TUCSON PADRES

On his 12th pro stop, Mexico native Zazueta keeps chugging along

2012-04-25T00:00:00Z On his 12th pro stop, Mexico native Zazueta keeps chugging alongBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Infielder Amadeo Zazueta is making his 12th professional stop this season in Tucson, and there couldn't be a more fitting place to continue his wild ride.

A native of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Zazueta grew up taking wild rides in Tucson.

On the former kiddie train inside El Con Mall, that is.

"We used to come here all the time," Zazueta said Tuesday before Tucson's 16-6 loss to Salt Lake. "We'd come to El Con, and I'd get to ride that train that was in the middle. That was like the best part of the trip."

You could say his stop with the Padres is the best part of Zazueta's career so far. It's the highest level he has reached on a career that has snaked through rookie ball, Class A and Double-A ball and independent ball.

Here's five other things worth noting about the Padres' adopted Tucsonan:

His family loves to shop here.

The son of a politician and businessman, Zazueta made all those trips from Mexico to Tucson because his family loved to shop and relax here, often making the 10-hour drive from Culiacan and sticking around for a while.

"Everybody does that," Zazueta said. "We're not going to find the same stuff in Mexico that we can find here. Or if we find it, it's twice the price, you know?"

He's resilient.

Originally playing in the Astros organization, the 26-year-old Zazueta spent 2008 and 2009 in independent leagues before getting a chance with the Braves organization in 2010. But while on his way to a workout near his home, just before the 2011 training camp opened, Zazueta received a call from one of Atlanta's officials.

"He was like, 'Hey, we've changed plans, and you're not going to be with us anymore,'" Zazueta said. "I said, 'All right, thank you very much for everything.' And I went to the field and practiced even though I didn't have a job. I was like, 'All right, I'm going to keep practicing and see what happens.'"

Zazueta found a job in the independent Atlantic League, hitting .301 in 79 games before the Padres added him to their Double-A affiliate in San Antonio late last season. This season, he has hit .200 in 15 games and has played solid defensively, according to Padres manager Terry Kennedy.

"He's been around so much he's not scared," Kennedy said.

He has played for his hometown team, too.

Not only has Zazueta made 12 stops in the United States to play baseball, but he's also played winter ball with his hometown Culiacan Tomateros in Sinaloa and the Navojoa Mayos in Sonora.

Navojoa still has his rights, Zazueta said, but he's not sure if he will return next winter.

"Before, I needed to go there and play because I needed to get some more at-bats," Zazueta said. "But this winter if I stay here the whole year, I'll probably go back home and stay there, working. Then if they need me in December, I'll go play."

He wants to bring a Tomateros mascot to Kino Park.

Zazueta said he has offered to pay expenses for Chango, a Gorilla-suited mascot at Tomateros games, to make an appearance with the Padres. He said he wants to do it as a favor to the man inside the suit, a friend of Zazueta's, but he's also confident of Chango's entertainment value.

"He dances like crazy," Zazueta said. "And he's a wrestler. He can do a lot of stuff. He's very funny. Nobody can do what he does."

He has options.

If Zazueta's baseball career doesn't work out, he can always return to the family business - renting and selling construction machines out of four Mexican offices: Hermosillo and Obregon in Sonora, as well as Culiacan and Cabo San Lucas.

"My dad told me, 'Whenever you want to quit,'" Zazueta said. "I'm co-owner. So anytime I want to go back it's going to be there."

On StarNet: Keep up with the Tucson Padres on our new blog ¡Tus Padres! at azstarnet.com/padresbaseball

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• What: Padres at Sacramento

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• Radio: 1600-AM

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