GDS Alumnus Signed by Nationals, Fulfilling a ‘Lifelong Dream’

Zinn pictured in a yearbook alongside his GDS baseball teammates. Photos by Olivia Brown.

Jaren Zinn ’17 was signed by the Washington Nationals as an undrafted free agent on July 19, and is now playing at the team’s training complex in Palm Beach, Florida.

Zinn is currently playing in the Florida Complex League (FCL), where he pitches for the FCL Nationals. On days when he doesn’t pitch in a game, he said that he throws bullpen and does workouts, including weight lifting sessions and conditioning.

After graduating from GDS, where he set the records for career batting average and hits, Zinn went to Harvard University, joining the Crimson’s baseball team roster his freshman year as a pitcher. Though he was primarily an outfielder in high school, he made the switch to pitcher early in his college career. 

“I had to deal with a whole slew of injuries my first few years along with making the switch from outfielder to pitcher,” Zinn said in an interview with the Bit. “I only threw two innings my first two years of college.”

Zinn took the 2020–2021 school year off because of COVID, and after going back to Harvard for his senior year, he said he started pitching better and more often. In his final season at Harvard, he led the team in strikeouts with 63 and earned the title of Ivy League Pitcher of the Week. During that same year he pitched 42 innings, bringing his total number of innings pitched during his Harvard career to 46.1.

“In the last few years, playing in front of scouts during summer ball and with the team, I saw that playing professional baseball was a possibility for me,” he said. “That became a huge motivator.”

Nationals Park in D.C.

The 2022 Major League Baseball draft took place from Sunday, July 17 through Tuesday, July 19, with a total of 620 high school and college players being drafted to Major League organizations. Zinn awaited a call during the draft, hoping he’d be taken on the third day, which is typically when players of Zinn’s caliber are drafted. But all 20 rounds went by without a team selecting Zinn. 

“I felt dejected for probably five or ten minutes,” he said. “And then, right after the draft ended, the Nats called.” 

At the time of the call from the Nationals, Zinn was in London training for a different job. He went to the Nationals’ training complex on July 24 and signed a contract early the following week to work with the organization. “That phone call was something I’ve been thinking about for years, so it was kind of a surreal moment for me,” he said.

“It shows people that you can be a truly successful athlete coming out of GDS,” senior Pierson Cooper, who plays on GDS’ men’s varsity baseball team, said of Zinn’s signing. “GDS creates strong-minded young adults that want to succeed in whatever field they are trying to achieve something in.”

Charlie Smith ’19, Zinn’s friend and GDS baseball teammate, said that Zinn’s work ethic is what brought him to the level he is at today. “There are not that many humans that can throw a baseball as hard as he can,” he said, “but what’s really special for him is the work ethic that he has. He was always in the weight room, playing on different teams, working with various coaches, organizing summer practices for us. He was always all in.” 

Zinn agreed that hard work was the key to getting where he wanted to be in his baseball career. “There are definitely great baseball players in the Nats system, but I can get far because I can outwork anybody,” he said.

Zinn also said that staying in the moment is something he focuses on. “I’ve learned that you can’t pitch for a promotion,” he said. “If you try to pitch in college to make the pros, you’re going to struggle. Or if you try to pitch in high school to play in college, you’re going to struggle. You have to work for all these things with a longer-term goal in mind, but when you’re actually in games, you just have to do the best you can.”

Eli Doroshow ’18, who was on the GDS baseball team with Zinn, said Zinn is “really hard working. Almost in a crazy way. Jaren showed a lot of us how to work hard and stay committed.”

Sophie Zinn ’22, Jaren’s sister, believed that his mindset is what got him so far. “He never lets a bad game or inning keep him from improving,” she said in a written statement to the Bit. “That mentality for him was his key to success.”

Zinn’s old teammates said that while they were at GDS, he was the one who cultivated team morale. “During the season, he would regularly host dinners at his house,” Smith said. “His parents would bring food for us, and we’d hang out in his basement playing ping-pong and eating pizza. It definitely made everyone feel like part of the team.”

Sophie Zinn remembered how long her brother wanted a career in baseball. “In first grade at GDS we did a crystal ball project where we would draw and write what we wanted to be when we grew up,” she said. “Jaren’s says he wanted to be a Major League Baseball player. For him to get signed is a huge step toward following what was essentially a lifelong dream. He’s wanted this forever.”

Being signed by his hometown team means a lot to Zinn since he grew up a fan of the Nationals. “When I first got here,” he said of the Nats’ facility in Palm Beach, “I put on the Nats hat with the curly W and it hit me how crazy this is. I grew up wearing these hats and going to the Nats games and rooting for all of these players, and now I’m part of it.”

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