Zaun has many observers saying 'Uncle'

INSIDE PITCH

July 23, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

It's not just the number, which he hand-picked himself, that reminds careful observers of his uncle.

It's everything about the kid wearing the uniform, Greg Zaun, that makes him look like a Rick Dempsey clone.

The way he blocks pitches; the way he snaps the ball back to the pitcher from his knees; the way he presents a low target; the way he comes out of the crouch to rifle a throw to second base; the way he sits his mask on top of his helmet and walks to the pitcher's mound. The mannerisms are unmistakable -- and we've seen them all before.

When Zaun sent a line drive down the right-field line that veered foul in the Orioles' 10-6 win over Kansas City Friday night, his reaction was similar to the way Dempsey would kick at the ground to vent his frustration in such situations.

"It's scary," said pitching coach Mike Flanagan, a teammate of Dempsey's during his career in Baltimore. "I'm always calling him 'Demper.' "

If Zaun looks like he's been personally trained by his uncle, there's a good reason for it. He was -- but not by his most famous one.

"I worked with him a little," said Rick from Albuquerque, N.M., where he is managing the Dodgers' Triple-A team. "But most of the credit for developing his defensive skills goes to my younger brother, Pat."

Pat Dempsey played several years in the minor leagues and spent some time in the Orioles' organization, but was unable to follow his older brother to the big leagues.

"Greg spent a few summers with Pat in various places in the minor leagues," said Rick. "Pat would take him out to the bullpen and work with him. He spent a lot more time with Greg than I did."

Zaun, 24, is the son of Rick and Pat's sister, Cheri, who is a former professional golfer. Zaun was drafted out of high school by the Orioles in 1989, and it didn't take long for the resemblance to his uncle to be noticed.

"How's he doing?" Rick asked yesterday, unaware that Zaun had the biggest game of his young career, with three hits and four runs batted in, the night before. "Do they like him? What's the report on him?"

The report on Zaun is one Dempsey can relate to -- because he lived with the same one his whole career. "Solid defensively, but questionable how much he'll hit" is the advance tag Zaun brought with him.

Unlike his uncles, Zaun is a switch-hitter (although Rick did give it a try briefly), which should work to his advantage. In the meantime, his defense got him to the big leagues and appears good enough to keep him there.

Whether he can have as long a run in Baltimore as his uncle remains to be seen. But he's already made an impression.

And Zaun has rekindled memories of Rick Dempsey. About the

only thing missing is the mustache.

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