Santiago High head coach Ty De Trinidad figured Brice Turang could make his Corona, Calif., program's varsity team as an eighth grader.
That's how polished the Southern California shortstop was at a young age. In fact, De Trinidad started getting scouting reports on Turang when he was in the fourth or fifth grade. Granted, those scouting reports were from De Trinidad's own son, and they consisted of, "Dad, you gotta make sure you look at Brice--he's pretty good."
Regardless, Turang was on the radar.
It seems only natural for the son of a big leaguer--Brian Turang, an outfielder who played for the Mariners in 1993 and 1994--to stand out at such a young age. But a lot of the credit should go to Brice's four older sisters: Brianna, Carissa, Cabria, and Bailee. They range in age from 19 to 25. Brice turns 18 in November.
"When he was growing up, I was coaching travel softball," Brian said. "So whenever we would go out to practice on the field, he would always go out and practice with them. My daughters played at a competitive level, so he was joining a group of girls who knew the game. Strategically, physically, they knew how to play.
"When we'd go to practice, he would beg me, 'Hey dad, you're scrimmaging today. Can I play?' And I'm like, 'Brice you're only 8 years old. These girls are 14.' He goes, 'I don't care. I want to play.' And he would get in there and play. It was crazy."
Each of his sisters went on to play college athletics, and each of them helped kickstart Brice's path to becoming one of the top players in the 2018 draft class. Brianna is the quick-twitch speedster of the family who won a national championship in softball at Oklahoma, in addition to playing four years of soccer. Carissa played at Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma City University. Cabria stuck to soccer, playing four years at Utah, while Bailee is the athletic "freak" of the bunch as a 5-foot-8 outside hitter on the Southern Nazarene (Okla.) volleyball team.
In a sense, Brice has adopted something from each of his sisters. He has Brianna's speed, in the form of above-average run times out of the lefthanded batter's box and range at shortstop. His defensive actions have a grace similar to Carissa. His footwork around the second-base bag is sound, as Cabria's must be on the soccer pitch. And like Bailee, Brice is also a "freak" in his own way. He struck out only once as a junior in California's Division I Southern Section--one of the most competitive high school leagues in the nation.
That's not the full story of the Turang family, though.
"A lot of people don't know about my mom," Brice said. "My mom played in the World Series of softball (for Long Beach State). People just think, 'Oh my dad's the athlete.' You're totally wrong."
Brian credits the athletic talents of his children to his wife Carrie.
"When I retired, we played a little bit of slow-pitch softball," Brian said. "And it was so funny, man. She would play the outfield because she was a center fielder. And guys--you know guys--they're going, 'Oh, a girl's got the ball. We're going to run.'
"She would hose people. It was so funny. It was great."
Growing up with a family full of athletes who played on the biggest stages, won national championships, played multiple sports at the Division I level, that puts pressure on Brice, who is committed to Louisiana State.
More than anything though, the athletic background of the Turangs has naturally created a highly competitive family dynamic.
"It's crazy, this family," Brian said. "And shoot, I'm very competitive, but (this family is) ridiculously competitive. They hate losing more than they like winning. It's unbelievable."
Take, for example, a family cruise last year. Brian and Brianna's husband Tress Way, a punter for the NFL's Washington Redskins, started playing cornhole on the ship. Eventually, Brice and Brianna joined them. A few games turns into a few hours, and four players turned into every other person on the ship.
"We wound up challenging the whole boat," Brian said. "My wife was just staring at us like, 'OK, you've been playing cornhole for the last three and a half hours. We're on family vacation here.'
"But me and Tress are running the boat."
If the next family vacation unraveled into a bowling tournament, however, Brice would be the favorite to win.
"When I'm not playing baseball, I bowl," Brice said. "I'm like a 190, but I average about a 150. I love bowling."
When Brice bowls, he tries to figure out how to hit his mark. He looks at the oil patterns on the floor and tries to figure out when the ball is going to break. Should he move a little to the left? A little to the right? His bowling approach is much more analytical than his approach at the plate, which is almost the exact opposite. He just steps in the box and hits.
When Brice steps into the batter's box, he doesn't think about much. He doesn't guess which pitch is coming next or think about what happened in his last at-bat.
"I'm going to crush this pitch right back up the middle, that's what I'm thinking," he said.
That approach was essentially handed down from his father, who runs a baseball and softball training facility in Covina, Calif., called Turnin 2. The facility is focused on handing down instruction from trainers who have experience playing at the highest level and providing a positive atmosphere that attempts to help athletes reach their goals in the sport. Brice hits balls every day at the facility. Maybe just a small bucket for a few minutes if he's feeling good. When he's struggling, he'll ask his father to throw a few more.
For Brian, this is a way for him to provide the next generation with something he didn't have. Brian grew up in a household where sports were on the periphery. No games were ever on TV, and after driving home from youth baseball games in which Brian performed poorly, his parents would compliment his efforts without knowing any better.
"I didn't really come from an athletic background where sports was everything," Brian said. "I'm a self-taught baseball player. We didn't have instruction and stuff back then. I basically just went through the school of hard knocks. If this didn't work, then I tried something different.
"We didn't talk about mechanics . . . I never had to worry about that. All I had to worry about was, 'How can I hit the ball hard consistently?' I didn't know anything else."
So that's what he teaches at Turnin 2, and that's what he has taught Brice. Brian thinks about it in the same way that he thinks about learning how to walk. Once you figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and avoid tripping and falling over, not a lot of thought is needed. It's natural. Simple. Basic. Easy.
"After you're walking, you're fine," Brian said. "How long have you been swinging a bat? Almost as long as you've been walking. So why are we working on these simple, easy mechanics (if) it's not working?"
Players begin to realize that hitting mechanics aren't as important as results.
"At the end of the day, if I'm not barreling up the ball, I don't care how good my mechanics are," Brian said.
That simple approach has served Brice well. Scouts have already started comparing him with Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson while raving about his poise in the batter's box.
"He's a really advanced guy," said a scout with an American League club. "He looks the part. He has that kind of body. He's got the look to him . . . Just always stays cool and controlled."
It's easy to stay calm when you've grown up on the baseball (and softball) field, regularly playing with older, more advanced players. Brice learned from his four sisters and his mom. Last summer he learned from Nick Allen--the top defensive shortstop among high school players in the 2017 draft class--and No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene. They all played on the same Area Code Games team. He's learned from his father Brian, who has passed down everything he figured out on his own journey to the big leagues.
But in the end, Brice will separate himself from his family and from other top Southern California prospects. He'll make a name for himself--if he hasn't already.
"You're Brice Turang," Brian remembers saying to his son, who is bigger, faster and more advanced than he was at age 17. "You don't hit like your dad, or your mom, or your sisters. You hit like Brice . . .
"If you put your mind to it, and you truly, truly went after it this year, you could be a year and a half to two years away from the big leagues. You could be in the big leagues at 20."
Along these lines, Brian always encourages Brice to set his goals high. Don't just make the varsity team as a freshman--be the best player on the varsity team as a freshman. Don't just dream about being drafted. Think bigger than that.
"My goal is to be the No. 1 pick of the draft," Brice said.
If he accomplishes that goal, he will join Royce Lewis and Mickey Moniak as the third successive SoCal prep to go No. 1 overall.