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Getting to Know... Zach Pettway

Dec 3, 2020

The 15th installment of "Getting to Know…" features Zach Pettway, a redshirt junior on the baseball team. Zach, a Long Beach native and UCLA's Friday night starter, discusses getting back on the field, the impact of the 2020 season being cut short, being a veteran leader on the 2021 squad, and more.
Q: How has practice been going and what have been some challenges with practicing during this pandemic?
A: I think the hardest part is honestly just trying to stay safe, especially with how there's been a surge and how the number of cases is rising. For us, it's super important to practice, so it's just making sure we're all social distancing and making sure we're all following all precautionary measures to allow us to keep practicing. So that's been the hardest part. I think the most enjoyable part by far has been being able to practice and getting to some type of normal.
Q: What was your reaction to finding out your 2020 season would be cut short due to pandemic this past March? And how did the sudden end affect the team?
A: It was honestly just shock. It was kind of a stressful time since it was right around finals week and everything. Basically, we were all in our apartment – a bunch of my roommates and teammates – we were all working on a paper together. We were basically sitting around and someone mentioned that our season had been canceled. It definitely took a little time to set in – with everything going on with finals and then our season ending. It just didn't seem real because everything changed so quickly. For us as a team, the abrupt ending kind of gave us a lot of motivation. If you look at our 2019 team, we were a game short of going to the College World Series, and you look at our team last year, we had a really good team. So getting it cut short and not being able to see our full potential was really tough. I think with that happening, it just gives us a lot of motivation for this year to just make the most out of all the opportunities we get.
Q: How did you navigate the uncertainty over the past eight months, especially with the shortening of the MLB Draft and the unknowns surrounding the 2021 season?
A: I think for us, the way our coach talks about it is just taking it day-to-day because if you worry about the future the whole time, you're going to miss what's going on right now. So I think just trying to handle each day as it comes and just handle whatever challenges you face. Right now, we're still trying to get through the rest of the fall and just trying to take it day-to-day. I think that's the most important thing, because I think it's hard if you just sit there and wonder whether the season is going to happen. So I think it's really important to just focus on the now.
Q: You bring in a lot of veteran experience to this Bruin roster. What are some things you've learned over the past three years that has shaped you into the leader you are today?
A: For me, it's been learning from all of the older guys. When I was a younger guy on the team, it felt like such a privilege to get to play baseball at UCLA. Being on a team with so many guys and so many people that have come through and done great things was something that I was always aware of, and so some of the older guys really showed me the way. My freshman year, Jake Bird was someone I thought was always a super-good leader and someone I always tried to model myself after when I'm trying to help out the younger guys – remembering how I felt when he helped me or how other guys acted and how that impacted me and just trying to take that into consideration.
Q: What are you studying at UCLA and what are your career goals or plans post-baseball?
A: I'm studying sociology here at UCLA. My biggest goal right now is that I'm trying to graduate in the winter. It's actually cool for me since both of my parents went to UCLA, so just being a second generation Bruin and gradating will be a really cool honor for me. In terms of goals post-baseball, I haven't really thought about it too much. I think just enjoying the most out of the rest of this year no matter what that means. Whether it be we play or we don't play, I want to enjoy it and take advantage of all the opportunities we get this year.
Q: Going back to your recruiting days, when was your first exposure to UCLA baseball and what was it about the program that drew you to become a Bruin?
A: During my visit to UCLA, I got to go watch a practice and meet a bunch of the players. Just meeting all of the guys, they all seemed so professional and so on top of it and put together. How could you not want to be part of this program? Obviously, I had seen the campus before, but just seeing the campus again and getting a full tour of the campus and watching the practice, putting it all together and meeting [head coach] John Savage, to me, I couldn't go wrong picking this school.
Q: You mentioned your parents being UCLA alum as well. What does it mean for you to be on track to graduate early and carry on that Bruin legacy?
A: I think it's a huge honor for me. You look at all the people that have gone to UCLA and all the people who have done great things here, it's such a cool honor to be a part of that. Even just within the baseball community, just looking at all the guys that have come back. You always meet all these big leaders that come back and workout at UCLA just because of the facilities and the opportunities that it's provided them. For me, it's just such a cool past few years to have experienced. I'm really happy to be a part of it.
Q: What have been some of your favorite moments as a Bruin?
A: My favorite thing was my freshman year, a bunch of us took an intro Communication class together. There were eight of us in this one class together and we took it with Earl Watson, who had been an NBA coach before. Since he knew John Wooden, he would tell us stories about him. It was so cool to be in a UCLA class and literally being peers with an NBA coach, so that was one of the coolest things that I'm glad I got to experience.
Q: What advice would you give to your freshman self?
A: I would just say slow down and enjoy it because it goes by so quickly. I feel like that's a really typical answer, but it's so true. It's kind of hard when you get here as a freshman you don't realize what's out there and how much cool stuff you get to do because it kind of just goes by in a blur. But I would say to enjoy the little things because it's just such a good time. That's something I've been trying to do this year too because you see how fast it can also be taken away, so just trying to enjoy it while you can.
Q: With one last go-around in 2021, what is one goal you have for either yourself or the team that you are determined to accomplish?
A: For us, it's to win a national championship. It's something our coaches and us have been talking about for a long time. We finally thought we had a team that could get there and then our season got cut short. We've been talking about it for so long and at the end of the day, you can't talk about it forever, so that's the goal this year – to get back to Omaha.
Q: In your eyes, what does it take to be a national championship team?
A: I think it's one of those things where you have to be so detail-oriented, focused, and goal-driven. Teams like that are built day-in and day-out on working hard. It's not just one of those things where you can have a good team and just roll the balls out and see what happens. It takes a lot of work and guys coming together to form a community to build a national championship team.

Favorite non-baseball activities? Watching Netflix or reading
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? New York City
Favorite artist? Louis the Child
Favorite movie? The Martian
Favorite TV show? Criminal Minds
Favorite thing to do in LA? Going to the mall with teammates
Go-to postgame meal? Chipotle
Favorite pro team? Buffalo Bills
What athlete did you admire growing up? Chris Archer
Why UCLA? The culture

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh – Football
Carlie Dorostkar – Cross Country/Track & Field
Sam Feit – Men's Tennis
Sam Baron – Swimming and Diving
Kengo Aoshima – Men's Golf
Aislynn Crowder – Women's Soccer
Kevin Diaz – Men's Soccer
Frida Esparza – Gymnastics
DJ Lawson – Cross Country/Track & Field
Emily Bessoir – Women's Basketball
Johnny Juzang - Men's Basketball
Thessa Malau'ulu - Softball
Mo Kenney - Men's Water Polo
Emily Ryan - Women's Volleyball