Part 4, Alex Bregman
Are you kidding? If George Springer’s DNA looks like the seams of a baseball, then Bregman is cloned from a baseball. Not three, but four generation of baseball fanatics, including extended family, going back 120 years. His father and uncle both played at the University of New Mexico. At age 10 he was the batboy there.
It starts with great-grandfather Bo Bregman, who stowed away to America at age 11 to escape Russian pogroms. He played ball in Washington D.C., calling himself “Bregmanio” so he could play catcher for St. Dominck’s in the parochial school league. Bo eventually ran the numbers racket in D.C., became a boxing promoter, including a Joe Louis fight, was a minority owner of the Washington Redskins, and watched a lot of Senators games at old Griffith stadium.
Bo infused in his son Stan the same love of baseball. Stan became a lawyer, became a power broker in the Democratic party, and as a friend to the Democratic party chairman Bob Short, convinced Short to buy the Washington Senators, Stan being the general counsel for the team. A few years later they brought Ted Williams in as manager and then moved the team to Arlington, Texas.
Stan’s son, and Alex’s father, Sam Bregman grew up around Ted Williams, and watched Frank Howard polish off a case of Schlitz after every game. As mentioned, he played ball at the University of New Mexico and eventually became the party chairman for the New Mexico Democratic party.
And he had a son, Alex. Alex isn’t just cloned from a baseball, he is a reincarnated Ty Cobb. How else would a four-year old, playing in his first t-ball game, know how to complete an unassisted triple play? Because he was born knowing from a past life.
And born loving it. Brian McCann said that he never met anyone who loved baseball more than Alex Bregman.
“Baseball is the only thing I think about all day long since I was five years old.” Alex Bregman
His work ethic is nearly insane. He wore out the brick wall on which he used to play catch as a child. As a teenager at the Albuquerque Baseball Academy he played so much his instructors would force him to go home. He would go home for twenty minutes and come back, saying, “I went home.” At LSU he would call up the batting cage administrators in the wee morning hours so often that they had to create a card entry system just for him. Or how after night games he would practice taking grounders in the empty LSU stadium. “You can’t fake that” his coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s not doing it for publicity…He just loves it that much.” He added, “This guy legitimately wants to be the best player that’s ever been.” The following clip is an LSU TV story on the work ethic of freshman, Alex Bregman.
“I want to do everything every second of the day to be the best. Every time I take a swing, every time I take a ground ball, eat, drink…” Alex Bregman.
So what’s Alex’s take on having won a world championship? “Now we’re hunted, “Bregman said. “I think everybody in this clubhouse every day when they wake up is still chasing something. We want to be great…not just for one year, but for a lot of years.”
For the sake of posterity, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t include Alex’s famous “dad bod” interview. Promising a better diet and better core strength, Alex said: “Dad bods are in, but I don’t know how many homers they got.”
Bregman said he changed his diet this winter: more salmon and fish, less burgers and pizza. "Dad bods are in but I don't know how many homers they got." pic.twitter.com/JUIkk5z3Zy
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 19, 2018
Playing for the love of others/ overcoming adversity
Alex Bregman is fulfilling the dreams of generations of Bregmans. As his father put it, “four generations of short Bregman Jews wanted to play in the World series, and now Alex is there, fulfilling those hopes, living the American Dream.” That’s a lot of hopes and dreams riding on one young man. It’s a lot to live up to.
By now, dear reader, you have surely noticed what amazing, strong, supportive families all four of our core four stem from. In case you didn’t, I just said it.
Although adversity for Alex is not as pronounced as for the other core four, it is there. For one, there has always been doubt about Bregman’s talent ceiling. Some of you, those who have come this far with me, may even wonder why I include him in the same category with the other three. How does a team even have room for four “leaders?”
Truth is, as you have heard him already admit, he may not be born with superstar talent, and on any other team without a player named Altuve, people would question his size. (No way he’s six feet) That’s why his effort is nearly insane. Despite physical limitations, he is absolutely determined to be the best there is even in a world where everyone else is working and competing really hard. Even his dad says so.
