Sonoma Stompers manager Zack Pace has seen change-ups, curve balls and strikes over the past three years — both real and metaphorical. But now, after a two-year hiatus, it’s time for Pace to get back to managing the Sonoma Stompers, a summer-league team made up of collegiate players from around the country.
Pace is a self-described baseball purist, and that means appreciating the little things, he says. He detests changes to long-standing game traditions, such as the elimination of designated hitters and the pitch clock that hurries the pace of the game: “I’m surprised more people haven’t put up a stink about that.”
Over last few years, Pace has also been through some life-changing personal transitions. The summer of 2020, when the season was put on hold, marked only the second summer in his life when he wasn’t deeply involved with baseball. And, on the home front, he and his fiancée bought their first house and are expecting a child later in the fall.
As a player, Pace learned winning baseball as he led his Marin County team to multiple championships, then moved north to take on the Stompers, where he won manager of the year in 2018. Now, the coach distills his knowledge of the game for 19- and 20-year-old players — players whose shoes he stood in himself not too many years ago.
On shifting perspectives
I’ve definitely got a lot more people to take care of. As a player, you just take care of yourself for the most part. You don’t have to worry about everybody else as much. Then, as a manager, you’ve got all kinds of different things to worry about: you’ve got off-the-field stuff, is batting practice running smoothly?
Becoming a coach
The game is great, and I wish I could play forever. I know that’s not the deal, it’s not feasible, so I do the next best thing. And I love teaching the game and watching some good-quality baseball players. I have appreciated the game more, for sure now. And I think more about the overall direction the game is going.
For me, baseball is what I’ve done my whole life. What do they say? ‘Sunshine, baseball, beer and hot dogs.’ It’s America’s pastime. The people around the yard are really delightful; just to be able to see the same faces and have that relationship throughout the summer. It’s seeing your lows and highs every day.