Bradford Area High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford graduate Zach Foster’s game of choice has always been baseball. It is a game he admits he has not been able to take the entirety of a day away from in many years, but that’s the life of a baseball coach.
The former UPB ace became the first Panther to be selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. In 2008, Foster heard his name called by the local Pittsburgh Pirates in the 49th round. He spent a total of six seasons in professional baseball before returning to Bradford to begin his post-playing baseball career.
“I told myself once I ended my baseball career, I would give myself a couple of weeks to decide what I wanted to do post baseball. I think I lasted about 14-16 hours before I knew I wanted to become a baseball coach and continue to be around the game that has given me so much,” Foster said.
Before assuming a role as head coach back in July of 2016, Foster worked at Pitt-Bradford in a variety of roles including as a strength and conditioning coach, an assistant baseball coach, and also in admissions. Each of these jobs that had a unique hand in preparing him for his current occupation as a baseball coach.
“I think each of these jobs taught me something both about myself and what it takes to be a well rounded coach and mentor for my players,” Foster said.
In three seasons at the helm for the Panthers, Foster has brought great attention to his pitchers and catchers about how to take command of a ball game. In his three seasons, Foster has had multiple All-AMCC performers at the positions, including recent graduate Austin Parent as well as current Panther Alex Andrzejewski, who is returning for his senior season.
Last season, the Panthers established one of the top team ERAs in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference at 4.52. Using programs like Driveline that encompass strong weight lifting and well-measured throwing programs have the Panthers pitchers increasing their velocity as well as their endurance.
Foster’s masters degree in exercise science has been a great addition to his already strong repertoire and knowledge in athletics. In 2012, Foster graduated from Pitt-Bradford with a degree in sport and recreation management which has come in handy with the multiple roles he has held at the university since his return to Bradford.
Outside of his love for sports, there is unquestionably a deeper love for his wife, Hannah, and his son, Ezekiel. Each of them has a special place in his heart, and Foster loves spending as much time with each of them as he can. However, he admits it is often easier said than done. “My wife and son mean the world to me,” Foster said. “During the season I admit I do not see them as much as I would like to, but every moment I get with them, I truly cherish.”
Outside of his family, one of the closest people to Coach Foster is his mentor and former college baseball coach Bret Butler.
“Coach Butler has been a great mentor and friend to me for many years. I credit him for helping me become a better ball, player, coach, and man,” Foster said. “I do not think that if I went to school anywhere else I would be where I am today. I certainly credit Coach Butler for encouraging me and pushing me to always get better in every endeavor I set out on.”
As a minor leaguer, Foster advanced into Double-A ball with the Altoona Curve. He served primarily as a relief pitcher, though he spent some time as a starter during his career.
In terms of some of the best ball players he ever faced and played alongside, he loved watching Jameison Taillon go to work on the bump in addition to Jose Altuve dig into the batter's box. Though these were some of the best baseball players he played with and against during his career, he says that taking the field with his college teammates was likely his favorite of all during his playing career.
Though the Pitt-Bradford Panthers have lost some key players from last year, Foster likes the nucleus that will return for the 2020 season. The squad missed the AMCC Tournament last season, but the players and Coach Foster have been working to get back into contention heading into next season.
Foster was the first player in AMCC history to be drafted by an MLB franchise, but certainly not the last. His hard work and dedication to his craft as a baseball player was something he took and still takes with great pride. His success has made Major League scouts look at the AMCC with more regularity, which is a huge step for baseball in Western Pennsylvania overall.