WASHINGTON – Justin Lord was supposed to be the pitching coach at Single-A Fredericksburg before the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season.
And Zach Brzykcy, 21, could have been a senior this fall at Virginia Tech had he not signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Nationals this past summer.
With a season of changed plans, Lord and Brzykcy – both new to Washington’s organization this year – were in Florida for Instructional League in October.
And that allowed Lord, a pitching coach in the Orioles’ farm system in 2019, a chance to see Brzykcy in person for the first time.
“I like a lot of what I saw from him,” Lord, 40, told Federal Baseball. “He is a strong kid who seems to know what he is doing and wants to get better and be at the highest level.”
“He has a live arm with a good fastball and a good four-seam run with the fastball. He has a pretty good slider and he is learning with the curveball. He picked that up very quickly.”
“I think (the curve) it has a lot of potential and can be a weapon for him down the road. There is a lot of potential there.”
Born in North Carolina, Brzykcy headed to Florida to begin his pro career.
“It is definitely a roller coaster for me,” Brzykcy told Federal Baseball from Florida.
“It is great baseball weather; the fields are pristine. I can’t complain; it is perfect for a pro baseball” debut.
After he went undrafted, Brzykcy planned to return to Virginia Tech for his senior year in 2021.
But after he heard from most Major League teams, he decided to sign with the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent.
The uncertain status of college sports in light of COVID-19 concerns played a role.
“You know what with the pandemic, that definitely played a big part. That impacted my decision,” he said. “But I was ready mentally to go into pro ball. I was ready to start my career.”
And he was able to do that with Lord and other pitching instructors watching him.
Lord pitched in college at Florida State and in the minors with the Pirates and Royals. He spent part of the 2004 season in the Carolina League in the Pirates’ system with Lynchburg – the hometown of another Nats’ NDFA from 2020, infielder Quade Tomlin. Randy Tomlin, the father of Quade, grew up near Lynchburg and pitched for the Pirates from 1990-94.