‘You Can’t Script It’: Mike Brosseau Has His Signature Moment As Rays Eliminate Yankees

Image credit: Mike Brosseau (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire Via Getty)

SAN DIEGO—It was perfect.

Mike Brosseau, the nondrafted free agent from mid-major Oakland (Mich.) who signed for $1,000, hitting the tiebreaking home run off of Aroldis Chapman. Diego Castillo, the overlooked righthander who signed four years later than most international prospects, pitching two scoreless innings to nail down the win. Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, one-time top prospects acquired after they’d lost their shine, setting the tone on the mound and getting the offense started, respectively. Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks, two unheralded trade deadline acquisitions, blowing hitters away to hold down the middle innings.

The small-market Rays are renowned for working the margins to find any advantage they can, from pioneering the use of openers to extreme platooning in their lineup.

Their greatest advantage, though, is their ability to find players.

“We have a lot of guys who may have been overlooked in their careers,” Brosseau said. “When you put that combination of everybody having that little chip on their shoulder, everybody coming to the park wanting to play and wanting this team to advance and do their part to make sure that happens, it’s a dangerous combination.”

That dangerous combination propelled the Rays to a 2-1 win over the Yankees in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Friday night. The Rays advance to face the Astros in the ALCS beginning Sunday. The Yankees are going home.

Brosseau, fittingly, was at the center of it all. As a 5-foot-10, 202-pound mid-major shortstop who lacked big tools and didn’t project to stick at the position, all the traditional scouting tenets went against him. The 2016 draft came and went and 1,216 players were selected. Brosseau was not one of them.

Rays area scout James Bonnici submitted Brosseau as someone the organization should consider signing as an undrafted free agent if a need arose, and when the Rays needed an infielder to fill out the roster for their Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, they gave Brosseau a call.

Brosseau fought every step of the way. He learned new positions, went to Australia for winter ball to get additional at-bats and outworked his competition. He hit at every level and reached the majors in three years, well before the vast majority of players drafted instead of him.


Simply reaching the majors already made him a victorious underdog story that embodied the Rays. But he stuck on the roster, gradually assumed a larger role and on Friday delivered his signature moment, hitting the tiebreaking home run in the bottom of the eighth inning against Chapman to provide the winning margin.

Mike Brosseau is a perfect example of why we feel our organization is so special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Him at the top, but our scouting to recognize it, our player development (and) our guys pushing and saying ‘Get him up here. He’s going to make the most of it. He’s going to make the most of his opportunities.’ ”

Said Brosseau: “To have a team like the Rays give me a chance four years ago when nobody else did, that definitely makes it a little bit more special to help out the team like I did tonight.”

Brosseau’s history with Chapman made the moment even more satisfying.

On Sept. 1, Chapman buzzed a 101 mph fastball near Brosseau’s head. Brosseau made his displeasure known, the benches cleared and a simmering rivalry turned to a boil as Cash uttered his infamous “I’ve got a whole damn stable of guys that throw 98 mph” threat in the aftermath.

Chapman won the first rematch against Brosseau in Game 4, blowing a 100 mph fastball past him for a swinging strikeout to end the game.

But Brosseau was not intimidated. Not much could intimidate him after he fought the stigma of being undrafted and made his way to the majors in three years.


When it came time to face Chapman again in the eighth inning of Game 5 with the score tied 1-1, Brosseau battled back from an 0-2 count, kept fouling away pitches through a 10-pitch at bat and turned around a 100 mph fastball it into the left-field seats.

“You can’t script it man,” Meadows said. “For that to happen earlier in the year and then to face each other at the end, you really can’t script it….It kind of puts all of us at a loss for words. I saw some guys tearing up. It’s a very, very special moment. I know it’s one he’ll remember for the rest of his life. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Added Fairbanks: “I don’t think anybody that’s ever followed the game of baseball could be happier with how that one ended for us. Especially with Brosseau getting a little revenge after he almost got decapitated.

“The baseball gods answered that one. The game took care of itself on the field like it’s supposed to.”

The Rays other scouting coups set the stage for Brosseau’s heroics. Glasnow, Anderson, Fairbanks and Castillo combined to strike out 18 Yankees in Game 2 to set a postseason record for a nine-inning game. With their season on the line, the Rays turned to the same power-armed quartet. Glasnow, Anderson, Fairbanks and Castillo answered the bell, combining to hold the Yankees to three hits and one run, a solo homer by Aaron Judge in the third inning.

And Meadows, acquired with Glasnow in the trade for Chris Archer, ended Gerrit Cole’s no-hitter and erased the Yankees lead with a solo home run in the fifth inning.

It was fitting the two least likely standouts of all finished it off. Brosseau, the undrafted free agent, hitting the go-ahead homer; and Castillo, who signed for $64,000 as a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, shutting down the Yankees in order in the ninth to secure the win.

The Rays have certainly done different things strategically to become an American League power. But at the heart of it all is the players they’ve acquired, and nowhere was that on display more than in the ALDS.

“I think what makes us good is the mentality,” Glasnow said.” I think so many of the players here are not necessarily guys that other organizations have given up on, that’s not the right word for it, but they’ve been given a chance and everyone just comes out and plays their heart out.”

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