Brandon Zywicki: My Story
Anyone who follows Brandon Zywicki (@zawick55) is familiar with his story. For those of you who aren’t, we sat down for a Q&A session to help him share his motivational message.
BPI: How old were you when you started playing baseball?
Brandon Zywicki: I’d say 6 or 8 years old… I’m a little foggy there, so let’s say 7.
BPI: Was there a particular moment you realized you were better than everyone else?
BZ: My stepfather is the one who recognized that I could throw abnormally far for my age when I was younger. It wasn’t until I was a tenth grader that I knew I was on a different level. It was the playoffs and I remember some of the parents arguing that I should be playing with the seniors, not the other players my age.
BPI: Tell us about being an All-American athlete at Central Arizona.
BZ: It was the best feeling in the world. Central Arizona is in the hardest Division 1 junior college offense in the league, and they produced the most Major League draft picks of any college. Our school averaged around eight draft picks a year, more than schools like LSU or Oregon State, so a lot of guys would come to our school with the hopes of getting drafted quicker.
BPI: And yet you weren’t drafted. Why?
BZ: I was a small guy. The scouts told me I needed to gain weight, get stronger, and get more consistent with my pitch speed. I would hit 93 mph here and there, which was impressive, but I had trouble maintaining that speed throughout the season.
BPI: Did you follow the scouts’ advice?
BZ: I took their advice to heart. I went on my own training program where I trained 4-6 times a day and ate 10,000 calories – every day. I put on 20 lbs. of muscle in a couple of months.
BPI: What was your goal?
BZ: I wanted to improve my stamina as far as my pitch speed, but overall my goal was to be drafted.
BPI: Tell us about moving off campus.
BZ: I wanted to see if I could live on my own. If I was gonna go pro, I’d have to get used to it, and I wanted to feel like an adult. Plus, I wanted to control what I was eating. The cafeteria on campus just wasn’t cutting it and had limits on the times I could eat. Obviously that wasn’t conducive to my 10,000-calorie-a-day meal plan.
My roommate and I found the apartment on Craigslist. It was really cheap, so we decided to move in without looking into the neighborhood or anything.
BPI: Did you feel safe there?
BZ: At first, yeah. I felt that my size would prevent anyone from messing with me, and during the daytime, no one was outside. I guess I just assumed it was safe, but there were no gates up, so anyone could walk in and walk around.
BPI: What happened in November?
BZ: It was one or two weeks before Thanksgiving break. I had started to make some progress with my stamina. I was throwing in the 90s pretty consistently and felt like I was set. Then one night, I was stopped at a red light and a guy approached my car with a knife. He tried to force me out of the car, but I drove off. He hung on to the door and managed to get a few hits in on me, mostly bruises and scratches to my face and body. It was nothing too serious, but I still have scars.
I didn’t tell anybody. I covered it up the next day because I didn’t want the coaches to think I wasn’t fit to play. I didn’t want to stress. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me… I just put on a poker face.
BPI: Was that the only time you were attacked?
BZ: No. When I got home from practice the following day, there was a guy waiting for me in my apartment parking lot with a fire extinguisher. He put it in my window and gassed me out. When I got out of the car, he hit me with the extinguisher. I managed to grab a rock I found on the ground and fought back. He ran off, but I followed him back to his place and called the cops. As soon as they arrested him and drove off, a group of about six guys showed up and followed me back home. They kept saying I’d messed up and they were gonna come for me. I moved out of the apartment that night.
BPI: How were your health and athletic career affected by these back-to-back incidents?
BZ: Even after I’d moved into my new apartment, I was being tailed. I noticed cars from my old apartment complex following me to campus and to practice. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat… I was so stressed. I dropped 20 lbs. in a week and lost all the stamina I’d gained. That year was the worst I’ve ever played in my life. I just wasn’t the same person.
BPI: Did you seek help?
BZ: I tried going back home to see doctors, but nothing worked. I’d do well for a few games and then I’d get in my head again. My coach at the University of San Francisco is actually the one who helped me the most. He was a sports psychologist and was able to help me look at the entire situation differently.
BPI: Were you able to play baseball again?
BZ: I was already signed with the University of San Francisco, but it didn’t work out. I was hesitant to develop relationships with the coaches, other than the one that helped me. They didn’t understand what I was going through, I didn’t trust them, and I ended up leaving. I wasn’t ready to stop playing though. I reached out to my pitching coach from Central Arizona and he managed to get me a scholarship to Missouri Baptist University. It was there that I worked my way back to being an All-American, and eventually, I went pro in Australia.
BPI: How did you get into bodybuilding?
BZ: When I finished playing baseball, I continued working out, but started to lift heavier. Without baseball, it was easier to do two-a-days, and naturally I started gaining muscle. Someone approached me and told me I should compete, but it wasn’t until I got positive feedback on social media too that I took it seriously. I truly believe that bodybuilding is what helped me work through my issues and eventually overcome what happened to me. I’ve found such great support within this community.
BPI: How do you plan to help others dealing with situations similar to yours?
BZ: I was always the guy on the baseball team offering advice to my teammates or helping them through a tough patch. To this day, I still have guys reach out to me. I enjoy using my experience to help talk people through the things they’re struggling with. I’m currently getting my Masters in Psychology, so hopefully one day I can help people on a professional level.
BPI: What goal are you working towards now?
BZ: I really look up to Logan Franklin and Andrei Dieu. I try to model my physique after theirs and look as shredded as they look. I don’t believe I have the bone structure to be a competitive bodybuilder, but I know my ability to adapt is out of the ordinary and I want to make my BPI family proud. In the next five months, I’m hoping to qualify nationally.
BPI: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
BZ: The world is yours. Anything can happen for anybody!