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Bregman can make NM history

LSU shortstop and Albuquerque Academy graduate Alex Bregman (8) throws to complete a double play during action last week vs. Lehigh. (Heather Mcclelland/Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate)

LSU shortstop and Albuquerque Academy graduate Alex Bregman (8) throws to complete a double play during action last week vs. Lehigh. (Heather Mcclelland/Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate)

Alex Bregman’s singular focus for the past three years has been winning a national baseball championship with the LSU Tigers.

But Monday, the Albuquerque Academy graduate will realize a lifelong dream. He is expected to be selected very early in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

“It’s a pretty crazy feeling,” Bregman said. “I’m all about winning at LSU, but it’s going to be an honor to accomplish that goal. It’s a dream come true. A lot of hard work has gone into it. … I still have a lot of work to do.”

In addition to a dream coming true, Bregman will most likely make history. If projections ring true, he will become the highest drafted player ever from New Mexico.

Alex Bregman is expected to be drafted early Monday. (Heather Mcclelland/Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate)

Alex Bregman is expected to be drafted early Monday. (Heather Mcclelland/Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate)

Bregman was drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the 901st overall pick in 2012 but did not sign and instead has become a star shortstop in one of the nation’s top collegiate programs.

While becoming the No. 1 overall pick is probably a long shot, Bregman could realistically go anywhere from No. 2 to Houston or No. 7 to the Red Sox again – which would be fitting because Bregman is most often compared to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. It would be a shock if the 21-year-old college junior made it past the Phillies and the 10th pick, most experts say.

Signing bonuses, per the “slot value” of those draft positions, should range from $8,616,900 at the first pick to $3,231,300 at the 10th.

University of New Mexico pitcher Jim Kremmel went ninth overall to the Senators in 1971. Duane Ward of Farmington High School was also picked ninth, by the Atlanta Braves in 1982. New Mexico Military Institute’s Tony Phillips is the only other player with New Mexico ties to be selected in the top 10, going to the Expos in 1978 at No. 10.

Recently, Cleveland High School’s Blake Swihart went 26th to the Red Sox in 2011 and UNM’s D.J. Peterson was picked 12th by the Mariners in 2013.

“Ever since he was 4 or 5 years old, Alex has been absolutely consumed and obsessed with the game of baseball,” Alex’s father, Sam Bregman, said. “It’s a wonderful thing. No one has worked harder to get where Alex is in baseball than Alex. His work ethic is second to none; his passion for the game is unbelievable.”

c01_jd_07june_alex1Alex Bregman’s passion also was recognized by his head coach at LSU, Paul Mainieri.

“I’ve been coaching for 33 years, and the amount of players I’ve seen who approach the game with Alex’s passion, dedication and commitment you can probably count on one hand,” Mainieri said. “This kid deserves everything that he gets from the game because he’s given so much effort in the game.”

What he eventually gets from the game – including a large paycheck – might have come a lot sooner for Bregman, who had his senior season at Academy basically wiped out because of a finger injury. Though he came back to play in the state tournament, the injury caused Bregman to fall to the 29th round of the 2012 draft. Going that late couldn’t sway him from his commitment to spend at least his next three years playing for LSU.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Bregman said. “Without that injury it never would have happened.”

That injury was also a blessing for the Tigers.

In 2013, Bregman was named national freshman of the year, national shortstop of the year and first team All-American after hitting .369 with six home runs, 52 RBIs and leading LSU in runs (59), doubles (18), triples (7) and stolen bases (16).

As a sophomore, he earned another slew of awards, including being named to the All-SEC second team.

c01_jd_07june_alex2“What a career he’s had,” Mainieri said. “All the awards and accolades he’s had, they’re flowing in like water. But his value is so much more than any award could measure. He just plays hard every day.”

This year Bregman became a two-time All-American and is one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which honors the top amateur player in the country and will be awarded June 23. Past winners of the Golden Spikes include David Price, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Buster Posey.

“It’s a honor to be considered one of the best players,” Bregman said. “But I’m just trying to do what I can to help LSU win a national title, and if that’s what happens and I win awards, I’ll be happy with that. But if we win and I don’t get any awards, I’d be happy. I just want to win baseball games.”

In Game 1 of the best-of-three Super Regional in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night, Bregman’s Tigers earned a 4-3 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Bregman went 0-for-4.

The series winner advances to the World Series beginning June 13 in Omaha, Neb.

With an “if necessary” Game 3 scheduled for Monday, its time to be determined by ESPN, it’s possible Bregman will be on his home field at Alex Box Stadium when he is drafted. But if the Tigers aren’t playing Monday, the team plans a draft watch party at the stadium.

“I’m hoping we can win the super regional by (tonight) night so we can all sit back and enjoy watching the draft Monday night,” said Mainieri, who expects his star pupil to be taken anywhere from No. 1 to No. 7. “I hope we can celebrate with him because I know it’s going to be some good news for him.”

It may be the first time in Bregman’s life that he’d rather be watching TV than playing baseball.

“I’m going to be completely focused on winning,” Bregman said. “But I hope it doesn’t go to Monday, I hope I can watch the draft instead.”

Assuming Bregman and his teammates get to watch the draft, the first player they see selected could very well be Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson, a shortstop who also is a finalist for the Golden Spikes and was a teammate of Bregman’s on the Collegiate National Team last summer.

University of New Mexico baseball coach Ray Birmingham got an up-close look at Swanson and Bregman when he served as hitting coach for Team USA.

“They’re similar in their approach to life,” Birmingham said. “They’re both confident kids, they’re both outstanding human beings and they’re both on a mission. All the qualities you’d think an outstanding athlete would have, they have.”

And if Birmingham was in charge of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who would be his choice at No. 1?

“I’m taking Alex, obviously, because I’m closer with that kid,” Birmingham said. “But you can’t go wrong with either one.”

Bregman says he has no preference on which team picks him. Regardless of when Bregman’s name is called Monday, his coach knows that one MLB team will be getting a special player and person.

“It’s been a coach’s dream to have Alex Bregman in our program for three years,” Mainieri said. “We’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to coach him. He’s a tremendous baseball player and an even finer human being. He’s been a great leader in our program. It’s been a real joy to have him, and it’s going to be hard to see him leave.”

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