Marlins’ Ziegler adds to collection of saves, autographs

Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal throws out a ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves, Friday, May 11, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI (AP) Marlins closer Brad Ziegler collects autographed baseballs as well as saves.

His latest acquisition in the former category is a ball signed by Shaquille O’Neal, who threw the ceremonial first pitch to Ziegler at the Braves-Marlins game Friday.

Ziegler likes to take part in such festivities.

”It’s in my contract here to catch all the big-time celebrities when they throw the first pitch,” he joked.

This season Ziegler has also caught ceremonial tosses from football players Antonio Brown and Mark Walton. In the past he has been a pregame backstop for NFLers Larry Fitzgerald and Calais Campbell, entertainer MC Hammer and several Olympic medalists.

He always tries to snag an autograph too.

”I’m a memorabilia collector, and one of the collections I specialize in is having non-baseball players sign baseballs,” Ziegler said. ”It’s fun. They probably don’t sign a ton of baseballs, so it’s a unique thing to have.”

Ziegler had never met Shaq, and quickly said yes when asked if he would like to catch the former NBA star.

”I shook his hand and introduced myself, and he goes, `I know who you are, Zieg.’ Whether it was true or not, it made me feel good,” he said.

The 38-year-old side-arming right-hander might not be as famous as Shaq, but he did achieve a little notoriety nine innings later by pitching a scoreless ninth in the Marlins’ 6-3 win. With that, Ziegler earned his 100th career save.

His overall assessment of the evening?

”Pretty awesome,” he said.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball