PHOENIX — Meet Brad Ziegler, the most knowledgeable man in baseball.
Ziegler, a right-hander in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, blushes when he hears that, and he would argue the point. But it might just be true, at least where the rules are concerned.
Ziegler received some national attention earlier this week when he scored a perfect 10 on a test of baseball rules put together by ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Ziegler was one of 30 or so players who accepted the challenge, and he was the only one who answered all 10 questions correctly. He lit up Twitter for a day or two afterward.
“You could have picked 10 other random questions and I might get three of them right,” Ziegler said in his normal self-deprecating way.
“Those 10 I just happened to know.”
Those 10, and a probably lot more. Ziegler, 32, does take pride in knowing the rules because, to him, it is all in a day’s work.
“It’s my job. It’s what I do for a living, so I might as well be familiar with the inner workings,” Ziegler said. “The last thing I want to do is have something happen on the mound while I’m out there that I don’t understand and it flusters me a little bit. I’d rather have a real good grasp of things and kind of go with the flow that way.”
Ziegler, an integral part of the D-backs’ bullpen, began accruing his knowledge at an early age when his father began coaching youth league teams in Missouri and wanted to brush up on the rules.
“I’d be sitting around watching TV, staying out of the heat, and he’d be, ‘Hey, do you know this?’ and kind of randomly fire stuff at me as he was reading it. It always kind of stuck with me,” Ziegler said.
The subtleties presented in the fine print can be harder to grasp than it might seem. A rule interpretation on a ground ball can change depending on whether the infield is in or back. The infield fly rule does not apply on all infield flies. For example, a bunted ball that is popped up, no matter how high, is never an infield fly.
Leff-hander Matt Reynolds’ father, Sam, once signed up for a baseball rules class at Marietta College because, well, it was taught by the baseball coach and, hey, how tough could it be?
“He said it was one of the hardest classes he took in college. He had to really study,” Reynolds said the other day.
Ziegler knows it is not for everyone.
“There are a lot of guys who have had a lot of success in this game who don’t know a lot of the rules. It’s definitely not mandatory. It’s a little hobby of mine, I guess,” he said.
Naturally, Ziegler has become the player the bullpen turns to when a question or an unusual play arises. When the Brewers’ Jean Segura went from second base to first base and was ruled safe in an April game, Ziegler knew that was not allowed. A few days later, Major League Baseball confirmed that the umpires were in error.
“He is the resource we go to,” said fellow reliever Josh Collmenter, who took the test and got four questions right.
“I tell people I have a bunch of random, useless knowledge in my head. I think sometimes when they have a question, they come to me and want to see if this is part of his useless knowledge,” Ziegler said.
“The one thing I love doing, if there is something I don’t know, I go look it up.”