When a baseball player is drafted out of high school, it is with rare exception that years of maturation and experience are needed in the minor leagues before being ready for the majors. That process can be wrought with injuries and other similar delays. Texas Ranger farmhand Jake Brigham has grown patient in waiting for his major league aspirations to come to fruition. Selected in the 6th round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of high school by the Texas Rangers, Brigham started off his pro career with great success, but was thrown for a major loop when he had to have Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2008 campaign. Since then he has continued to work and battle to get his career back on track and punch his ticket to Texas.
The right-handed Brigham began his career exclusively as a starter, but has more recently been a swingman between the rotation and the bullpen. He struggled initially coming back from his surgery, but has gradually regained his effectiveness and versatility. Brigham throws in the low 90’s and scouts are optimistic about his other pitches; making him capable of handling any role he may be asked to do.
In five full professional seasons, Brigham has a record of 22-37 with a 4.43 ERA. Most impressive are his 424 strikeouts against only 196 walks in 471.2 innings. His best game came in 2010 when he was pitching for A-level Hickory against the Greensboro Grasshoppers. He allowed singles to the first two batters he faced but didn’t allow any other base runners for the rest of the game, finishing with 12 strikeouts and a complete game shutout. A total view of his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=brigha001jac.
The time and the hard work have started to pay off for Brigham. He spent all of 2011 in Double-A, and just recently was promoted to the Rangers’ 40-man roster. Teams hold their 40-man roster spots in high regard, so Brigham’s addition is no small feat. If all goes well, Texas fans should expect to see Brigham in Arlington within the next year or two. You can get to know this determined pitching prospect better by checking out the interview he recently did with me or by following him on Twitter.
Jake Brigham Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: My favorite team was the Boston Red Sox; it was the only channel that we got on Saturday and Sunday that played baseball. Who knows how growing up in Orlando the one baseball channel you get is Boston Red Sox, but that's how it was! My favorite player was Nomar, of course! I loved watching him play, and as a little leaguer I always tried to play like him (ha!).
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: It was a great time, I sort of came out of nowhere. I was home schooled and played at a small private school, and the thought of being drafted never entered my head. I played in a few tournaments, my junior year, and never expected what would have happened next, a dream come true!
How did you go about choosing an agent and then opting to sign in 2006?: We interviewed a lot of guys in our home, my parents and I. It just came down to the people that we felt had the same beliefs, and same character that I had, and if someone is going to represent me, I want them to believe the same way I do along with the values. And that is the reason why I chose Doug Rogalski-Sports One Management. I have always wanted to be a baseball player and God blessed me with a talent, and I know that I wanted to play ball as soon as I could, and God gave me that opportunity.
Can you talk a little bit about what you went through in 2008 with Tommy John surgery, and how difficult it was to get back to the mound?: First finding out having to have surgery as a 19 year old kid was pretty hard to take. Finding out that I couldn't do what I love for over a year hurt pretty bad. I was devastated, but going through the rehab process was maturing for me. The Texas Rangers medical staff is one of the best rehab staffs in all of baseball, plus during the boring hours of sitting in the hotel room all day is what led me to meeting my wife, so it was a blessing in disguise!
Getting back on the mound took some getting used to; I was just excited when I pitched in the first game my velocity was back. I knew with my hard work I could get back into the form of throwing strikes. It was relieving knowing my arm was healthy.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: Number one, my strength is my fastball; that is what got me drafted, I have been blessed with a strong arm. Number two; slider. I just started throwing it a year and half ago, and a lot of hard work, it’s come along to be a very effective pitch for me. Very close, number three is my curveball, I’ve thrown it my entire life and it is a pitch that I'm very confident in. Lastly, is my changeup. Over the past year I have worked on it very hard, and it is actually turned into a pitch that I’m starting to count on, and trust in. It is definitely a pitch that I will always continuously work on!
How did it feel recently getting added to the Rangers' 40 man roster?: No words for how I felt that night! I was very excited, and honored. I had a slight feeling of satisfaction that this hard work is starting to pay off, but still have so much work ahead of me which I am very excited about!
How difficult is it to maintain the life of a minor league player (financial, fatigue, relationships, etc...)?:
Financially it is not maintaining it, it is surviving it! Fatigue, you can't let it be a part of your vocabulary because you can't afford to be tired during the season. Relationships you have to work a little harder at them. The first three years of my wife and I’s relationship was long distance and was very tough. All in all, I wouldn't trade it one bit!
Have you ever received any instruction or advice from Nolan Ryan during your time with the Rangers?: Yes, I have had conversations with him, and it was pretty incredible. I am very excited about the opportunity to be able to learn from him during spring training.
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