ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Academy grad working toward his dream of playing in the major leagues
One bad hop on a ground ball cost Alex Bregman the majority of his senior season at Albuquerque Academy and sent his Major League Baseball draft stock plummeting.
But it also may prove to be a huge blessing for Bregman and especially Louisiana State University.
After hitting .678 and 19 home runs as a high school junior in 2011, Bregman broke the tip of his right middle finger March 12 last year while fielding a grounder gone wild. He went from the state’s top player and potential first-round pick to bystander and eventual 29th-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox in June.
The slide in the draft, however, helped to cement Bregman’s commitment to play for LSU and coach Paul Mainieri.
“That definitely tested me mentally,” Bregman said. “I think it made me a lot stronger, and I wouldn’t go back and change it. It was definitely tough, but I’m feeling good now. I’m back to 100 percent and I love it here.”
With Bregman as his starting shortstop and No. 3 hitter, there’s no doubt Mainieri loves having him there, as well.
“He’s been everything that we hoped he would be and more,” Mainieri said. “He’s obviously a great ballplayer. We threw him right in at shortstop as a true freshman without a concern in the world that it would be overwhelming for him. We also put him right into the 3-hole in the lineup on a very veteran team and never had a hesitation about doing that either.”
So far, Bregman has proved his coach’s bold move to be a wise one by batting .344 with one HR and 10 RBIs in LSU’s first eight games. He’s also taken on a rare and crucial leadership role.
“His personality and work ethic have been such an example for the rest of the team,” Mainieri said. “You just don’t normally see a freshman become the leader of your team this quickly. And yet after being around him this fall, I’m not surprised that he’s taken over so quickly as one of the true leaders of our team. You can’t help but gravitate towards him and love him. He’s a tremendous player, and I’m already thinking sadly about the day three years from now when he won’t be with us any longer.”
Bregman will again be eligible for the MLB draft after his junior season, but until then, he is hoping to make all those teams that passed on him in April regret that choice.
“Alex felt he was a first-round choice, I felt that he was a first-round choice, and if it wasn’t for the injury he suffered during his senior year, he probably would have been,” Mainieri said. “He came to LSU with the idea that he has something to prove, and I have no doubt he’s going to prove it.”
On his way to proving his doubters wrong, Bregman has also set a LeBron James-esque goal of winning not one, not two, but as many titles as he possibly can with LSU.
“I definitely want to win three national championships, that’s my main goal,” Bregman said. “I want to continue to improve in all facets of the game here and try to prepare to get to my ultimate goal of playing in the big leagues.”
According to his coach, there is no question of whether Bregman will in fact achieve his MLB dreams.
“I don’t have any doubts that Alex Bregman is a major league player,” Mainieri said. “Any scout, scouting director or general manager that puts their stamp of approval on Alex Bregman, that person’s reputation will be made in a very positive way because of his believing in Alex Bregman. He will not disappoint anybody; this kid is destined to play in the major leagues.”
While Bregman’s destiny awaits him at least three years down the road, he is enjoying his time now as a Tiger after turning down his hometown Lobos, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona State and several other programs.
He also had to turn down the Red Sox, which was much easier than most would think.
“I knew I was going to go to school,” Bregman said. “It wasn’t really that tough of a decision. My heart is at LSU and that’s where I wanted to be. I made that decision, and I’m 100 percent behind it.
“I was pretty set on going to college right from the get-go and I’m really glad I did. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. I’m having the time of my life playing for LSU. It’s just a good experience and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
And neither would Mainieri, who said Bregman is unlike any other player he’s coached during his career.
“Alex is an easy kid to believe in because he works so hard at it,” Mainieri said. “He’s literally obsessed with the sport of baseball. I’ve coached for 30 years and had an awful lot of terrific players and hardworking players, but I’ve never had anybody like Alex Bregman, with his work ethic towards the game. He just can’t get enough of it. I think he’s going to have a terrific career here at LSU.”
— This article appeared on page D7 of the Albuquerque Journal