Padres vs. D-backs

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen calls having his own bobblehead “surreal.” 

“It’s pretty cool,” Gallen says. “When you go to a game and it’s a bobblehead night, as a kid that signified you made it into the big leagues. I think they did a pretty good job with mine. The glasses and the hair are pretty spot on.”

The D-backs have chosen a Gallen bobblehead as one of the giveaways for the 2023 season on Saturday, April 22, against division rivals the San Diego Padres. 

Gallen is beginning his fifth season in the majors. After stints with the Cardinals and the Marlins, Gallen joined the D-backs after the Marlins traded him for shortstop Jazz Chisholm Jr. on July 31, 2019.

In eight starts for Arizona, Gallen was 2-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 43 2⁄3 innings, striking out 53 in the process that season. 

The following year, Gallen struck out 82 in 72 innings. He also finished with an ERA of 2.75 and a 3-2 record.

Gallen returned to the Diamondbacks’ rotation for 2022. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for August and went 12-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 184 innings. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting.

This season, Gallen is looking forward to simplifying his style. Generally, in the winter, he tries to add another pitch but deemed that unnecessary this offseason.

“I’m taking a step back and trying not to add anything,” he says. “I’m going to continue what I was doing last year and try to keep perfecting what I was doing well. I’m not trying to overcomplicate things or do anything crazy different.” 

He’s hoping to find success again this year, especially against NL West competitors the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers. 

“It’s always fun to play the teams in our division,” Gallen says. “We have maybe the best division in baseball, in terms of competition. You always get a little extra fired up against the Padres or the Dodgers. They have pretty stacked rosters.”

Baseball is in Gallen’s blood. Reportedly, when the Somerdale, New Jersey native was 5, he refused to play tee-ball, instead insisting to compete against the older kids in Little League Baseball. Gallen’s parents agreed and, in the Little League draft, Gallen was chosen by his father in the third round. By 11, he was pitching and playing second base for the Tri-State Arsenal Baseball Academy in New Jersey. 

After graduating Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey, he played three years of college baseball at the University of North Carolina. In the Major League Baseball draft of 2016, he was chosen in the third round by the St. Louis Cardinals. 

As an homage to his brother, Jay, he has once again chosen “Let the Beat Build” by Lil Wayne as his walk-up song. It begins, “I see you big bro.”

“It was my brother’s favorite song at the time, and it is a little nod to him,” Gallen says. “Over time, it became a song I really enjoyed. On top of that, I don’t have to find a new walkout song. You can be superstitious about it, but I’m not superstitious here. If I pitch well or pitch poorly, I’m not looking to change it.” 

That says something about his dedication and loyalty. Gallen says it’s easy to stay passionate about baseball. 

“I think, for me, the search, the grind, the process of trying to become the best I can be has kept me passionate,” says Gallen, who enjoys taking out-of-town visitors to the Sonoran restaurant Bacanora in Downtown Phoenix.  

“The game is always fun. I’m a tinkerer. I want to perfect my craft and understand what makes me good and improve on things in areas where I’m not as good. That journey and process of trying to perfect something keeps me passionate.”

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

WHEN: 5:10 p.m. Saturday, April 22

WHERE: Chase Field, 401 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix 

COST: Tickets start at $30