Angels pitcher Zac Kristofak makes his Major League debut

Ric Tapia - The Sporting Tribune
The Angels called up pitcher Zac Kristofak on Sunday. Not only is Zac excited about making it to the show, but he’s also on a mission to help people.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Standing in the Angels clubhouse in front of a locker with his name on it, Zac Kristofak reflects on what this moment means to him: “it’s everything.” 

But for Zac, “everything” means so much more. 

“It’s just crazy. Like looking back on my story, not only in baseball but just in my life,” he said. 

More than a decade ago on December 22, 2012, Zac’s father killed his mother, Donna, outside of Atlanta. His father pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. Zac was 15 years old at the time.

Today, the 26-year-old pitcher has turned his pain into a new purpose — helping people. He believes that sharing his story will have a positive impact on others who are persevering through their own struggles. And it all starts on the baseball diamond. 

“I’m here to help people. I’m here to help people 100%, and baseball is my platform,” said Zac. “Yeah, it’s cool that I get to go put on this uniform today, but man, if I can go help somebody, that’s a big part of it as well.” 

Late Saturday evening, Zac got the call he’d been playing for. He was headed to the majors. 

“This is not only an important day for me, but for my family, for my friends, for my community and for everybody that I represent back home,” said Zac. 

He said the first person he called to share the news with was his brother, Harrison. “He didn’t answer,” said Zac with a chuckle. The young righty was able to get a couple hours of sleep before catching an early Uber to the airport. Luckily for Zac, his brother called him back just in time for his flight. 

“He called me back and I had to hold up the TSA line because I was going through security, but he called me and we talked. It was great,” shared Zac. “He had about as few words as I did. There weren’t a whole lot of words. There was a whole lot of silence, but we got the message across.” 

Zac made his MLB debut in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. He pitched two innings, allowing two runs on three hits with two strikeouts and two walks. 

“He did a tremendous job. Young kid flew all night and all day, got here and had to go out there and give us innings,” said Angels Manager Ron Washington, following the team’s 11-5 loss. “He did a great job. He really did. He got us through the rest of that ballgame.”

Throughout his career, Zac has transitioned back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen. With the Angels, there’s a chance that he could step in for longer periods of relief, which would alleviate the stress being placed on the team’s current long reliever, José Suarez, who has battled his way through 16 innings with a 10.13 ERA this season. 

“He’s here because we need some length. He was due to be the starter next [in Salt Lake], so he’s ready to go in case we need some length,” said Washington.

Zac made two appearances for the Angels in relief during their 2024 spring training and did not give up any runs.

“The little bit I saw him in spring training, he’s a strike thrower so, I hope coming to the major leagues doesn’t change that,” added Washington. 

The former University of Georgia player got his start in professional baseball in 2019 when the Angels picked him in the 14th round. His first full season in the pros was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the following year proved to be tougher than Zac hoped as he posted a 6.14 ERA after 44 innings. 

But since those first couple years, Zac has been steadily climbing his way through the farm system. 

With the High-A Tri-City Dust Devils in 2022, he threw 63.2 innings, achieving a much-improved 3.82 ERA and earning himself a ticket to Double-A Rocket City. By this year, Zac was primed for a new season with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, where he commanded the hill for six games, including three starts, and walked away with a 3.38 ERA and 1-0 record. 

In a corresponding move, the Angels placed José Cisnero on the 15-day IL with right shoulder inflammation, and right-handed reliever Jimmy Herget was designated for assignment.

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