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Eric Peterson, Published June 24 2012

Rare pairing: RedHawks duo an infield staple for team


Carlo Cota knows that Zach Penprase is a connoisseur of snacks and fanny packs. Penprase knows the sleeping trick that Cota tries to pull when the two room together on road trips.

Those are a few examples of the many quirks the two have learned about each other.

Cota, a second baseman, and Penprase, a shortstop, are a rarity in independent baseball. The two are in their fifth season of being the double-play pairing for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

That’s not normal in the usually transient existence of an independent player. Five-year partnerships rarely happen.

“Nobody thinks that,” Penprase said. “You don’t think that anywhere you go really.”

Cota and Penprase – both from California – didn’t know each other before joining the RedHawks for the 2008 season when the team was still in the Northern League.

Cota’s first impression of Penprase was his infield mate was a “different cat.” Cota backed up that observation by pointing out Penprase was the only player on the team with red shoes and “high water” baseball pants.

“Then you get to know him, and that’s right up his alley,” Cota said. “It doesn’t matter what he’s wearing. He likes to wear what he likes to wear.”

Penprase likes to wear a fanny pack. He started wearing that accessory in 2007 after his release from the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Penprase said he doesn’t like having stuff in his pockets. He can store all the essentials in one of the 10 fanny packs he now owns.

Penprase admits he gets weird stares when people first see him wearing his fanny pack. People who know Penprase have come to expect him wearing the hip sack where he stores items like his phone, wallet, chapstick, gum and a lucky coin.

He has worn the fanny pack with a suit before at a convention.

“Now I get made fun of if I don’t wear it,” Penprase said with a laugh. “I’m the only guy that gets made fun of for not wearing a fanny pack. I wear it all the time, except for on the baseball field.”

Cota said Penprase gets the eternal best teammate award because Penprase always seems to have the right item to fill most basic needs.

“I you want gum. He has gum,” Cota said. “If you want a toothpick, he has a toothpick. If you want a penny or seven cents, he literally has seven cents. If you want 37 cents, he will have 37 cents. … And he always gets the best snacks.”

Penprase usually brings a grocery bag of snacks and a small cooler on the road. He shares his bounty with teammates like Cota.

Cota estimates he’s been introduced to more than 50 different snacks in his seasons playing with Penprase.

Australian licorice and nacho cheese Bugles are two of Cota’s favorites.

“He also has some healthy snacks out there, too,” Cota said. “He’ll break out some almonds and I’ll have all those things, too. So he’s got a good array of stuff.”

The two have roomed together for almost their entire time with the team.

If Cota gets to the hotel room first, he likes to pretend he’s sleeping or taking a nap when Penprase comes through the door. In theory, that should force Penprase to be quiet not to wake his roommate. However, that ruse doesn’t work on Penprase anymore.

“He got me the first few times and he still just does it to this day,” Penprase said laughing.

The know each other just as well on the field. They are a rock-solid, double-play combination and each has the ability to make the spectacular individual play on defense.

“I can’t remember the last double play they weren’t in on, so they are good,” said RedHawks manager Doug Simunic. “They’re very good. They know each other’s little nuances and tendencies. It goes a long way in the game.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com