WAPPINGERS FALLS — Zack Trageton pulls the trigger. His shot lands on-target and the right-handed pitcher of the Hudson Valley Renegades can’t help but compliment himself. “That was a nice sinker,” he says.

The five-dollar Nerf gun from Wal-Mart that Trageton is wielding on Wednesday afternoon before practice may not be the best tool to simulate a real-life sinker. But Trageton, the Renegades’ scheduled opening-day starter, likes to be in control when he’s toeing the rubber, and as he points his toy toward the mob of teammates around him, threatening them with styrofoam violence, he's seized control of the moment.

The word “fun” comes up repeatedly in the conversation with Trageton during media day. A four-year professional baseball player who was drafted by the Rays in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB draft, Trageton doesn’t take himself too seriously, even if he has serious plans to improve on every aspect of his game as he begins his second season with the Class A short-season affiliate.

Trageton was eating a sandwich in Las Vegas when his agent called him and said he’d have two minutes to make a life-altering decision. He’d left the house because he was too nervous to watch the draft with his family, but now the Rays were requesting his services. Trageton sped home and within seconds of arriving, saw his name flash on the television screen.

His father, Mitch, had said to him, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really, so if it’s right and if it’s there, take it.” His mother, Joni, wanted her son to continue his education, and he had already committed to play at the University of Utah. But even she screamed and cried tears of joy when she found out Trageton would be a professional baseball player.

The possibility of leap-frogging college became real in the first game of Trageton’s senior season at Faith Lutheran, a small Christian school in Las Vegas. His junior year, he was touching 90 miles per hour, but in the following season’s opener, he surprised even himself with a 95 mile-an-hour fastball.

“The speed came out of nowhere,” Trageton said.

Trageton began his career in the Rays’ Gulf Coast League team before playing for the Princeton Rays in West Virginia for one full season and part of another. He was called up to the Renegades last year, where he went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings pitched.

“We’re going to lean on (Trageton) pretty heavily to lead and perform well for us,” said Renegades manager Blake Butera, “and he had some really good stuff and we expect that to show this year.”

While college coaches aim to prepare their athletes to play professionally after the season, Butera isn’t shy about saying he wants his players to move up during the season. Although that’s the obvious goal of each player on the roster, Trageton prefaces this goal with, “It sounds bad,” as if the topic is taboo.

What doesn’t sound bad to Trageton is the two words scouts use to describe him: strike-thrower. He prides himself on his first-ball strikes and craves the 0-2 count, where he’s in full control of what pitch comes out his hand next.

As a veteran on a roster of almost entirely new players, Trageton’s role as a team leader is magnified. Nathan Wiles, a University of Oklahoma graduate taken in the eighth round of this year’s draft, joined the team on Wednesday and said Trageton’s presence stood out to him immediately.

“He had an energy that I hadn’t seen in anyone else,” Wiles said.

Trageton possessed the perfect tool to harness that energy on Wednesday, spraying Nerf gun bullets throughout the infield, not thinking too much about the curveball that life can throw at him so much as the next curveball he’s going to throw on the mound.

“If you stress about the little things,” Trageton said, “then the bigger things aren’t going to work out.”

jfedich@th-record.com

Twitter: @jfedichTHR