Zach Lehman has grown accustomed to carrying a chip on his shoulder.
He’ll carry that mentality to East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, this fall, where he committed to furthering his baseball career in late July.
That chip on his shoulder has resided with Lehman since he graduated from Verrado High School in 2015 with no collegiate offers on the table.
It only grew there later that fall, where he walked on at Glendale Community College and was forced to red-shirt his freshman season. The following spring, he played in just 11 of the 57 games.
“Is baseball even my thing anymore?” he asked himself.
It was hard to think otherwise after a Glendale coach told him he wasn’t cut out to play college baseball.
But Lehman trudged forward, staying true to his childhood dream of playing professional baseball, and spent his sophomore season at Kansas Wesleyan University. With the Coyotes, he posted a .322 average with 29 RBI in 52 games.
After his torrid sophomore season, Lehman spent the summer in Canada playing in the Western Major Baseball League as a member of the Bronx Bombers.
“The competition there was amazing,” Lehman said, citing the pitchers’ abilities to throw plus off-speed pitches and locate with heightened velocity.
“Knowing people wanted your autograph was pretty cool. On Canada Day, we played in Edmonton and there were 10,000 fans. It was crazy. It was insane.”
Lehman left Canada with a .310 average, including 13 extra-base hits in 41 games. And better yet, a Bombers teammate recently committed to East Central, and the head coach came out to watch him play. On his visit, he also got a glimpse of Lehman.
“Their coach was watching us play. He liked the way I played, and basically said, ‘I want you to come in and be our starting shortstop.’”
With two years left of eligibility, Lehman didn’t balk at the idea to playing Division II ball at East Central. After a few seasons of uncertainty, this is a breath of fresh air of opportunity.
“When I talked to (the coach), he said, ‘I feel like this is the opportunity that you need.’ The other thing that brought me to his attention is that he’s gotten 80 kids to go play pro ball. He’s gotten 20-something drafted and the rest have gone overseas to play pro ball.”
Playing under the watchful eye of scouts and evaluators is something Lehman has grown used to, which was introduced to him while playing at Verrado.
His senior year with the Vipers, Lehman shared a clubhouse with future MLB draft picks Blake Perkins and Jesus Azuaje.
“Oh, that was awesome. You learn to play with scouts in front of you so you don’t get nervous anymore. The first couple times, it’s nerve wracking.”
Lehman shook off the initial nerves and put the finishing touches on his Verrado career with a .581 slugging percentage and a .367 batting average.
In 2018, there were 84 Division II players who were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. That goal of being drafted is what Lehman’s relentlessly worked at, as he’s set to kick off his “revenge” tour this year.
And it’s as if he enjoys being counted out or overshadowed. It allows him to put his head down and go to work, drowning out the outside noise and humbly going about his business.
The chip on his shoulder has become a part of him, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.