Despite being only 21 years old, Zack Turner is quickly becoming a San Carlos baseball legend. He helped lead the San Carlos Joe DiMaggio squad to a state title, was named Most Valuable Player his senior year at Serra, earned Coast Conference Player of the Year honors during his two years at Cañada College — including All-American status following this season — and earned a scholarship to University of San Francisco.
"I was just one of those guys who wouldn't shut up about [baseball],” Turner said. "I literally did not do anything else. Baseball has pretty much been my life since the age of four. Four years old, I was in front of my dad's dentist office with a bat and a ball, tossing the ball up and hitting it against the building. All the other doctors (in the complex) would get mad at me.”
Like every other baseball-playing fanatic, Turner once had dreams about a professional career. But since leaving Serra and going through his college years, Turner has seen how difficult it is to become a pro.
Which, in a roundabout way, has led him to his current passion: teaching baseball to the next generation. Three years ago, Turner started a baseball summer camp, "All Baseball All the Time” for youth players ages 5 to 12. All Baseball All The Time has held camps in San Carlos, Half Moon Bay and Redwood City.
"We've been doing it for three years now and it kind of took off this year,” Turner said. "We've had about 200 kids this summer.”
Turner said there are still two weeks of camp left this summer — the week of Aug. 6 and Aug. 13, both in San Carlos. He hopes to expand in the future to include San Mateo, Burlingame and Los Altos.
He said he decided to start his own youth baseball summer camp after spending years helping at other camps. He believed he could run his own camp better while at the same time giving back to his community.
"We do a lot of batting, fielding, pitching and catching,” Turner said. "We love having fun. I think that's something I forgot to do after high school. Just playing ball is fun. That's what we tell all these young guys.”
Turner said coming out of Serra, he stopped having fun playing the game and started making it a business. His first taste of disappointment was not receiving any scholarships out of high school, despite being named MVP of the West Catholic Athletic League.
He decided to enroll at Cañada and became Coast Conference MVP following his freshman season, earning him a scholarship to Pepperdine University. Turner thought his career was about to take off.
"It was always a priority to get a scholarship,” Turner said.
He injured his shoulder and redshirted his one year at Pepperdine before returning to Cañada this past season, where he promptly picked up where he left off: earning Coast Conference Player of the Year honors as well as being named to the junior college All-American team.
That earned him a scholarship to USF, but he harbored hopes of being drafted by a professional team.
"I was told by many scouts I would be drafted,” Turner said.
It didn't happen. Turner believes two major shoulder injuries — one in high school and one in college — cost him a shot at being drafted.
Having seen the business side of professional baseball, Turner has turned his attention to earning his degree in business at USF, which he then hopes to apply to his burgeoning baseball camps and private lessons.
"I think I want to stick with it (the camps), for wherever it takes me,” Turner said. "I want to open up a facility, do the whole private lesson thing. [I] really care about baseball.”
To that end, Turner tries to bring in the most knowledgeable coaches and instructors from around the Bay Area and the nation to teach the kids at his camps. Turner said he's had coaches and instructors from Cañada, Lewis and Clark, Pepperdine, USF, Pacific, Coastal Carolina and U.C. Davis working at the camps.
It's no coincidence. Being a baseball lifer, Turner has forged relationships with coaches and instructors from coast to coast. It helps to have the network of contacts Turner has accumulated during his time at Serra and beyond.
He also credits his personality for helping nurture those relationships.
"If I had been a [jerk] all those years, I probably wouldn't have all those contacts,” Turner said.
He also said his reputation as a ball player growing up has helped him as well. Parents and older siblings recognize his name and his game and urge their youngest sons or brothers to enroll in Turner's camps.
"[My name] is familiar to people,” Turner said. "I don't know if I could have done it if I didn't have the reputation.”
With his success on the field as well as with his camps, Turner is finding out he can make a living in the game without being a professional player. In fact, given everything he's seen about the business of baseball, being a pro athlete is no longer at the top of his list.
"My priority right now is to get my degree,” Turner said.
The book has not been shut on a potential pro career, however. Turner could still end up being drafted or sign a free-agent contract after next season, but it's not his sole focus: "I'm not putting all my eggs in the pro basket,” Turner said.
Instead, he'd rather focus on developing the next crop of potential pros — and to do it in the less stressful environment of summer camps as opposed to the pressure cooking of coaching.
"I don't see myself not staying in baseball the rest of my life,” Turner said. "I've thought about [coaching]. But at camp, everyone's a winner. It's all about having fun. I don't know if I want to take that step to the competitive level. It's high stress.
"As long as the kids are having fun, you're doing something right.”
Space is available in both the Aug. 6 and Aug. 13 camps in San Carlos. Participants can sign up through the San Carlos Park and Recreation Department, www.cityofsancarlos.org. For more information, email SanCarlosABATT@aol.com.