before my comeback Coach Chambers asked me if I was ready for the ball. I told him yes before I realized it was against UC-Riverside. My parents actually surprised me by coming to the game. Since it was on a Tuesday, I knew it would be difficult for them to make it up to Vegas. In the morning my dad text me and wished me luck, and said he was sad he couldn’t make it, but right after the national anthem, I heard my dad’s famous yell and then I heard my mom scream. Not only did my parents show up, they brought a van load of supporters from California. They positioned themselves in different places throughout the stadium and every time I was ready to walk on the mound a different person would yell out my name. I have to admit I teared up with joy. I took a deep breath and I like I always do before I pitch, I prayed to my grandma to watch over me from up above.
Last, but not least, I have to ask - Do you know Bryce Harper? I don’t really know Bryce on a personal level but he has worked out at UNLV several times. Many of my teammates played with him at CSN. From what I hear, his work ethic is unbelievable.
Included are some pictures of Brady and his parents on graduation day, May 19, 2013. Congratulations Brady, I have a feeling you will succeed at whatever you decide to do. It was a pleasure watching you the last 4 years at Earl E. Wilson Stadium.