Zach Karson: Pitching, Dribbling & Managing His Future

Zach Karson pitching against the North Fork Ospreys on June 16. Demetrius Kazanas
Zach Karson pitching against the North Fork Ospreys on June 16. Demetrius Kazanas

The typical college student will usually spend their summer break relaxing and enjoying their time off, or working a part-time job to earn a little extra income. Twenty-year-old Zach Karson is nothing like your typical student because he’s gone well beyond the extra mile when it comes to his activities.

During the summer, Karson has been working between 80 and 100 hours every week. The bulk of his time is spent working for a hotel in Hampton Bays known as The Inn Spot, located just north of the Ponquogue Bridge. The rest of his week is spent pitching for the Southampton Breakers, who play in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

But the summer months are considered to be the easy part of Karson’s schedule, because when class is in session, his activities get more impressive and chaotic.

While he attends Florida Southern College as a full-time student, he also pitches for their baseball team and spends time working as a game day operations assistant for the Orlando Magic.

“Zach has a full-time job as a baseball player and a full-time job as a businessman, and he handles himself very well,” says Southampton Breakers coach Rob Cafiero. “Most kids his age who are on my team concentrate on baseball, going to the gym and the beach. Zach’s the type of kid who works hard on the field and then when the game’s over, he’s running the hotel and doing the basketball stuff.”

As a baseball player, Karson has proven to be a very effective pitcher. His most recent outing was on June 25 against the South Shore Clippers and it was his best game of the young season. He allowed just three baserunners to reach while striking out three across three innings in relief while allowing just one unearned run to score.

Zach Karson playing basketball on March 14 NBA Images
Zach Karson playing basketball on March 14
NBA Images

It was the third time in four games for the Breakers this season that he’s allowed one earned run or less in a game. Across his two seasons with the Breakers, Karson holds a 2-0 record with a 3.34 earned run average and 26 strikeouts across nine games.

Karson has also pitched very well during his time at FSC. During his first season with the Moccasins last year, he posted a 1-1 record with a 3.14 ERA while striking out 32 batters across 28 ²/₃ innings. This included a masterful 10-strikeout performance during his first start of the season.

During his second season with the Moccasins, which just concluded this past April, Karson was significantly better. During his first start of the season, he threw a career-best 13 strikeouts and didn’t allow a single run to score across his first four starts, a stretch that spanned 24 innings and included a second 10-strikeout performance. For the entire season, he posted a 5-2 record with a 1.77 ERA and 44 strikeouts across 35 2/3 innings.

When discussing baseball players that Karson has been inspired by or looks up to in a sense, a short list of current MLB stars was brought up. He was quick to point out former New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman, who hails from Medford.

“The reason I like Marcus is more of how he carries himself off the field,” Karson says. “I gravitate towards the players who I’m most similar to. I like him because on the field he plays with a lot of confidence and swag, while off the field he’s very socially active. He’s very flashy, and I think I’m like that, too.”

Despite his success on the field, Karson doesn’t really consider baseball to be a big part of his future, and views it mostly as a temporary side gig. While he wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to play in the majors if scouts came knocking on his door, his priorities are his basketball career and the hotel.

The hotel, which just opened earlier this year, is where Karson has spent the majority of his time over the summer. He describes it as a beautiful, refurbished, modernized hotel that’s one of a kind in Hampton Bays, and it offers free access to the beach as well as transportation to company-owned restaurants. Among the hotel’s highlights is an on-site restaurant known as the Crash Cantina, which offers both indoor and outdoor dining.

In total, the amount of time Karson spends at the hotel is equivalent to that of a full-time job, if not more, with much of his work being done during the overnight hours. Because he’s the only member of staff after hours, Karson has a lot on his plate, with guests bringing him all matter of questions and concerns.

“I was hired to run guest relations,” he says. “I’m on call 40 hours a week as the after hours on-site associate, and I do a variety of jobs. I manage check-ins, issue and track beach passes, oversee housekeeping, drive guests to other company restaurants, and do my best to ensure that guest needs are met after hours.”

When September comes around, Karson will continue with baseball while he’s down in Florida, but he will swap out his hotel duties for basketball and full-time studying towards his degree in Sports Business Management. This might seem a bit much for most students, but to Karson, it’s just another step towards reaching his goals.

His dream is to one day become the general manager for an NBA team, and while he’d accept a position with any team in the league, his preference is to remain with the Magic. His current role within the organization, which he’s held for nearly three years, is in game day operations for the Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s G League affiliate.

Karson’s basketball expertise reaches far beyond Lakeland as he’s done some work for Orlando directly as well as the Summer League in Las Vegas, which he’s returning to in July.

As for the immediate future, Karson hopes to continue to build up his impressive resume so that once he’s done with his education, he can quickly climb the ranks.

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