Darren Zack (nicknamed Z-Man), pitcher in fastpitch softball (born 9 August 1960 in Garden River First Nation, ON). Compared in his skill to Babe Ruth, Zack dominated fastpitch softball in the 1990s. In addition to many other athletic accomplishments, Zack helped Team Canada win the Pan American Games fastpitch medal in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Though a fearsome competitor, Zack is known for his modest and humble demeanor off the field. He is actively involved in his Garden River First Nation community and in encouraging youth involvement in sports. (See also Baseball.)
Darren Zack playing for the Toronto Gators.
Darren Zack grew up in Garden River First Nation in Ontario. (See also Indigenous Peoples in Canada and First Nations.) Born to Edith (nee Pine) and John Zack, he was raised to be proud of his Ojibwe heritage and ancestors. According to those close to Zack, his upbringing instilled in him calmness and generosity that contributed to his success and demeanor both on and off the field.
Zack played a variety of sports growing up in Garden River First Nation. He played hockey with the Soo Thunderbirds (Junior A) and three games with the Soo Greyhounds (OHL). He went on to play baseball. Zack’s love of baseball is rooted in his family’s connection to the game (his father John and uncles Merlin Zack and Bobby Lesage also played) as well as its popularity on the Garden River community.
Zack began his fastpitch career playing for the Garden River Braves in 1974 as a baseman. In 1983 he was the regular pitcher for the Braves. During this time, Zack practised with and played alongside his father and uncles. He also learned from pitchers in the Sault Ste. Marie area such as Duke Madahbee, Donnie Newman, Ray Lato Jr. and Jake DeRosario.
While playing with the Garden River Braves, Darren Zack’s pitching and hitting led the team to victory in 1983. He was recruited to pitch for the Boston Belmont Merchants in 1983. Since then, Zack has played for teams across Canada (Vancouver Magicians and Toronto Gators) and the United States (Wellesley Trucking, Ashland ESS and Decatur Pride) as well as two seasons in New Zealand.
Playing for the Canadian National team from 1991 to 2004, Zack helped them win the Pan American Games fastpitch medal on three consecutive occasions in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Competing in various athletic events held by the International Softball Federation, Zack and Team Canada earned a gold medal in 1992 and silver medals in 1996 and 2004.
Zack also played for the winning team at the International Softball Congress (ISC) Championship in 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2000. Zack holds the record for most wins (10) at the ISC while playing with the Toronto Gators in 1995. In that year, he set the ISC record for the most consecutive innings without allowing a run — 69 2/3 innings — in 10 games. Zack was named the ISC Outstanding Pitcher in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 2000.
Zack won the Championships in the All Ontario Native Fastball Championships while playing with the Ohsweken Braves. While playing with the BC Arrows, he won the National Indian Athletic Association Championships from 1984 to 1990. He also won the ISC Legends 50+ division while playing in 2010 and 2018.
Zack continues to play fastpitch; he spent the 2019 season with the Sudbury Relics.
In addition to his championship successes, Darren Zack was named an All-World Player as a pitcher by the ISC in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2004. He was named Most Valuable Pitcher at Ontario Masters Championships in 2013 and at the ISC Legends World Championship in 2010 and 2012. Zack was also the Most Valuable Pitcher in the Ontario Masters Fastball league in 2010 and 2012.
Zack has been inducted into five softball or sports halls of fame – Sault Ste. Marie Sports Hall of Fame (2002), Softball Canada Hall of Fame (2009), International Softball Federation Hall of Fame (2010), International Softball Congress Hall of Fame (2010) and Ontario Masters Fastball Hall of Fame (2014).
In 1997, Zack received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (now Indspire) in the sports category, and in 2000, the Tom Longboat Award. (See also Tom Longboat.) He was honoured by Sault Ste. Marie in 2007 when he was added to the city’s Walk of Fame. Zack was one of the Indigenous athletes honoured in the bio-documentary series called Chiefs and Champions in 2007.
In addition to his team play, Darren Zack regularly works with youth, teaching them the skills of the game and encouraging them to reach for their dreams. To this end, Zack holds talks as well as pitching, fielding and hitting clinics.
His commitment to community led Zack in 2003 to run for the Garden River Band Council. (See also Band: Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) Though he was not elected, Zack remains an active member of his community and he continues to reside in Garden River First Nation. (See also First Nations.)