Beyond Left Field with Norm: Rico Brogna

Rico  Brogna (born April 18, 1970 in Turners Falls, Massachusetts) is a former Major League Baseball first baseman who played for the Detroit TigersNew York MetsPhiladelphia PhilliesBoston Red Sox, and Atlanta Braves in his career starting in 1992, and from 1994 to 2001. He was drafted in the first round (26th overall) by the Tigers in 1988.

Rico_300x225Please tell us more about yourself.

I was definitely born to be involved in sports and I can easily envision myself be an athletics “lifer” so to speak. I love a few sports, not just baseball. I actually enjoy football probably the most of any sport and basketball not too far behind. Baseball is a unique game in that there is both individual aspects and team aspects to the game. But I am all-in when it comes to “true” team sports, like football. Coaching and scouting in football is so much fun due to the many different types of styles (schemes) that the game can be played. During my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and reading. I am a fairly simple person and also kind of a private person. I guess that is why I like to read, learn and study because I can do it on my own time.

You hit the first homerun out of Coors Field in Denver, can you recall the series of pitches and the homerun itself?

Billy Swift, a sinker down but over the plate. I hit it very hard, barreled it, but it was not hit that high, and off the bat I was sure it was nothing more than a line drive out to the CF or possibly a double over his head? Honestly, I was stunned when I saw that it was a home run! It is a special memory as there is only one first time; and Denver is a sweet city and a beautiful ballpark. I do remember it being a little cold … or a lot cold!!

You were the #1 draft pick by the Tigers in 1988. What was that process like? 

I was all set and prepared to go to Clemson to play QB and football for them. I signed a National Letter of Intent with Clemson after a long recruiting process (football). I was a football player first and took official visits nation-wide. When I was chosen #1 by Detroit I was very surprised, and it changed my thinking. I was so humbled and honored to be their first pick in the MLB draft that they had my loyalty from that moment forward. I missed going to Clemson very much however because of my love for football and I really liked the coach there, Danny Ford. It was a very difficult decision for me. I could have tried to do both perhaps looking back, but I wanted my focus to be on one thing and then go for it!! I wish I would have played college, and maybe NFL, football however. But I don’t regret my decision to play baseball because it taught me so much and I really loved playing in the big leagues … not so much so in the minor leagues.

rico 2What was the highlight of your career?

The biggest bummer for me was not being on a championship, World Series team. Team awards and team accomplishments are what excite me, not so much individual things. There were certainly some very memorable individual moments however: first big league game (1992 in Detroit vs. Toronto, August 8th), a game-winning grand slam with the Red Sox, and then hitting my 100th career HR vs. the NYM … something I would not have thought as possible with all my health issues, injuries, etc. So that was very gratifying personally, but I wish that I would have been on a World Series championship team.

Who was the toughest pitcher you faced?

Pedro Martinez (in his prime) was absolutely filthy!! He could do so many things well and he had a nasty side too. Pedro was very good. Randy Johnson made life as a hitter, a LHH, a nightmare as well; and Kevin Brown (in his prime) was a difficult night although you knew as a hitter that he would challenge you with hard stuff consistently. It’s just that his FB had wicked late life along with power and velocity.

I’m going to name a few players. Please describe them for us.

1. Jamie Moyer-

Played with Jamie in Toledo when he was trying to make his comeback into pro ball … boy, did he ever!! Intelligent, crafty, clever and determined to succeed. Jamie defines what pitching is: command, deception, changing speed on every pitch type, unpredictable and he really competes!!

2. Arnie Beyeler- 

Loves baseball. Passionate teacher, smart, dedicated to making players better and always thinking the game. Arnie is a great friend to this day and when we played together in the Tigers system he was kind of a mentor to me … Arnie was like a coach as a teammate. I love Arnie!!

3. Chipper Jones-

Athletic, very intelligent (always had a smart game-plan going into games) and confident. Chipper had that “it” factor that all the great one’s seem to have. I respected him as an opponent always and then even more so when I was fortunate to be on his team in 2001.

4. Ken Caminiti-

Extremely talented and gifted player. Ken was a supreme competitor and always strived to be the best. Before his arm injury he had as strong an arm as any 3B I saw in the game. He was a play-maker both on offense and defense. Ken would play hurt too, he was so tough and determined to succeed. All he wanted to do was win!!

5. Sparky Anderson-

Difficult on younger players and not always trustworthy. It was a bumpy ride experience for me personally with him. But Sparky was brilliant in his own unique way, and he always had a plan for everything and every player. If you were a veteran player you loved playing for Sparky. So when I got the chance to play for him as a Rookie, it was not that smooth … although, there were some moments in time when he went out of his way to teach me some things that were helpful, but he was not in the game at the MLB level to develop players, he wanted to manage “finished products” (players and teams) so to speak. Sparky was a winner.

6. Brett Butler-

Terrific person and the perfect leadoff type of hitter. Bugsy is a good friend of mine to this day and we keep in touch. We are very close, like brothers. Brett lives to help others!! I admire his selflessness and enthusiasm for making other players better; and also making other people better people off the field. We are both Christians and he has been a mentor for me, a true friend. Brett will make a very good MLB manager someday and someday soon. Brett is a champion all-around person.

What advice would you give to the younger players?

Be humble, listen & learn. Develop a very strong work ethic and don’t let the difficult days in baseball get you down, keep pushing!! It is a difficult sport, a sport that really can never be mastered so understand that there is continuous learning; and always be a willing student of the game no matter the level you reach.

Are you still scouting for the Rays? and if so what is a scouts life like?

I’m not scouting this season as I recently had a second knee replacement. I am taking the year off, or at least that’s the current plan. I may investigate getting back into college football coaching also.

Scouting is a terrific profession, I love it!! Player evaluation, team-building, and all the things that go along with scouting are very cool. I could easily scout for the rest of my baseball life and be very happy. You have to be willing to travel and spend time alone, which I like doing personally. Breaking down players and evaluating talent is at the very core of what baseball is all about. Love it!!

Please give us your top 5 favorite songs (artists) of all-time.

1. Enya

2. Lord of the Rings soundtrack

3. Gladiator soundtrack

4. (Song) Return of the Mack

5. Stephen Curtis Chapman

Rico, thanks for taking the time.