SPOKANE, Wash. –
Ahead of their four-game series at Washington State this weekend, the Cal State Northridge baseball team met with prominent alumnus Irv Zakheim and toured the home of his international business, Zak Designs, in Spokane, Wash., on Thursday, Feb. 28. Zakheim, a member of the 1970 NCAA Division II National Championship baseball team at CSUN (then San Fernando Valley State College), met with the team and offered his insight into baseball, business and personal development.
"We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to visit one of our University's distinguished alumni while we are here in the northwest," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "Irv was able to talk to our guys about how his experiences in college athletics shaped his business career and helped him be successful."
Zakheim spent the time with the Matadors touching on various parts of his life and how the current team can relate to his experiences. A main topic of the day was connecting the ability and opportunity to play baseball and what it will mean to each individual later in life.
"The best part of playing on a baseball team is learning teamwork and good work habits," said Zakheim. "You learn the ups and downs on almost a daily basis in baseball. You could hit a home run in one at-bat and strike out the next. Baseball teaches you how to deal with stuff and balance your emotions so you are more consistent in your life."
After playing baseball at Valley State, Zakheim realized his dream of playing professionally when he joined the Chicago White Sox for two seasons. Following his baseball career, he founded Zak Designs in the 1980s and has grown the company into the global leader in children's dinnerware.
Due to his business success and vision for Zak Designs, Zakheim was named the Washington State Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Association in 2006.
Zakheim's achievements extend well past the business world, most notably with the Zak!Charity Open, a golf tournament that has raised nearly $2 million since its inception for local children's charities.
His heart stays close to the game of baseball as well and Zakheim also owns the Spokane RiverHawks, a non-profit team that uses its proceeds to help improve baseball in the Inland Northwest.
"Even though it has been over 40 years since winning our national championship, it brought back all of those fresh faces," said Zakheim about meeting with the team. "As you are moving on through life you get to see those going through the same things you went through."
"Our guys really benefited from the opportunity to meet one of our program's true success stories," added Curtis.