A 36-year-old infielder, Penprase was Team Israel’s starting shortstop through the opening rounds of the Olympic qualifying tournament and will accompany the team to Tokyo for the delayed 2020 games that will run from July 23 to Aug. 8.
During the Olympic Games, Penprase will take a hiatus from the Boulders. He will return to New York at the conclusion of the Games.
Working his way onto Team Israel’s roster and his eventual signing with the Boulders was a long journey filled with hard work on the field and in the gym. Penprase retired from professional baseball after the 2015 season, but the itch to get back to competitive ball proved too much and won out – first with Team Israel and then with the Boulders.
“I am working very hard to get into game shape,” Penprase said. “My arm and swing are still there, it’s the endurance that I have to work on – and I am doing that with a special trainer.”
Originally a 13th round MLB Draft choice of the Phillies in 2006 out of Mississippi Valley State, Penprase, a native of Moorpark, CA, spent two-plus years in the Philadelphia organization before signing as a free agent with Fargo-Moorhead of the old Northern League during the 2008 season. He played eight years with Fargo-Moorhead, helping the RedHawks win Northern League championships in 2009 and 2010.
During his time with the RedHawks, the team won Northern League regular season titles in 2008 and 2010. The RedHawks joined the American Association prior to the 2011 season and Penprase helped Fargo-Moorhead tack on first-place regular season finishes in 2012 and 2013.
While at Fargo-Moorhead, Penprase was a teammate of Boulders’ manager T.J. Stanton in 2009 and 2010, as well as Boulders’ assistant coach Kole Zimmerman from 2008-2011.
It was that bond with Stanton that led Penprase, who can play third, second and shortstop, to the Boulders.
“Last year after qualifying for the Olympics, I began calling around to try to find a spot (to play),” Penprase said. “I called Fargo first out of loyalty – I had played there with T.J. and Zimm, and they didn’t know if they would have a spot, so I called T.J. and he (T.J.) told me that he had some interest.”
The two continued to communicate over the last year.
“I kept in touch with T.J. and he gave me a call and said that if I was still interested, so was he,” Penprase said. “I had called just about every team and had not found anyone interested.”
Penprase added, “So, I owe a lot of this opportunity to my friendship with T.J. He knows what he is going to get with me – he knows what I am all about and he knows that I want to win.”
In his eight seasons in independent ball with Fargo-Moorhead, Penprase posted a .286 BA and a .370 on-base percentage. He scored 584 runs and knocked in 333.
“The first thing to acknowledge on Zach Penprase is that he is 36 and hasn’t played a season of pro ball since 2015,” Stanton said. “In basically every other ball player these two facts would be red flags too big to ignore, but Zach is not your normal minor league grinder. I have zero concerns about his age playing a negative role physically, he’s 36 going on 26.”
Stanton continued, “As for not playing since 2015, from the video I saw of him playing in the Olympic qualifying tournaments and after talking with Eric Holtz (the manager of Team Israel), I have no concerns. Zach is a very special type of player. On the field he is a run scoring machine – too often overlooked.”
Stanton pointed out Penprase’s very high contact rate at the plate that goes along with a “great eye, (high) on-base percentage that is coupled with great speed and a unique advanced baseball IQ.”
“On defense, very similarly, he uses a hyper twitchy first step to patrol all infield positions,” Stanton said. “I am very proud to go into this season with Zach on the roster. The idea of being just a part of my friend’s journey to becoming an Olympian is right out of Hollywood. The best part is I know he’s going to help us and be a very exciting player.”
Holtz said that the Boulders are adding the consummate team player.
“Zach is a gritty, old-time ballplayer,” Holtz said. “He is a hustle guy and will do anything the team needs. He will hit for average. Don’t make a mistake as he will make you pay. He is a great clubhouse guy and a born leader.”
Holtz and Team Israel are scheduled to play the Boulders in an exhibition game on Monday, July 12 at 7 p.m. They will also have a free workout on Saturday, July 10 from 8-10 p.m.
The stop in Pomona is part of Team Israel’s tour of the Northeast before they head to Tokyo for the Games.
Team Israel’s roster includes former major leagues Ian Kinsler, Ty Kelly, Danny Valencia and Ryan Lavarnway.
“It is going to be interesting to see what I am going to do when the Boulders play Team Israel,” Penprase said. “Do I play for the Boulders? Do I play for Team Israel? Do I play half the game with one team and the other half with the other team? I guess we will all just have to wait and see.”
He added, “It is exciting (going to the Olympics). Really, though, when you start playing baseball, you don’t think about playing in the Olympics, but it will be something special.”After an exhibition game on May 22 against the NYPD – game time is set for 6:30 p.m., the New York Boulders’ much anticipated Frontier League debut will arrive on May 27 when they host the Washington (PA) Wild Things at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona.
Game time for Opening Day is 7 p.m.
The Boulders will conclude their two-game opening series with Washington the following day. That game is also a 7 p.m. start.
A complete New York Boulders’ 2021 schedule, as well as information regarding season tickets and packages for the 2021 season are available by calling 845-364-0009 or sliding to www.NYBoulders.com. Individual game tickets will go on sale April 19.
Meanwhile, tickets for the NYPD exhibition game on May 22 are on-sale now.
Attendance at all home games at PCU Park is subject to New York State Department of Health guidelines and protocol.
Debuting in 1993, the Frontier League is the largest and longest-running of the modern independent leagues and features teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway. In September of 2020, the Frontier League reached an agreement to become a “Partner League” with Major League Baseball.
As a “Partner League,” the Frontier League and its teams will meet on a regular basis with MLB representatives to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, as well as collaborate on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the United States and Canada.
More information can be found at www.frontierleague.com.
About the New York Boulders and NYB, LLC
The New York Boulders are entering their 10th season of Professional Baseball as part of the newly-formed Frontier League and are in pursuit of a post-season appearance for the seventh straight season. Founded as the Rockland Boulders in 2011, the franchise rebranded as the New York Boulders in advance of the 2020 season. In 2014, the Boulders won the Can-Am League Championship and hosted the Frontier vs. Can-Am All-Star Game in 2019. Proud to be part of the rich history of professional baseball in the New York City region, during the 2017 season the team welcomed its 1,000,000th fan to Palisades Credit Union Park located in Rockland County, NY. In 2012 and 2014, Rockland was named the Can-Am’s “Organization of the Year.” The Boulders are owned and operated by NYB, LLC, a sports and entertainment company comprised of former executives from all levels of major and minor league sports. NYB is committed to providing superior customer service and quality, affordable family entertainment experiences for the New York Metropolitan area, Lower Hudson Valley and northeast New Jersey. Slide to www.nyboulders.com for more information.