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The Scarlet & Black

Athlete Spotlight: Nathan Zaroban ’18

Nathan Zaroban ’18 has made incredible strides in his career. He most recently earned his first conference-wide recognition. Photo by Elena Copell.
Nathan Zaroban ’18 has made incredible strides in his career. He most recently earned his first conference-wide recognition. Photo by Elena Copell.

Nathan Zaroban ’18 is a Pioneer for life. His high school team was also nicknamed the Pioneers, and at his high school graduation party his parents had a sign that read, “Once a Pioneer, Always a Pioneer.”

Zaroban, who is in his final baseball season, has been contributing in every imaginable way to the Pioneer baseball team. Last week, he was named the Midwest Conference (MWC) Baseball Player of the Week, a worthy testament to his recent performance.

During the Pioneers’ four games against Illinois College, Zaroban had a batting average of .357, going 5-of-14 at the plate with a double and three RBIs. He paired that with a .429 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage. He also had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in five chances. This season he’s been posting career-high percentages in slugging and fielding opportunities.

Zaroban didn’t actually find out about his conference award until he went on the Grinnell athletics page to look up the team schedule for the following week. Even though he knew he’d played well against Illinois, the senior was still taken aback by the delightful surprise, specifically because of how unprecedented it was.

“I was hitting the ball well, but nothing crazy out of the ordinary. I’ve never won the award before so it is a big honor, especially since my other teammates also had a big week too. Some of them are just as deserving I was,” Zaroban said.

To get the point where his game is at today, Zaroban has had his fair share of obstacles. Even though he first played serious baseball at around the age of nine, he had always wanted to play basketball and football. It wasn’t until college that he decided to totally focus on baseball. By then, there was already a big learning curve for him.

“My first couple of years [at Grinnell] I felt like I was lagging behind because of that jump in skill level from high school to college. I wasn’t the standout, so that was difficult to deal with. But through junior year and now this year I feel like I have developed my skill and gained enough confidence to where I’m standing today.”

Indeed, Zaroban has come a long way. Since his rookie season, he has improved in every major statistical category. He credits this uptick in performance to the wonderful guidance he’s received from the team, especially from the upperclassmen before him. The award, in his opinion, was only meant to be a recognition of his development.

“My biggest role models that I’ve had in my game was when I was in my first few years here. There were a couple of classes of really good baseball players. I learned a lot watching them play, how to play the game correctly, and how to use your love of the game of baseball on the field.”

Coming from Nebraska City, a three-hour drive from Grinnell, Zaroban was influenced by baseball at a young age. The town has a big baseball culture and a historically successful unified youth program. With the help of his parents, who drove him to countless practices and helped him with his throwing and batting mechanics, Zaroban fell in love with the game.

And while he loves the Houston Astros and their outfielder George Springer, he knew he wouldn’t be able to have an MLB career, so he started looking for programs at academically rigorous schools.

“I discovered Grinnell by attending a baseball camp at Stanford University where they brought in coaches from a lot of similar-minded schools. That’s how I met our assistant, [Assistant Athletic Director] Coach [Ben] Cooprider. After the camp, [Grinnell] got into contact with me. I always think it’s funny that I had to travel all the way to California just to find a school that was three hours away.”

These days, as his time at Grinnell is winding down, Zaroban spends a lot of time reflecting on his baseball career. He knows at one point, he’s going to have his last baseball game. In fact, he has plans to attend medical school. Thus, in the season’s final weeks, he wants to enjoy every minute of baseball, play the best of his ability and, of course, win a Midwest Conference Championship.

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