Former Florida Gator baseball star Mike Zunino will be making his first ever All-Star game appearance. On Sunday, it was announced that the Tampa Bay Rays catcher would play for the American League team in this year’s MLB All-Star game.
Zunino has led the Rays this season holding the majors’ top on-base plus slugging percentage at 1.189.
Setting Records at Florida
He could have signed straight out of high school, but he didn’t. The Oakland Athletics selected Zunino in the 29th round of the 2009 draft, but he chose to attend college instead.
Zunino spent three years at the University of Florida and led the Gators to three consecutive College World Series appearances. He set records. He won accolades.
- 47 home runs, fourth best all-time
- 2011 SEC Player of the Year
- 2012 Golden Spikes Award
- 2012 Dick Howser Trophy
- 2012 Johnny Bench Award
Zunino’s nine-year pro career has had its highs and lows.
The Seattle Mariners selected Zunino with the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Zunino was promoted to the big leagues in no time. He made his majors debut in 2013, singling in his second at bat on an 0-2 pitch against the Kansas City Royals. A few days later, he hit his first career home run.
In August 2015, Zunino was demoted to Triple- A Tacoma hitting .174 with 132 strikeouts in 112 games.
Returning to His South Florida Stomping Grounds
The 30-year-old Cape Coral, Florida, native is now a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. After being traded in November of 2018, Zunino struggled in his first two seasons in Tampa Bay.
He finished the 2020 season batting .147 with four home runs over the course of 28 games.
After claiming the American League pennant in 2020, the Rays advanced to the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lost in six games.
Zunino hit four homers with eight RBIs during the American League playoffs.
After some contract negotiation failures, Zunino became a free agent on October 30, 2020. He re-signed with the Rays on December 16, 2020. He agreed to a one-year contract with $3 million guaranteed.
Zunino spent the winter months rebuilding his swing.
July 4 news broke that Zunino was selected to appear in his first ever MLB All-Star game.
The 2021 MLB All-Star game is set to take place at Coors Field on July 13 in Denver, Colorado. This will be the 91st All-Star game on record between the American and National League. It is the second to take place in the city of Denver and at Coors Field.
Zunino will be playing for his manager, Kevin Cash, on July 13. Cash was chosen to represent the American League in Denver.
After both some ups and downs in his career, Zunino is proof that hard work pays off.