He has never been the most talented player on the field. He has been the hardest worker. Sam Bregman
When it comes to motivation, in my opinion Bregman is subtly different from his other core teammates. Yes, Altuve, Correa and Springer all have fanatical work ethics, fanatical desires to improve and be the best, to compete and win. But in all three there is a certain sweetness and kindness in their natures. Of course sweet people can be great players, think Willie Mays, but there’s a certain killer instinct about Bregman, a hard edge. He’s a baseball street fighter, like his childhood inspiration, Dustin Pedroia, or, as I have already suggested, Ty Cobb. Every team needs a player like that.
Alex Bregman plays with a chip on his shoulder.
As his WBC coach, Jim Leyland said. “He’s very aggressive…He comes every day to beat you.”
Here are some examples of his chip. When George Springer chose his number, it was an homage to his family. When Correa chose his, it was to remember the responsibility he bears as a #1 overall draft pick. Bregman chose number two, not to honor Derek Jeter, as is erroneously believed, but according to his father, to remind himself of the snub for not being drafted #1 overall but rather #2.
After being a consensus All American high school player as a junior, but missing his senior year with an injury, Bregman warned MLB not to draft him after the first round. He was drafted in the 29th round. At LSU he wore the number 30, just to remind himself of all the teams that snubbed him in the first round.
I don’t want to repeat what Alex said last summer to a fan who suggested he should be traded. Let’s just say it was the Twitter equivalent to where Ty Cobb kicked opposing second baseman with his sharpened spikes.
I’m saying this with full admiration. Every team needs a brawler who is obsessed with winning for winning’s sake. Everyone hated Ty Cobb, except, of course, his teammates, who were damn glad he was on their side and not on the other side. (I’m not saying opposing players hate Bregman) It’s not too big a stretch to imagine the reincarnation of Ty Cobb saying words like these: “They were all against me…but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch.” (Ty Cobb) I think that’s what Leyland was trying to say about Alex’s attitude. For Bregman, more than the others, it’s not just about winning. “He wants to beat you.”
I suppose this toughness runs in his family. You probably can’t get to be power players in American politics without being tough SOB’s and knowing how to kick some ass, figuratively speaking.
So what does it look like on the field when a player plays with a chip on his shoulder. Something like this:
If Bregman had taken the safe out at first with his team winning the pundits would have praised his wisdom. After the play the TV announcer said that despite the outcome he thought the throw home was a bad decision. Even now, it seems like that play had a very small chance of success. Take the sure out. Most players would have.
But that’s not how Bregman’s mind works. He wants to be aggressive. He wants to beat you. To take the safe option there is what losers do. Unacceptable. It was a play for the ages. Might I say Jeteresque.
Keeping it loose.
None of this is to imply that Alex Bregman isn’t a superb teammate. We joke here that Bregman is “arrogant.” Exactly and totally false. He may be a baseball assassin, but he’s a quiet assassin who’s all about winning and that absolutely means doing whatever the team requires. The image above: remember he was celebrating his teammate’s success there, and his team’s victory.
His college coach had these observations. When incoming freshmen were asked what their goals were, Alex’s answer was “to get the seniors to Omaha.” Maineri commented: “For a freshman to come in and not care about personal statistics, that’s the kind of guy you want to play with…It kind of reinforces your belief that there still are kids out there that carry this kind of love of the game.” He added, ” you think that everybody is all about me, me, me, me, me, get the big contract…but to see this kid that has that kind of ability, yet care so much about the team, it’s just so refreshing to me.”
Just as Carlos Correa learned English for the sake of his baseball career, Alex Bregman makes an effort to speak Spanish in the clubhouse to be a better teammate to the latino players. Carlos Beltran said, “He makes the effort, and he values the guys who don’t speak English, which is important in this game…When I see an American player really making the effort with the latinos, it’s something really special.”
He loves to sing the Spanish music in the clubhouse, and he even sang along to the reggaetón song, “Ginza” on Spanish language radio, where he sometimes does Spanish interviews.
When it comes to the importance of keeping it loose, no one has said it better than Bregman. When asked after his walk-off how the Astros managed to win the magical game 5 of the World Series, the first thing he thought of was keeping it loose. And how the whole team kept it loose despite facing overwhelming odds at the time. In the other three segments I didn’t spend much time on this third component of Astros success, because this clip says it all, for the whole team. The interview begins at 2:17
Congratulations Astros for resigning Jose Altuve. Keep this group together. The love and chemistry these players have for each other is unbelievable. This is the most loveable team I have ever seen in 61 years. Stay humble Astros. Keep having fun. Destroy your enemies. Win more championships. Become the legends you are.