All-Star Jarrett chooses own track with O's

Outfielder, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer thriving with Frederick

Zach Jarrett comes into the Carolina League All-Star Game with seven hits in his last three games for Frederick. (Frederick Keys)

By David Driver / Special to | June 18, 2019 5:55 PM

FREDERICK, Md. -- Zach Jarrett arrived at UNC Charlotte as a walk-on third baseman.

He left as one of the most productive outfielders in recent memory for the 49ers, and the progression continued here Tuesday with the Northern Division squad for the Carolina League All-Star Game as a member of the host Frederick Keys.

"He wanted to create his own path," UNC Charlotte assistant coach Bo Robinson said. "Every year he seemed to get better. He was one of the hardest workers we have ever had."

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That path for Jarrett, 24, meant stepping up away from the shadows of his father, Dale, and grandfather, Ned, who are both members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He grew up in Hickory, N.C., and played basketball and baseball in high school.

He found support from his mother, who was well aware of the dangers of driving a car more than 150 miles per hour on an oval. By the time he was 10 or 11, he was skipping weekend races to play travel baseball. He had watched his father at Daytona and Talladega, among other locales, as a boy.

"You have to realize what you have to sacrifice to chase a goal and chase a dream," Jarrett said. "Looking back I wouldn't change a thing."

Jarrett also spent a lot of time with his other grandfather, Jasper Spears, as a young boy. Spears, who played in the Minor Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away in Hickory in 2010.

"Mom was on the road and dad was on the road and we sort of grew a bond through that," Jarrett said of Spears. "I watched the Braves a lot growing up. That was his favorite team."

Both of his parents were in Frederick on Tuesday for the All-Star Game.

"She realized the dangers [of racing] with him. She would have been supportive of anything I would do," Jarrett said of his mother. "This is also a hard sport; we are away from our families a lot."

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The Orioles prospect began playing organized baseball by the time he was about 4.

After high school, he decided to walk at UNC Charlotte, where he hit .342 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs as a senior under Robinson, who works with hitters. "I was able to learn a lot from Bo," said Jarrett, who moved to the outfield as a freshman.

Jarrett was not drafted until after his senior year at UNC Charlotte, when he was taken in the 28th round of the 2017 Draft by the Orioles. He played last year at Class A Delmarva and hit .277 with 14 homers and 72 RBIs. Jarrett is hitting .297 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 44 games for Class A Advanced Frederick this year as a corner outfielder. He also played 20 games this season for Double-A Bowie, hitting .194.

"He has done a very good job of adjusting," said Frederick hitting coach Bobby Rose, who joined Keys manager Ryan Minor on the coaching staff for the All-Star Game. "He has a simple, easy swing."

"To be able to have this and host it here is great," Jarrett said of the All-Star Game. "It's great for the city of Frederick too."

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Jarrett was signed by Blacksburg, Virginia-based Rich Morales, who was named the Jim Russo Scout of the Year by the Orioles in 2018. Morales also signed Frederick pitcher Brenan Hanifee, drafted out of Turner Ashby High near Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the fourth round by Baltimore in 2016.

"He was big, strong and very agile for his size. Played left field, but I thought he was athletic enough to play center. He always played hard and was really starting to figure out some stuff at the plate," Morales said.

This past June the Orioles drafted and signed pitchers out of VCU, JMU and Division III Randolph-Macon at the suggestion of Morales. Now Jarrett hopes to build on what he started as a walk-on at Charlotte.

Robinson noted that Jarrett struggled as a freshman at Charlotte but the coaching staff kept running him out there. Jarrett was teammates at UNC Charlotte with outfielder T.J. Nichting, who was taken in the ninth round by Orioles in 2017 and has played this year at Bowie.

"We knew he would figure it out. He was a very good basketball player in high school," Robinson said of Jarrett. "He was one of the best defensive outfielders we have ever had."

And one who wanted to create his own path.

David Driver is a freelance writer from Maryland and can be reached at @DaytonVaDriver and This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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