The old saying in baseball revolves around having a cup of coffee in the major leagues. It means a young player gets a whiff of being on top and is back down in the minors in an instant.
Former Desert Vista High School player Jaycob Brugman had more than a cup of joe in the big leagues. Last season, Brugman appeared in 48 games for the Oakland Athletics, posting more than respectable numbers at the plate.
But the 26-year-old wasn’t quite able to enjoy a second cup.
Brugman was designated for assignment immediately following the season and promptly dealt to the Baltimore Orioles. Just eight months after his last game in the majors, Brugman is back in familiar territory: suiting up for the Norfolk Tides in triple-A ball.
He has to prove himself all over again and, frankly, the Chandler native wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They know I have the ability,” Brugman said confidently, referring to the Orioles organization. “They told me to keep playing my game. All that’s left to do is force their hand and just open their eyes. That’s the rule of the game for everyone.”
Brugman’s confidence stems from his formative years at Desert Vista, where he honed his craft as a dependable fielder and hitter. He credits the school coaching staff for setting him up for success in the big leagues.
“I’ve always attributed success to what coach Luketich did for me and his staff as well,” he said via phone. “They really treated each player equally; it helped a lot to stay humble. They teach the game of baseball the right way there.”
Coach Cody Brassfield, who has been with Vista baseball since 2005, certainly thought Brugman played the game the right way, saying, “He was one of the most competitive, hard-working kids we’ve ever had. He had a tremendous amount of bat speed, but what set him aside was his ability to compete pitch-to-pitch.”
That ability was good enough to earn Brugman a call-up with the A’s in 2017. For the outfielder, it was the culmination of endless preparation on and off the diamond.
“It was awesome! I’ve spent my whole life dreaming about it – it’s the only thing I wanted to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Brugman said.
But he confessed nerves took over leading up to his big-league debut.
“You are really nervous the night before and the morning of the game. It’s a big stadium so you don’t know where to go,” he chuckled. “It’s just a big stage, so you can get overwhelmed at first.”
Brugman didn’t seem as though he was overmatched, though.
During his 48-game stint, he hit .266 at the plate, compiling three home runs along the way. While he wasn’t out his league by any means, he did acknowledge the pace of the MLB was difficult for him in the beginning.
“My first half of the games, I struggled. I wasn’t hitting well, but my last half I hit over .350. I made that adjustment to big league pitching,” he said.
While his first major-league hit was a thrill, he claims his first home run was the real highlight of his time with the A’s. He would add two more long balls by season’s end and thought his performance was worthy of a second campaign in Oakland.
Then came the trade to the Orioles.
When asked if the transaction caught him off guard, Brugman admitted, “Yeah. I knew they had to protect a few guys on their roster before the Rule 5 draft. They called me and said they were looking into (a trade).”
It’s not exactly back to square one, though.
Brugman is getting a chance to start with the triple-A Tides. But Norfolk is just a stepping stone; becoming a regular with the Orioles is the goal. It’s a goal that is certainly within his reach.
“I think I can add some pretty good pop to the (Orioles) lineup,” he said. “With all those power hitters, it’s good to have someone get on base and I get on base at a good rate. I can provide solid defense at the end of games. I could add a lot.”
-Contact Brian Benesch at 480-898-5630 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AZBenesch