As a rapidly rising prospect at Hamden Hall Country Day School, Joshua Zeid barely understood the concept of failure.
How could he? With a blazing fastball, few opponents could so much as make contact, let alone hit it fair, and the right-hander dazzled scouts with a HHCDS record 400 strikeout victims.
Seven years after leading the Hornets to a second straight New England Championship and being listed as Baseball America's 27th best prospect, the 24-year-old laughs at his teenage naivete as a farmhand with Reading Phillies.
"When you throw in the mid 90s in high school, you'll be successful," said Zeid, in his season at Double-A. "That was part of the problem. I never learned how to throw a change up or a slider. I just threw the ball as hard as I could, because that gets you the opportunity to play in college or professionally. Then, it's all about adjusting."
The adjusting part took longer than expected, and he was sent from Vanderbilt to Tulane after two poor seasons with the Commodores.
He also struggled in his first season with the Green Wave, compiling a 5.63 ERA in 13 appearances before some soul-searching turned his season career around.
Zeid said he almost didn't want to return after failing to live up to expectations for a third straight year, and began focusing on non-athletic pursuits, like going to law school or writing spy and murder mystery novels.
Suddenly, he stopped worrying.
"That's when baseball became easier," he said. "I didn't put as much stress on everything I did, and failing didn't matter as much. When you're a star in high school, everyone tells you it's going to be easy, and you listen when you're 18 years old. It takes a lot of humbling to fight through that."
Relaxed, Zeid improved enough in his senior year -- a 4.01 ERA in 76 1/3 innings -- and the Phillies drafted him in the 10th round of the 2009 amateur draft.
He thrived at short-season Williamsport, posting a 2.94 ERA in 15 starts and blossomed further at Low-A Lakewood in 2010, fanning 111 batters in 107 1/3 innings as a starter and reliever.
After the season, Zeid went to the top-prospect laden Arizona Fall League. His performance there and a good spring training prompted the Phillies to move him past High-A Clearwater to Reading.
He struggled initially, posting a 6.80 ERA in 11 starts, but has thrown well out of the bullpen, with a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, with 23 strikeouts.
"He's back where he should be in the bullpen," said Reading manager Mark Parent, a former big-league catcher. "It's more suited for him, where he can come in and rip it a little bit and get out. He's got a good arm for one or two innings. If you give him small things to focus on, he's pretty good.
"I agree with that," Zeid said with a laugh. "I know I can start, but if they want me to come in and throw hard for an inning or two, I can do that too. I have fun doing that. It's a fun challenge."
The other fun challenge for Zeid is writing. An English major in school, Zeid blogged about his experiences in the AFL and wants to pen stories about growing up a Jewish baseball player in Connecticut.
Eventually, he'll finish his fiction murder mystery novel, too.
"It's pretty generic right now," he said. "I've got locations I've been scouting. I've never been to Europe, but it's fun to learn about some places and make stuff up. There may not be a zoo in downtown Berlin, but you can write whatever you want. I like writing, and we'll see where it goes."
For now, he's fine with seeing where pitching takes him.