Jaycob Brugman is switching from rightfield to centerfield for his junior season. (Photo by Mark A Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Jaycob Brugman is excited for the 2013 BYU baseball season to begin with changes around the program.
For the 6-foot, 195-pound junior outfielder from Arizona, a chance to work harder, play a new position and have a new coaching staff bring added excitement to the season.
“We are excited about this next year,” Brugman said. “We have a new coaching staff and a new team and we are excited to work hard than we ever have in the past.”
New head coach Mike Littlewood is confident Brugman will be an important part of the team’s success this year.
“He is a true five-tool player,” Littlewood said. “He will play a vital role in the three hole and will have a lot of opportunities to lead the team.”
The new year also means that there are new positions for members of the team to fill. With the departure of former centerfielder Stephen Wells to graduation, Brugman hopes to return to the position that he grew up playing his whole life.
“I would love to play centerfield, that’s my position I’ve played my whole life,” Brugman said. “But it really doesn’t matter; right, left or center, I’ll play where the team needs me to be.”
The junior hopes to rebound from an injury that sidelined him at the very end of the season last year. He suffered what is called “turf toe” when one stretches the ligaments too far in the big toe on their foot.
“It is a long, long road to recovery,” Brugman said. “It seemed like it would never go away and always bug me.”
The injury also kept him from competing last summer in the Cape Cod League in New England. The Cape Cod League is for college baseball players to play in during the summer and if they perform well, it usually helps them to get noticed by Major League clubs.
There is something to be said about someone who enjoys and consistently plays a sport where more than half the time you fail. For Brugman, playing baseball has made him develop the mentality of not accepting failure.
He has used that mentality to help him get through last season’s injury.
“I was really excited to go and play there this summer,” Brugman said. “But I have worked hard to recover and am excited to play this year. With everything going on, we are excited for the new year.”
Playing in the Major Leagues has always been a dream for Brugman. His dad and older brother were athletic and they started him young playing sports.
He developed a love for the game at an early age. He started swinging things and throwing things around the house when he was a baby.
“My dad played college basketball and my brother played college baseball,” Brugman said. “I grew up playing sports and naturally began to like playing baseball.”
That love of baseball has driven him to want to play college ball as well to go to Omaha to compete in the College World Series. He knew he would have to work hard to get there and was willing to do so.
“My freshman year in high school, I played on the varsity team,” Brugman said. “It was then that I knew I had a shot to play college ball and worked really hard to make that dream come true.”
He originally wanted to play for a Pac-10 school because of how good they are at baseball and because Arizona State and the University of Arizona are in his home state. But coming on a visit to BYU changed his mind.
“After my visit here, I really liked it,” Brugman said. “I knew that this is where I was supposed to come for school.”
He is even more grateful he made that choice because he met his wife here. He met his wife, Alexis, through a former teammate and got married this past August.
Her support will give him a different kind of assist compared to assists he recorded in his previous two seasons.
The outfielders at BYU are known to have strong arms, being among the leaders in the country in assists. An assist in baseball is similar to an assist in basketball.
In basketball, an assist is awarded when one player passes the ball to a teammate who then makes a basket. In baseball, an assist is awarded when a player throws a player out after the ball is hit. For example, when the shortstop fields a hit and throws it to first getting the runner out, the shortstop is awarded an assist.
It is difficult for an outfielder to register assists in baseball. Most come from throwing out runners trying to get an extra base or by throwing out runners at home plate. His freshman year Brugman recorded 13 assists, including turning four double plays. Last year he recorded six assists.
“I got quite a few my freshman year and a lot at the plate,” Brugman said. “I think people knew I have a pretty strong arm and didn’t try and test me as much this past year. Keeping runners from advancing because of your arm tells a lot about your arm strength.”
Growing up, many young players dream of pitching a perfect game or of hitting a walk-off homerun to win the game. Last year, Brugman did the latter in a big way.
Against Santa Clara last year, Brugman was up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. There were two outs left, the bases were loaded and the Cougars were down 6-4.
“I tried to stay as calm as possible but I was pretty nervous,” Brugman said. “I had a 2-2 count and was looking to put the ball in play. When I hit it, I just started running as fast as I could around the bases.”
He made pretty good contact with the ball, sending it over the centerfield wall for a walk off grand slam.
“I didn’t think I had hit the ball that well,” Brugman said. “It wasn’t until I was rounding second that I realized that it had cleared the fence. That was a pretty cool experience to have and definitely one I will remember for a long time.”
Brugman was originally drafted out of Phoenix’s Desert Vista Thunder High School in the 39th round by the New York Yankees but chose to come to BYU to hopefully improve his stock and get drafted higher.
“In college, your junior year is extremely important to do well for the scouts,” Brugman said. “I hope to perform well this year to show them what I am capable of.”
With a new team and a new coaching staff, the team looks poised to do well in its second season in the West Coast Conference and looks to players like Brugman for success.
He has started in every game of his career at BYU and hopes to use that experience to help the team do well this year.
“I want us to be able to win regionals this year,” Brugman said. “After that, we can take it game by game until we reach the College World Series in Omaha. That is something I think we can do this year.”