A diamond superstar back at Albuquerque Academy, he now starts at third base for the World Series champion Houston Astros, and made his All-Star debut in D.C.
By Arnie Leshin
For the Bregman family out of Albuquerque, Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic was special, especially after Alex’ home run in the top of the 10th inning brought across the go-ahead run that resulted in a 8-6 win for the American League.
His first time on the All-Star team, Alex is the third baseman for the World Series champion Houston Astros, and was selected as a reserve for this gala event played at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nats.
His family on hand was delighted when he was named the MVP of the game. His mom, Jackie, especially, for he had his choice of a Chevrolet SUV or a Chevy Camero. He quickly chose the Camero and just as quick, said it’s going to his mother.
As a high school player at Albuquerque Academy, he said he never dreamed that this would be happening.
“This is unreal,” he said. “I had struck out the my first time up, and didn’t want to do it again, so I leaned into a fastball and out it went, a line drive into the left field.”
That put the American League up 8-5 and his Astros’ teammate George Springer came up next and did the same, giving the ball a ride into the seats in left-center field to offset a National League home run by Joey Votto of the Reds in the bottom of the 10th.
It was the seventh straight victory for the American League, but the National League served as host and the hometown fans at least got to see their best player, Bryce Harper, make a big comeback Monday night to win the annual Home Run Derby.
But the next night, there were a record 10 home runs, five from each league, so those that missed Monday night’s long-ball show, a record 221, got a look at what could be called part two of the back-to-back long-ball nights before capacity crowds.
It was what our National Pastime has become, power hitters, home run threats, and fastball pitchers who now hit the mid or high 90s on the scale.
This has stepped ahead of base-stealing, crafty pitching, and bunting. They still go on, but fans now see the ball flying into the stands or beyond them, and the pitchers racking up strikeouts, with 25 thrown Tuesday night.
It all began with Yankees’ prize outfielder Aaron Judge clouting a Max Scherzer fast ball into the left field stands. But back came superstar Mike Trout (Angels) to latch onto a fastball from the Mets’ Jacob DeGrom in the third inning, and it was 1-1.
It continued when a third solo four-bagger by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras put the National League up 2-1, but if you expected the score to be this low, forget about it, for there were still seven more home runs on the way.
Three were hit by starters, and then the reserves blasted the rest. But Judge also accomplished something special as the youngest starter since former Yankee Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle in 1956.
”Before I even came to bat.” Judge said, “Houston pitcher Justin Verlander told me I’d hit a home run. So I got whole of the first pitch from Scherzer, a 95-mph heater and it landed right by my teammate Luis Serverino, who was warming up in the bullpen.”
Back and forth they went. Trevor Story of the Indians tied the score at 2-2, Jean Segura of the Mariners brought a 3-2 lead with a line drive that barely cleared the wall in left, but along came Cristian Yelich of the Brewers to clout one into right field with two runners aboard for a 5-3 lead.
Then came Speedy Gennett of the Reds and he joined the hit parade with a two-run clout beyond the reach of Trout and it went up and over the centerfield fence to knot the score at 5-5.
Then it went into extra innings and Bregman hit a 2-2 curveball from the Dodgers Ross Stripling for the lead run, and then came Springer, the World Series MVP, for the 8-5 advantage.
There was some hope when Votto hit the final home run in the last of the frame, but that’s the way it ended two nights of swatting the ball.
NOTES: Bregman was at 16 years old and a sophomore at Academy in 2010 when he became the first high school player to win the USA Player of the Year Award.
He holds the New Mexico home run record with 19, and one of them clearing the fence at Isotopes Park, now the Triple A minor league home of the Colorado Rockies, and this was when Academy won the state championship when Bregman was a freshman in 2009.
As a junior, he batted .678. At LSU, he played shortstop and catcher.