See Also: Freshman All-America Teams
ALBUQUERQUE—The precocious nature of Alex Bregman’s passion displayed itself well before he reached the Louisiana State campus.
As a slight, high school freshman, Bregman drilled a ball well out of Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park—the Triple-A home of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top farm team—during the 2009 high school state championship game. It was a thunderclap of a statement from Bregman that while young, he could play with the big boys.
So when it came time for Tigers head coach Paul Mainieri to fill out the first lineup card this spring, it was no surprise to Bregman that his name was written as the starting shortstop and batting third for the veteran-laden Tigers.
“I had confidence that I could do it,” Bregman explained. “I set my goals high but I’m not satisfied with my year. I can’t wait to prove that I can do more.”
Mainieri also had confidence the youngster could do it, even if he was coming off a finger injury that robbed him of much of his high school senior season.
“Probably from the day we first started recruiting him, we knew he could do it,” Mainieri said. “He was a special player.”
So after a season in which Bregman hit .369 while leading the Tigers in hits (104, second in the country), triples (seven), doubles (18) and steals (16 of 17) while adding six homers and 52 RBIs, it was no surprise that Bregman earned Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year award.
“If he isn’t Freshman of the Year, then they ought to quit giving out the award,” Mainieri said.
This season, however, is just one to build on, Bregman said.
“I feel I could have hit the ball a lot better,” he said. “I know I could have played better. I just want to keep improving on every aspect of the game.”
Baseball roots run deep for Bregman. He’s the son of prominent Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman, who barely played during his freshman and only season of college baseball at New Mexico. And he’s the grandson of Stan Bregman, who served as general counsel for the Washington Senators in the late 1960s up until the team moved to Texas in 1971.
At an early age, Alex Bregman began to show the work ethic that would eventually lead him to Baton Rouge, preceded by whirlwind trips across the globe with USA Baseball.
“We had a brick wall in the backyard of a house where we used to live,” Sam Bregman said of a young Alex, who was about 8 to 10 years old. “He kept throwing the ball at the same spot at the wall until he made a hole in it and you could see right through. He viewed that as a great accomplishment.”
During his last couple of years in Albuquerque, “he spent more time at ABA (Albuquerque Baseball Academy) than at home,” Sam Bregman said of his son’s training center. “Whether it was taking a thousand swings a day or just hanging out with the other baseball guys down there, that was where he was most comfortable. That was his home.”
He worked non-stop on the game, said LSU alum Jason Columbus, who coached Bregman his final four years in Albuquerque.
“He’s always been a student of the game,” Columbus said. “He understands the concepts of the game better than any kid I’ve coached. You could tell him something about his swing and he would immediately apply it to his swing.”
And he continued to do the same in Baton Rouge, as his Tigers teammates very quickly learned that Bregman was not the prototypical freshman.
“At first we couldn’t wait to see what he did because he came in with so much of a reputation,” senior first baseman Mason Katz said. “But right away, he came in and all he did was work hard. He didn’t go out and tell everybody how good he was. He just went out there with a lot of confidence and worked harder than anybody else. He‘s probably the hardest working kid I’ve been around in my entire life.”
It’s that work ethic that separates him from other players, Katz said.
“That’s why he’s so good,” he said. “He’s never satisfied. He works tirelessly. He never takes a day off.”
That work ethic helps explain how Bregman made himself into a very good shortstop as a freshman, after spending his junior and senior seasons of high school as a catcher. A good case in point came shortly after the fall semester ended but before everybody headed home, Katz said.
It was about 10 p.m. and Bregman wanted to take some fielding practice. The only hitch, Katz said, was that the two players couldn’t get the lights turned on at the stadium. Still, Bregman insisted Katz blast some grounders toward short.
“He told me if he can field it in the dark, then he can field it with the lights on,” Katz said. “He didn’t miss any. Then he wanted me to hit him some pop ups. I did but I just prayed one didn’t come down and hit him on the head. None did. He caught them all.”
The story is just a bit overblown, Bregman admitted.
“The lights from the soccer field were on,” he said with a chuckle. “So it gave a little bit of light. It was fun.”
Sitting through the baseball draft last year proved difficult for both the Bregman family and Mainieri. Despite the commitment to LSU, both knew there was a chance Bregman could turn pro.
“I was only going to sign if I was drafted in the first round,” Bregman said. “I had some teams talk to me about the second round and I told them if I’m not drafted in the first round, I’m going to LSU.”
The first round came and went and no team drafted Bregman. He was eventually selected by Boston in the 29th round, 901st overall.
“I’m so happy I decided to go to LSU,” Bregman said. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”And Mainieri is overjoyed, as well.
“Everything worked out the way it was supposed to,” he said. “He stuck to his word and came to LSU.”
Still, despite the work ethic and air of confidence, no one really could have predicted the type of season Bregman would deliver.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Mainieri said. “When I first saw him, I said, ‘That’s what a 3-hole hitter is supposed to look like.’ I flirted with the idea of batting him leadoff but the guy is just too good.”
Bregman and LSU set a goal of reaching and winning the College World Series this season. The latter didn’t happen as the Tigers went 0-2, but Bregman aims for this season’s appearance to be but the first of three trips to Omaha that he makes before setting his sights on professional baseball.
And Mainieri just plans to enjoy it while it lasts.
“I’m already worrying about how I’m going to fill the hole he’s going to leave after being here three years,” the coach said.