Baseball runs deep for the Pinkham family and Zeke Pinkham, Elizabethtown graduate and senior on the University of Louisville baseball team, is fulfilling his dream of playing the sport he and his father, Bill idealized.
Pinkham started playing baseball around the age of 5 and his father coached him for many years from the Little League diamonds to travel baseball.
“I just love the game of baseball and everything about it,” Pinkham said.
His father had the same goal as Pinkham when it came to reaching the next level and playing college baseball.
Even though Bill passed away on Dec. 26, 2012, and was unable to watch his son reach his goal of playing college baseball, Pinkham knows he would be proud of him and where he is today. In many ways, Pinkham is living out their dream of playing at the next level.
“From a young age my dad and I would always have goals,” Pinkham said. “He had goals for me that he always told me that I should try to instill and being a college baseball player is one of them. He was always talking about how I wanted to have an opportunity to play baseball at an SEC, ACC or PAC12 level and fortunately I have been able to do that. It has been a dream come true and this last four years at UofL have been absolutely awesome.”
Pinkham played baseball for Elizabethtown where he earned five prep letters, ranked as a top 500 player nationally and the No. 4 player in the state of Kentucky in the class of 2015 by Perfect Game. Pinkham showcased his talents and was a two-time All-State honoree, four-time all-region selection and four-time all-area star for the Panthers.
“There is a lot of tradition at Elizabethtown in all sports not just baseball, and when you play at Elizabethtown you are supposed to win,” said Pinkham, the 2013 All-Area Sophomore of the Year. “There is a high expectation for you.”
Even though he underwent Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school, Pinkham was able to continue his education and athletic career at Louisville.
Pinkham said his move from high school baseball to college was smooth and entered his college career with the same expectations from high school and will to work hard for his team.
“I came to Louisville with the same expectations,” Pinkham said. “It’s not okay to be mediocre. You’re supposed to win and it’s a high standard like it is at Elizabethtown. So the transition wasn’t that big. The game sped up, but the mentality and the coaching stayed the same.”
Baseball runs back for generations in the Pinkham family.
“Baseball runs deep in my family, it’s in the blood line and it is going to continue to be in the blood line for as long as the Pinkham name continues,” he said. “I love it and it was instilled on me as a young boy and it is going to be a big part of my life for as long as I live.”
Pinkham’s father played three seasons of professional baseball in the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals farm systems. His grandfather Les Pinkham played five seasons of professional baseball in the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals organizations and played collegiate football at the University of Illinois.
Pinkham and the Cardinals are heading to Omaha after defeating Eastern Carolina in the Super Regionals and this is Pinkham’s second trip to the College World Series.
“My sophomore year we went to Omaha. We beat Kentucky in the Super Regional and we went 1-2 in Omaha,” he said. “We beat Texas A&M in the first game and lost to Florida the second game, which ended up being the National Champions, and then we got eliminated by TCU so this is my second go around to Omaha.”
Pinkham feels like the second time is the charm and said he’s ready since he has experienced the postseason atmosphere before.
“It’s going to be awesome and I feel like it is going to be a better experience considering I know what to expect,” he said. “First time going to Omaha there are so many things you’re amazed by because it’s like baseball country. It’s a lot to get memorized by, but this is my second time so it’s like being a veteran.
“I’m very excited for it because there are millions of college baseball players that have played college baseball for as long as it has been around and some can say they have been to Omaha once, but I can say I’ve been there twice.”
Pinkham and the Cardinals are expecting a hard fought battle against Vanderbilt at 2 p.m. Sunday and Pinkham hopes the bats will stay hot from the Super Regionals.
“We were hot,” he said about the Super Regional victories over East Carolina last weekend. “We’ve been going through a little bit of a dry spell with the bats, but at times we’ve been awesome with the bats and we’ve been really consistent defensively and really consistent pitching. When we played N.C. State earlier in April, they were ranked No. 2 in the country and we locked in there and beat them up pretty good and swept them. This weekend against ECU it was a very similar situation from the very beginning we knew we were in good shape.”
Looking back on his time wearing a Cardinal uniform, Pinkham has seen improvement.
“My game all around has improved,” he said. “I think physically and maturity, I have improved the most. My mentality for the game and I’ve learned so much from Coach (Dan) McDonnell and the coaching staff at UofL.”
He hopes to continue to follow his love for the game of baseball after he hangs up the Louisville jersey and step into a coaching role.
“I’ve learned the game so well that I think I’ll want to continue that even after I’m done playing. I want to be a college baseball coach,” Pinkham said.
He even hopes to have the chance to play professional baseball and follow in the footsteps of those before him.
“I really hope I get the opportunity to do that,” Pinkham said.