It was nearly 23 years ago, Zach Jarrett was born with NASCAR in his blood, but so was baseball.
Jarrett, the son of NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and mom Kelley Jarrett, is, however, finding his way in baseball as a member of the Aberdeen IronBirds.
“Well, you know, growing up I was never really pressured into going into NASCAR or anything. Always respected it, cause it’s what my family was part of,” Jarrett said. “My grandfather (Ned Jarrett) and my dad both had great careers in it, but they always pushed us to pursue other sports and baseball is just the love that I had. My mom’s dad (Jack Spears) played professional baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization and I sort of found that love early on.”
As with the majority of professional baseball players, Jarrett started young and of course, much of it is played in the spring and summer. NASCAR also races on almost every weekend during that time.
“With travel ball, it was sort of dad went on and did his thing on the weekends and mom sort of had me and took me to my tournaments,” Jarrett said. “It didn’t really conflict with him and he hated he wasn’t able to be around as much and come to travel ball games as much, but that’s just how it ended up being. I was able to have my mom there and she was able to drive me wherever I wanted.”
Even with dad not being able to be there constantly, Jarrett had professional role models in him and his grandfather Ned, who is also a NASCAR Champion and Hall of Fame member. “
“Having that helped a ton, I mean being able to learn from not only my dad, but my grandfather about how to handle yourself out in the community was a big part of growing up. I learned a lot of work ethic and dedication from watching my dad in the years,” Jarrett said. “I remember growing up, I’d go to the gym with him and watch him work out four or five days a week, getting ready to be able to have the strength and stamina to go through long races, you know. That really taught me at a young age what it meant and what I needed to do if I wanted to do something like that in the future.”
That future, despite the long NASCAR schedule that was week-in and week-out in the Jarrett family, didn’t and wouldn’t include Jarrett. “No, I never got into go-karts or anything. We had some at the house that we’d race around the house a little bit, but other than that, not much into it,” Jarrett said on whether he ever tried the racing game. “I know a lot of kids that I grew up with, like Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, the guys that are pursuing their careers now in NASCAR, they all started in that and that was fun to go watch and it’s great to see them exceed in what they’re doing right now, but I never really had the urge to do that.”
So, Jarrett opted for little less crowded ballparks over the mile or two and a half mile race tracks. “I’d say with being in crowds at NASCAR, they get a little more rowdy. I mean, you know, going there they tailgate hard and they’re all in for the rest of the day and drinking and all that, but being here and what crowds these are,” Jarrett said. “In both of them you get loyal fans. A lot of those NASCAR fans are diehard and they’ll travel around and go to all the races, take their RV’s and everything, I mean you even see that here. We see the same guys come out every night and dressed up for the IronBirds and what not and you can see that anywhere you go. Anytime I played summer ball, you have those loyal fans that are going to come out each night and I think that’s a comparison you can draw between both sports.”
Big crowds or small, Jarrett is doing his part as an IronBird. The 6-3, 215-pound right handed outfielder is batting .200 (7-for-35) entering Tuesday’s game. In 11 games, Jarrett has scored eight runs, walked five times and he has struck out 16 times. He also has an RBI.
“My grandfather hasn’t been able to make out quite yet, hopefully he will one of these days, but yeah dad was able to come out whenever we were up at Staten Island a couple of weeks ago and came up there,” Jarrett said. “Both my sisters live up there, so my parents decided to make it a trip up there and came out and watched us.”
No one knows how long a baseball career can run, including Jarrett, who graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a degree in Psychology.
“Honestly, I don’t see myself going into NASCAR after this. I mean, I think the goal for any baseball player is to play as long as you can,” Jarrett said. “You’re getting to play a game for fun every day and get out to the field and I think that’s the goal for me is to see how long I can play and keep stretching it out. I don’t know what it’s going to be after this, it will be fun to see, but right now, just enjoying the moment I got.”