Alex Bregman got his first taste of college baseball with a 68-game season that started back in February and culminated last month with LSU making the College World Series.
The Tigers shortstop joined Team USA not long after leaving Omaha, and was on a flight to Japan not much longer after joining Team USA.
At no time, however, has Bregman felt as if he’s needed to catch a second wind.
“I love playing baseball,” he said. “I can never be worn out with it. I just love playing the game.”
It also hasn’t hurt that being with the Collegiate National Team comes with the privilege and responsibility of representing his country. And that pride will be testing the buttons on his shirt Friday and Saturday night as Team USA plays Cuba in games at Werner Park.
“College is a long season and your body definitely feels that, but you’re playing for your country now and it’s a different kind of feeling,” Bregman said. “It’s a great experience. Now you’re playing for the United States and playing for the ‘USA’ across the chest.”
The stats so far would back up the notion that Bregman still has plenty left in his tank.
Heading into the start of the five-game series with Cuba on Thursday night in Des Moines, Bregman was hitting a team-high .407 with seven doubles, 14 runs, nine RBIs and six stolen bases through 13 games with Team USA.
Bregman has been playing both second base and shortstop, and even caught the last two innings of Tuesday’s game with an Illinois college all-star team. Team USA manager Jim Schlossnagle said Bregman also could probably play the outfield — calling him a “jack-of-all-trades” — but said it’s the hitting that really stands out.
“To me, although he’s not a switch-hitter, he’s the college baseball version of Pete Rose,” said Schlossnagle, the TCU head coach. “He’s not very big (6-foot, 190 pounds), but he can flat-out hit. He’s just a pure, pure baseball player, kind of in that Pete Rose or Dustin Pedroia mold.”
Bregman, from Albuquerque, N.M., burst onto the scene by hitting .369 with 52 RBIs for Louisiana State, clubbing 18 doubles, seven triples and six home runs. He was named a first-team All-American and the national freshman of the year.
As well as things went that first season, Bregman would turn back the clock and do the CWS over if possible. The Tigers went 0-2 after coming to Omaha with a 57-9 record, and Bregman was hitless in eight at-bats as the high-powered LSU offense sputtered with just three runs in two games at TD Ameritrade Park.
Still, Bregman called the CWS “a blast” and said this week he was looking forward to returning to Omaha.
“It’s a great baseball town, and I expect to be back there with LSU next year and the year after that,” he said. “It was a great experience and I think I learned a lot from it. I can’t wait to get back.”
First there is some work to do with Team USA before he returns to Baton Rouge for his sophomore year. Bregman is one of only four freshmen on the 24-player U.S. roster, but Schlossnagle said he keeps chugging along even though some others obviously are tiring out just a little.
Those team-high 22 hits tell that story.
“That’s why Bregman’s unique,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s a freshman, but he’s not worn out at all. It’s been 11 different cities in 12 days, and even in Japan it was four different cities, so it’s a grind that way.
“You can tell some guys are beat up and the bat’s dragging through the strike zone, but not him.”