Jake Brodt uses his bat to draw a smiley face in the upper left-hand corner of the right-handed batter’s box before each at-bat.
2018 Vancouver Canadians first baseman Jake Brodt steps into the batter’s box in this edition of C’s Chat.
Baseball was definitely in the blood for Brodt as his parents also played the sport during their college days. His mother Christy was a pitcher at Indiana University and his father Dave played ball at Cypress Junior College in Southern California. Jake had an accomplished high school career in his hometown at Huntington Beach High School in California in which he played first base and pitched. Among the highlights were a .400 batting average, a 1.000 fielding percentage at first base and a second-team All-Sunset League All-Star berth during his junior season as captain of the Oilers in 2013.
Something that helped Brodt play well in high school was the ability play the game with a smile. Before each trip to the plate, he used his bat to draw a smiley face in the right-handed batter’s box.
“I started doing it in high school. I’m not sure how I came up with idea but I do it because it reminds me to have fun. In the game of baseball it’s inevitable that you’re going to strike out or fail in some way. So drawing the smiley face before an at-bat reminds me that no matter how far you make it in baseball, it’s still a game and we all started playing it as kids for no other reason but pure enjoyment. It helps me relax and just have fun in pressure situations.”
Jake Brodt batted .311 with an OPS of .802 when he was ahead in the count in 2018.
Brodt would commit to Santa Clara University in 2015 and began to tap into his power over his junior and senior campaigns. After just 25 extra-base hits in his first two years, he belted seven home runs and 21 doubles and slashed .338/.375/.532 with the Broncos in 2017. That performance landed Brodt on the First-Team All-West Conference squad.
A preseason All-WCC Selection heading into 2018, the 6-foot-4 Brodt continued his power surge in a big way when he belted two grand slams in one inning as part of a three home run game against Boston College on Opening Weekend February 17.
“It was opening weekend for college baseball so the magic was still in the air. I felt good in batting practice the last few days. I felt good going into the season. I wouldn’t say like that day was like anything special (beforehand) but as far as the game goes, I don’t even remember it. It was like one of those crazy games that you just kind of black out during the whole thing and you just don’t really remember a whole lot of it.
Yeah, I didn’t realize kind of what I actually did that day until like maybe a day or so later. I woke up the next day and I was on ESPN. I was like, ‘Holy cow!’ I didn’t really let it sink in until then. It was pretty crazy.”
Brodt was named National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Hitter of the Week for February 20. He would also win a pair of WCC Player of the Week awards on February 20 and March 19.
Broncos associate head coach Gabe Ribas told SantaClaraBroncos.com that Brodt has the ability to come through in big situations.
“Every time we talked to a coach about Jake they would use the word, ‘clutch,’” said Ribas. “We could tell that Jake is a very good athlete with a special skill set, but when you added that feel for getting the big hit when the lights are on, we knew Jake would be a great Bronco. Jake is a guy who clearly makes his teammates better, and anyone who is a team captain as a junior is demonstrating great leadership skills, which we believe will help him do great things at Santa Clara.”
Brodt says he relishes the opportunity to deliver in the clutch.
“That’s what it’s all about. If you’re not loving that moment, like those are the kind of moments you dream about when you’re a kid. You dream of you’re up in the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded, two outs and you got to come through. When I was a kid and played in the backyard with all my friends from the neighbourhood, we always came up with that situation.
I’m looking forward to the spotlight. I try not to look at it as pressure because it’s the same game. Whether it’s the first inning I’m coming up there or it’s the bottom of the ninth. It’s the same guy throwing the same ball up there so yeah, I just go up there and do what I do.”
Brodt went on to slug a career-high .555 thanks to 15 home runs and 15 doubles and was named to the second All-West Coast Conference squad. That capped off his fond memories during his time in college.
“Just the relationships I made with my teammates. I’ve made some of the best friends that I could have made ever there. I got my degree from a great university. We have a new coaching staff over there under head coach Rusty Filter. He’s taking the team in a good direction so I’m excited to see the future of that program.”
Another plus for Brodt at Santa Clara was the opportunity to earn a communications degree and he plans on putting it to good use after what he hopes will be a long career on the diamond.
“It’s definitely been in the back of my head. I feel like I’m okay with talking and everything so yeah, I’d be comfortable doing that but as far as life goes right now, I’m focusing on baseball. I’m putting all of my marbles in that basket.”
Jake Brodt—chatting with reliever Denis Diaz—recorded 300 putouts and 22 assists at first base for the C’s in 2018.
The lead-up to the Major League Draft represents an exciting but uncertain time for players hoping to enter the professional ranks. Brodt was anxiously awaiting to hear his name called.
“I kind of wanted to keep it as low-key as possible. It was a stressful few days leading up to it just because you never know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of variables that go into the draft. I had my Mom there. She actually flew up for it. We were expecting a call so my Mom and Dad both flew up. My Dad was actually on the plane flight when I got the call so he was on his way but I was sitting in my Mom’s hotel room just trying to kind of get away from everything and get my mind off of it.”
Brodt then got the good news in the ninth round when the Blue Jays took him with the 266th overall pick.
