Photo Credit: Sam Hodde
I once interviewed former San Antonio Missions’ (San Diego Padres Double-A affiliate) shortstopTrea Turner. I knew his days in Double-A were numbered. Of course his days as a Padre were concretely numbered because of a (one-year-old) baseball rule that states a drafted player can’t be officially traded until a year after he was selected. So, he played a year of baseball in various Padres-related uniforms when his checks were being cut by the Washington Nationals.
Anyway, I was right about the non-conclusive variable. He was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse 13 days later.
I knew when I scheduled my interview with Houston Astros’ top prospect Alex Bregman that his call-up was also pending. I didn’t know however, that it was less than 48 hours and only 9 more innings away.
Bregman talked a lot about pressure, but not because he’s feeling it. Rather, because he loves it. He embraces it like the superstar athlete he’s destined to become. The second overall pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft shines brighter the more eyes focus on him. Great athletes tend to do that.
“Pressure is a privilege,” Bregman tells me. His bat, glove and winning attitude are a privilege the Houston Astros are hoping to appreciate for a long, long time.
Photo Credit: Sam Hodde
How have you made the quick jump from college to A-ball to Double-A so well?
“Just a lot of preparation in the off-season, a lot of hard work in the weight room and in the cage. Taking ground balls at third and short. I felt very confident coming into this year, just going out there and do what I do and I’ve been having fun.”
“I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play third, second, short, the outfield…I’ll play anywhere to help the team win and that’s the biggest thing. I think I proved since I’ve been in Double-A that I’m a winner, I think I proved in High-A (Lancaster) that I was a winner, at LSU that I was a winner. I think the Astros really want somebody who’s going to come and help the team win. I feel ready to do that, I feel ready to contribute and help the team win a World Series.”
On being a top prospect in the Houston Astros system and all of baseball…
“To be honest I don’t really even like being called a prospect. I want to be there, I want to be playing in the big leagues and not be a prospect anymore. I think there is some pressure being taken that high but I love it. I was taught at a young age that pressure is a privilege, you got to want to have the pressure on you and the best players come out when the pressure is on.
“I feel like this season has shown that during those pressure moments…those are what I strive for, those are what I live for. I’ve been able to come through. I think that’s just a product of hard work in the off-season and confidence in the hard work that I’ve put in.”
How did playing on such great college teams at LSU in such big games prepare you for pro baseball?
“LSU is a great program. You got to play in front of a lot of great fans. You got to play in front of, shoot, 12,000 people every game. When you do that there’s some pressure on you but you got to come through in the pressure moments. I think that was the biggest thing, just playing on the big stage.
“Professional baseball at this level is completely different. Everyone is here in Double-A for a reason. They have a shot to play in the big leagues. It’s good to see pitchers trust their stuff, throwing their fastball competing with it. College is really a breaking ball game. They go and throw breaking balls to everybody, they don’t really throw fastballs but in professional baseball you got to be ready to hit the fastball because people are gonna come at you, especially at this level.”
On his RAKECITY apparel line…
“We started saying “Rake City” in Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was probably a Junior in High School. It was me and (Red Sox catcher) Blake Swihart. We started saying it and then it caught on a little bit more at LSU. Once I was drafted we trademarked it and started making some ‘Rake City’ shirts and stuff and started running some Rake City camps during the off-season.
We just partnered with V Tool Showcases which is gonna be huge. It’s gonna be fun and it’s going to be a cool experience this off-season.”
Photo Credit: Sam Hodde
On being around and coaching his younger brother’s youth baseball team…
“I’ve always around that team, I’ve been coaching that team since back in Albuquerque before I went to college. My little brother pitches for that team, my godson is on that team along with his dad who is my hitting guy back home in Albuquerque. He comes in and checks out my swing, stuff like that. It’s a blast going out there with those guys and I had a bunch of fun.”
On being a professional Jewish athlete…
“It’s definitely meaningful. Like you said there’s not a lot of Jewish athletes who have played professional sports. It’s a cool, elite group and it’s an honor to be one of them. I actually just got called about playing in the World Baseball Classic so it will be very cool.”
After our interview, Bregman takes a quick opportunity to playfully say hello to the umpires who are exiting Dr. Pepper Ballpark, home of the Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers Double-A affiliate). The smiles returned may or may not have been fake, I don’t know and don’t care and it matters not. This is who Alex Bregman is.
It’s only three months since he turned 22-years old; he’s playing baseball for a living and he loves it. Immediately I hear the friendly cheers and playful jabs only teammates could get away with it as he enters the locker room. He eats it up and they love him for it. That’s who Alex Bregman is.