SHORT GAP - Zack Whitacre has a passion for baseball and a work ethic that's second to none. The former Frankfort and now Potomac State star has had his goals set on playing Division 1 baseball at a four-year college and has done everything possible to realize that goal.
By Chapin Jewell
SHORT GAP - Zack Whitacre has a passion for baseball and a work ethic that’s second to none. The former Frankfort and now Potomac State star has had his goals set on playing Division 1 baseball at a four-year college and has done everything possible to realize that goal.
Still, with all the changes and restrictions associated with not just opportunities to play but also the recruiting process in general, there were times a lesser man from a lesser family would have allowed doubt to cast a shadow on the likelihood of realizing his dream.
But Zack Whitacre, with the support of his parents, has a solid foundation in faith that saw him through the challenges thrown his way. His perseverance, hard work, determination, talent and trust in himself and his faith have finally paid big dividends.
On Friday, at the Wheelhouse Academy in Fort Ashby, surrounded by his family and other supporters, Zack Whitacre inked a deal that will see him continuing his baseball and academic careers at Radford University.
Radford University, located in Radford, Virginia, in the southwestern part of the state, is home to the Highlanders. The Highlanders compete at the NCAA Division I level in 15 sports and are members of the Big South Conference. In baseball, the Big South Conference, in addition to Radford, is comprised of member schools Winthrop, USC Upstate, Gardner-Webb, Campbell, High Point, Charleston Southern, UNC Ashville, Longwood, and Presbyterian.
Whitacre will continue on as a member of the Potomac State baseball squad for the spring and then head to Radford in the fall.
The recruiting process, greatly impacted by COVID, drug on with truly limited activity. But when the ball finally did get rolling, it happened fast.
“It was a really quick process. We had been playing an intra-squad game and afterwards I checked my phone and I had a message from the Radford coach. He stated that he had been in touch with the coaches at Potomac State and wanted to speak with me soon. That’s what got the ball rolling,” Zack explained.
According to Whitacre, “I just think that it worked out well from a timing perspective. I’m coming from a junior college with experience, and with me being an infielder and them having some guys graduating this year, it just seemed like a great fit.”
While Whitacre remained convinced his time was coming and that all the hard work would pay off, he insists that the support of his family and the faith they’ve helped instill in him helped him remain positive throughout the process.
“I couldn’t have been blessed with a better family. I think they saw my potential at those times when things didn’t look great not just with this COVID stuff but with the recruiting process in general. You know, I didn’t really have any offers compatible with what my goals were. They really kept after me to trust the process, saying it would work out how it’s supposed to,” Zack explained.
“Also, I want to talk about my faith and the role it played through all this. I think that’s the best thing my family has done in raising me up in a household to be a good Christian person, a man of faith, because without that, I really have nothing. That’s helped out so much during this process because there were times I wasn’t sure the baseball thing was going to work out how I wanted it to and I still fell back on the fact that there was a plan for everything and I trusted that.”
Whitacre insists his parents have helped him keep everything in perspective, “I’ve never really been in the spotlight and I like it that way. So that’s the big thing for me. Everything was a calculated move from Frankfort to Potomac State, and I think they just helped me take the right steps to get where I am.”
As for his high school career at Frankfort and his junior college career thus far at Potomac State, Whitacre has nothing but praise for both programs.
“The biggest thing is that I’ve always been around coaches like Coach Miller at Frankfort and Coach Little at Potomac State, along with players and people in general that understood my goals and dreams of where I wanted to be. I never thought I was held back and everyone I came into contact with at Frankfort and now at Potomac State have helped accelerate my process,” Whitacre stated.
In addition to time spent training at Frankfort and now at Potomac State, Whitacre has trained extensively at the Wheelhouse Academy Baseball and Softball training facility in Fort Ashby. There, Zack has received specialized training and has also been afforded the opportunity to get in the best shape of his life with Wheelhouse’s cutting-edge, advanced physical training technology.
“I enjoy the grind, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I credit a lot to Shane Corwell and especially Aaron Laffey at the Wheelhouse Academy. With Aaron bringing the knowledge that he has from being in the Major Leagues, he helped me with some stuff that not many kids get a shot at learning at this young an age. He taught me stuff that you really wouldn’t even think of that make a difference. That has significantly helped me and I can see it in my game the last couple years or so,” Zack explained.
According to Whitacre, “Also, the new technology and everything that Wheelhouse is bringing is amazing. I’ve never had an opportunity to train on the level I am now. My body has went through the transformation. I feel great, and without their help I don’t know if I would be where I am right now. They really do almost too much for me.”
In addition to the positive role Frankfort, Potomac State, the Wheelhouse Academy and his family have played in allowing Whitacre to achieve his goal of getting the chance to play Division I college baseball, there was a key decision Whitacre made that has helped him considerably, both from a personal and baseball perspective.
That decision? The one that saw him competing this summer for the Tarboro River Bandits in the Summer Collegiate League. That got Zack out on his own and away from home for a few months for the first time, it also allowed him to compete against the actual competition he’ll be facing at Radford and in the Big South Conference.
“I think playing summer ball and getting out of the eye of small-town West Virginia kind of kickstarted everything for me. During the summer, I was playing with and against guys who were at schools where I wanted to be. I think that it allowed for a good evaluation for me to see realistically where I fit in,” Zack explained.
According to Whitacre, “Especially being in North Carolina, I played against a lot of guys from the Big South Conference, and I felt really comfortable with where I was compared to where they were. I held my own and actually excelled, so it was a really good stepping stone for me.”
“Being at Potomac State, I live at the house and so I had never really been on my own for months at a time. That was really cool, it was a good exposure for me to get out into the world. I love West Virginia, but it was good to get out for a bit,” Zack explained.
The stars have aligned for Zack Whitacre, finally. Every step of the way, from Frankfort to Potomac State to the Wheelhouse Academy to the Tarboro River Bandits, Zack Whitacre has been a grinder, dedicated to getting better day after day.
While his play on the field is extraordinary, he’s not flashy and he’s not fixated on headlines, preferring the day in and day out grind of self-improvement.
“Also, being a small-town kid and being from Frankfort, I never really had my name out there, and that’s how I always liked it. That’s why I really like Radford too, because their coach, he came from Virginia, and his style of guys are ones that are just gritty and keep their head down and keep pushing and don’t make any big noise for yourself. I think that’s what Frankfort and especially Potomac State have instilled in me.”
Big things are coming to the Big South. Zack Whitacre and Radford University seem like a marriage made in heaven.