“I got a text from Randy Kramer who’s the Blue Jays scout in my area and he said they were taking me with the next pick. We were just watching on the computer and then my name popped up. Me and my Mom screamed and we gave each other a hug.
It was pretty unbelievable. I had an expectation that I would be going (to be drafted) whether that day or the next. There’s nothing that can compare, like it actually happened. You can’t prepare yourself for that so I was ecstatic that I got the opportunity.”
Before the Blue Jays came calling, Brodt thought he was heading elsewhere.
“Well, it was funny. About five minutes before I got a text from Randy Kramer from the Blue Jays, I got a text from the White Sox that they were going to take me with their ninth round pick. They were (eight) picks before the Blue Jays I believe so I told the Blue Jays that and it was like, ‘Okay, if you slip to us, then we’ll get you,’ and the White Sox never called me. Yeah, it was pretty crazy.”
The Chicago White Sox elected to take catcher Gunnar Troutwine from Wichita State University instead with their ninth round pick instead. Brodt would see three of his Broncos teammates also taken in the draft including pitcher Penn Murfee who went in the 33rd round in Seattle. The two Broncos got to see each other again when Murfee was assigned to the Everett AquaSox.
With a $5,000 signing bonus from the Jays, Brodt headed east to Dunedin to begin his professional career.
“It was pretty crazy. I actually graduated I believe on June 16th, flew out the next morning at 6:00 a.m. so it was a quick turnaround. Flew out there and then the next day, we got after it. I got my physicals done. It was a long day but then I finally got to pick up the glove and the ball the next day which was good.
Me and (Griffin) Conine got there the same day so we kind of all went through it together. We got our feet wet in the GCL which was good. Just to see live pitching again, it was probably been a month for me as our team didn’t make the playoffs in college. I felt comfortable right away and (Blue Jays director of player development) Gil (Kim) gave me the opportunity to come out to Vancouver so I was excited.”
Jake Brodt made his Nat Bailey Stadium debut June 26, 2018.
After a two-game stint in the Gulf Coast League, Brodt was promoted to Vancouver and he made an immediate impact with his first two professional hits in his first two at-bats with the C’s. He added a double for a three-hit night during a victory in Spokane June 23.
Brodt’s first at-bat on Canadian soil was three days later and he produced an RBI single in his first plate appearance to jumpstart the C’s to a win over Tri-City. He immediately enjoyed the atmosphere at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“It’s been incredible. From the first time that I walked on this field, I saw the crowd. I was like, ‘This is going to be a good summer.’ They’ve treated us so well. I haven’t felt homesick at all. I felt a sense of home here and they’ve really welcomed us. Not only the team but like the crowd, the atmosphere, the organization. It’s been a great summer and it’s going to be one to remember.”
Brodt would belt his first professional home run in Boise July 14 but his batting average was just hovering over the Mendoza Line July 20. The next day saw him begin a 13-game hitting streak that included a grand slam to cap off a win over Eugene July 23. That stretch saw Brodt terrorize the Hillsboro Hops during a five-game set at Ron Tonkin Field in which he went 8-for-19 with four runs batted in. That helped Brodt put his early season struggles behind him.
“I knew that with pro ball, there was going to be a learning curve. I knew that there were going to be some things that worked for me in college that wouldn’t work at this level and I just had to figure those out. I think it just took me a little bit longer to get my feet wet in professional baseball but for whatever reason, leading up to that series, I had my Dad come out to the Vancouver series before that. I had a decent series then. My whole family came out to that one actually in Hillsboro so it was good to play to be able to play in front of them. I just felt a sense of comfort and I just going up there and having fun.
I just kind of put the stats behind me at that point because when I’m having fun, that’s when I play my best so I just went out there and tried to have as much fun as I can and we ended up getting a series win.”
Despite scuffling with the bat early on, Brodt takes pride on his defence at first as he committed just four errors in 326 chances with the C’s.
“I’ve always been told that you can win games on defence. Whether it’s a ground ball to shortstop, runner on third base, two outs. If he throws that in the dirt and you save that run, it’s pretty much the same thing as you hitting a home run the next inning, you know what I mean? I take pride in the defence part of it as well.”
Brodt also moonlighted at second base for two-thirds of an inning in the season finale at Spokane September 3 when Brandon Polizzi was making his rounds on the field by playing all nine positions.
Jake Brodt rebounded in the second half by batting .264 and slugging .425.
Baseball America lauded Brodt’s power by noting he has “a ton of strength in his bat” and “does enough defensively to stick at first”. When asked to give a scouting report on himself, he touched upon the same themes.
“It’s kind of hard because I don’t want people knowing the weaknesses too much from the outside perspective. I’m a powerful guy. I feel like I haven’t tapped quite into all the power that I could possibly have. There’s a lot still to be done and I understand that and I’m ready to put in that work too to achieve where I want to be.
I think I’m a player that has a lot of upside. I’m think I’m a first baseman who plays above-average defence over there. I’m not the kind of just big body you stick over there to hide him. I think I play a good defensive first base. I’m looking forward to being an asset on whatever team that I play for.”
It’s expected the next team the 23 year-old Brodt will play for will be the Lansing Lugnuts. He celebrated his 23th birthday on January 23.
My thanks again to Jake Brodt for being the latest guest on C’s Chat and to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.