CARY, N.C.—Nick Brueser’s contributions to Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) on the field are obvious, but it’s what he does behind the scenes that sets him apart. On the field, he’s a run-producer, playmaker, and picking machine at first base—named a Gatorade player of the year in Arizona and winning last year’s MLB High School Select Home Run Derby during All-Star weekend—not to mention a vocal and nonverbal influence to his teammates. His leadership extends beyond the field to the clubhouse and the classroom, rounding out his status as an exemplary student-athlete.
“He brings a blue-collar work ethic,” Hamilton coach Mike Woods said. “He’s a great worker. Sometimes kids who get all those accolades when they’re young don’t have the fire, or sometimes they’re not going to lead by example, or they just worry about themselves. “But Nick is a true leader, and he understands that his actions and what he says permeate the team. He comes out every day and works, does his job, helps others get better, and that’s what we’re most proud of.” Added Brueser: “I help the team out in that way and I help other people that way. I feel like it helps to make the team better. I feel like guys look up to me, not just because I’m a good player, but because I’m a good person, and I try to model that for the team and hopefully guys follow.”
One of the young Huskies following the senior infielder’s example—while also looking to carve out his own path—is his younger brother, Michael, a corner infielder and outfielder in the 2020 draft class, and one of the youngest players at the National High School Invitational tournament. “Nick’s a big help to Michael,” Woods said. “He really takes care of him. He’s showing him the way. Michael is only about the fourth freshman in 20 years who has ever played varsity at our school. Nick was one, and then we had two others, but at our school it’s very hard. And having Nick there, we thought would help. Mike is starting to believe he belongs, and he does belong, so a lot of that has to do with Nick.”
As helpful as it has been for Michael to have Nick, the older Brueser knows he is fortunate to have a built-in throwing partner, someone to flip him balls, and just someone who shares the same passion for the game. “He’s got it figured out pretty much on his own. I will point things out to him if I see something, or I just try to help him and be a good big brother when I can . . . We always talk about baseball, a lot actually. We eat, breathe and sleep baseball. I mean, I love baseball and he loves baseball, so it’s good to have a brother who I can always go hitting with or play catch with. It’s great.” All that time on the field has helped the elder Brueser to the achievements he’s already racked up. Though he was hitless in Hamilton’s first game at the NHSI on Wednesday, his .442 average and nine home runs last year, combined with the ability he has shown with the bat are indicative of the best being yet to come. “He can really swing it,” Woods said. “But he’s also an excellent defensive player. Playing first base is not the marquee position as far as draft status and so on, but he can really pick it and play defense. He’s just a pure hitter.” With a strong commitment to Stanford, Brueser is excited about moving forward and has already been thinking about fast-tracking his education, so that he can be done in just over three years, as he explained is the norm for Cardinal baseball players.
“Stanford is the perfect combination of academics and athletics,” he said. “Also, it’s in Palo Alto, Calif., and I can’t really think of a better place than that. When I (visited), I loved the guys, I loved the coaches, the classroom was awesome. (It’s) right up my alley. As far as a major, I’m going to do either science management and engineering, or science technology and society.”
Woods believes that Brueser’s affinity for academics translates from the books to the field, though sometimes his level of intelligence can be the author of his own demise. “He’s a very good, very smart baseball player,” Woods said. “He’s very analytical, which sometimes can be a detriment in baseball. That might be one of the weaknesses to being so smart, because sometimes he overthinks things. But he’s a bright kid and he’s got his feet on the ground, so he’s got a great future.” Brueser knows that his thought process and strong academic background can both assist him and hurt him at times, but it’s certainly done more of the former. “It definitely helps, but baseball and school are obviously different,” the first baseman said. “But having that as my base, being smart obviously helps a little bit on the field, but they are two different kinds of IQs. You have to be quick on the field, but in school you have a little time to think it through . . . I try not to (overthink) but sometimes I will. I know it’s the wrong thing to do. You can’t overanalyze all the time, you’ve got to just see it and do it.” Excited for what the summer may bring, and clearly inclined to opt to fulfill his commitment, Brueser is looking forward to the draft and not ruling out a potential start as a professional. “I really want to go to college, but if there’s a good enough offer out there, I feel like I’ll take it,” Brueser said. “But I’m really looking forward to going to Stanford, so it would have to be a really good offer.” Before June approaches, Brueser and the Huskies have a season to finish, and one game remaining at the NSHI tournament in Cary. Though their first game was a disheartening shutout loss, and Brueser has just two hits in their two wins, Hamilton’s star hitter is excited about how the event will help his team as it moves forward. “This is a great opportunity to play great teams from around the country,” Brueser said. “Today was a disappointing loss, but I feel like after the end of this week, we’ll be a better baseball team from seeing good competition.”