There will be no retirement tour for Josh Zeid. No parting gifts from opposing teams or rousing ovations from fans.
Rather, Zeid announced his retirement from playing professional baseball on Thursday rather unceremoniously, via Twitter, from his home in suburban Houston.
Let the record show that Zeid pitched parts of two big-league seasons with the Houston Astros, accruing 48 total appearances, a 5.21 ERA and exactly one decision (a loss).
Let the record also show that the kid from New Haven pitched against both the Red Sox and Yankees, remembers his big-league debut like it was yesterday and is even represented in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He has zero regrets.
“I played for 10 years (professionally), made it to the major leagues, lived every boy’s childhood dream,” Zeid said by phone on Thursday. “I do consider myself truly lucky not to have to say, ‘What if,’ if I had worked so hard and never got there.”
Zeid, 31, simply came to the realization that the baseball world is changing, particularly for pitchers who don’t set the radar guns on fire. And, most importantly, he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Stephanie, and 3 ½-year-old son, Parker.
“I think I’ve come to peace with the fact that I got to do what so many kids dream of doing,” he said. “To be able to go out on my own time, to be able to look back, drink it in and take a deep breath … it’s special to have that luxury.”
Zeid graduated from Hamden Hall and went on to pitch at Vanderbilt and Tulane. He was selected by Philadelphia in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB draft and spent two years in the Phillies’ organization before being traded to Houston in a deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philly.
Zeid made his big-league debut the following season, making his debut on July 30, 2013 at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. His parents, Ira and Karen, were able to drive down to the game along with numerous other family members and friends.
“I gave them all the game ball after the first game I pitched,” he recalled.
Zeid remained with the Astros the rest of the season and posted a 3.90 ERA out of the bullpen. He began the next season with Triple-A Oklahoma City but wound up bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors all season before being waived that winter. He was claimed by the Detroit Tigers, and though he never made it back above the Triple-A level — even beginning the 2016 season with the independent New Britain Bees — his great baseball memories were hardly through.
In the fall of 2016, Zeid pitched for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. He tossed three innings of one-hit ball and earned the victory in Israel’s qualifying series-clinching win over Great Britain at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, sending Israel to the round-of-16.
The win was particularly significant for Zeid, who had given up the game-winning hit in the 10th inning of the 2012 WBC qualifier final against Spain.
The following spring, Zeid was an absolute stud, working 10 innings of shutout ball while striking out 10 and allowing just five hits as Israel beat South Korea (in South Korea), Chinese Tapei, a loaded Netherlands team (Didi Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts) and a very talented Cuban team before eventually losing to Japan (in Japan).
Zeid was one of just three pitchers to earn WBC all-tournament honors, and he and the rest of Team Israel have been commemorated in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Pitching well, being recognized, you can’t really get any better than that,” Zeid said. “When the Baseball Hall of Fame takes notice, the world takes notice, you have to appreciate the magnitude of that tournament. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get back to the major leagues after that. It was a lift-changing experience.”
Zeid spent all of last season with Memphis, the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, and won nine games while helping the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title. This past winter, he was in contact with some major league teams, even pro teams in Taiwan and Korea. Nothing materialized.
“I spent the whole offseason preparing to continue to play,” he noted. “I spent a lot of time training with someone here (in Houston), trying to teach myself some new tricks. I felt good, I’m healthy, but the game has changed dramatically. You have to throw in the mid-to-high-90’s, consistently, or there’s someone 10 years younger than you who will. I’ve got a family that I want to support and take care of, so trying to live out that dream is not possible.”
So what’s next for Josh Zeid? He’s not sure yet. One thing he knows: While his playing days are over, he’s not done with baseball.
“I’ve been in it for too long,” he said. “I think it would be disrespectful to the hard work I’ve put in to turn my back on it now.”
Zeid would like to get into coaching, particularly at the collegiate level.
“That’s where my heart would be most set right now,” he said.
But that’s for a later date. For now, Zeid is content to sit back, take a deep breath and reflect on what he’s done the last 25 years as a player who got to live out every boy’s childhood dream.
He has zero regrets.