The Cincinnati, Ohio native showed early on that he had the talent to reach professional baseball by attending the prestigious IMG Academy for student-athletes in Bradenton, Florida in 2016. Brock had an on-base percentage of .409 in 18 games as a shortstop and logged an earned run average of 1.62 ERA on the mound. He continued to dominate on the diamond by striking out 121 batters in 64 innings over two seasons at Cincinnati Country Day High School. Brock also batted .484 with four home runs and 28 runs batted in during his senior season of 2018.
Even though his father Thomas played baseball and his mother Kathy was a volleyball player at the University of Michigan, T.J. decided to join the Wolverines’ bitter rival Ohio State. His first season and a bit did not go according to Hoyle as he gave up a run an inning in his 2019 freshman season and pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Brock turned things around when took over the closer’s role in 2021. He picked up nine saves while striking out 33 batters and posting a 2.08 earned run average in 21-2/3 innings. His nine saves led the Big 10 Conference which led to his selection as a Big 10 Third-Team All-Star.
Brock told Press Pro Magazine that he simplified his delivery by pitching from the stretch instead of a full windup. He also mentioned that he reached 101 miles per hour on the radar gun over his three appearances for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2021. Though Baseball America rated Brock as the 336th best prospect for the 2021 MLB Draft, he was not selected and he returned for his senior season with the Buckeyes.
Ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Big 10 by Baseball America for the 2022 MLB Draft, Brock put up a 3.78 ERA and struck over 23 batters against 10 walks over 16-2/3 innings at Ohio State. He then returned to the Cape Cod League, split six decisions with a 2.78 ERA and rung up 25 batters. The most encouraging thing was the 11 walks he issued with the Kettleers, translating to a 2.8 walk rate per nine innings after a 5.8 BB/9 total during his college days.
The Toronto Blue Jays decided to add Brock’s power arm to the stable by selecting him in the sixth round of the 2022 draft. He could have opted to attend Maryland to join his younger brother Andrew, also a pitcher, but decided to turn pro. Scouted by Tom Burns, Brock received a signing bonus of $72,500.
Brock’s pro career began with a bang as he threw a perfect inning, striking out the first and last man he faced in Lakeland on August 6. He was promoted to Vancouver on August 9. After his father Thomas played in the Northwest League as an outfielder with the Bellingham Mariners in 1988, T.J. made his NWL debut in Eugene on August 12where he struck out two batters in a perfect inning to earn his first professional hold. Brock stranded a runner and struck out four over 1-1/3 shutout innings in Everett on August 20 and rung up two more batters in a perfect frame against Hillsboro on August 27. His first save and win came in back-to-back outings in Spokane. First he closed out a doubleheader sweep for the C’s on August 31 before stranding the bases loaded and pitching 2-1/3 shutout stanzas to pick up the win on September 3. That win helped Vancouver stave off Spokane for the final playoff spot. Brock ended his year with a shutout inning in Game 3 of the Northwest League final against Eugene on September 16.
His upper-90s fastball on the radar gun grabbed the headlines but his slider was rated by Baseball America as the best secondary pitch in the Toronto Blue Jays 2022 draft class.
C’s Plus Baseball spoke to the 23 year-old Brock during the team’s final regular season homestand in 2022. This interview has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – Let’s start with the draft. You’re taken to the sixth round by Toronto. What was your draft day experience like?
T.J. Brock – I had a wonderful draft day experience. I had communication with the Blue Jays and other teams, but I definitely loved the Blue Jays organization and the scout that I talked to. He really believed in me a lot. So it gave me a sense of hope that the Blue Jays were going give me an opportunity. And when I did get the phone call, I was actually with my friends. I wasn’t with my family or anything, I was with my friends. We were going to get some food, wings are my favourite food. So we were going to my favourite wing place in Cincinnati, went and got the wings, and then I see a phone call from a number I didn’t have. So I answered it. It was the Blue Jays and it was a dream come true. I got to experience it with my friends and my family and it was a wonderful experience. It really was.
CPB – You went through a draft camp afterwards. What was that experience like?
TJB – It was a great process, honestly, because, you know, you come from college, so it’s like everything’s really, really structured, but also the pro level stuff is still structured, but it’s on your own. So the draft camp was, it was like a mix of structure, but also at the same time you have to figure out what the extra work that you want to get in at different times. So, but the draft camp was great, honestly. It was wonderful. Get up, get early, get your baseball in and then, you know, get the flow of things and you know how it’s like to be a professional and act like a professional. So if it was a great experience, it really was. And I know the Blue Jays the only people that do that for the draft camp, and it was, I mean, it’s why I love the organization is they really care about the players. It was a wonderful experience.
CPB – You had a chance to see the player development complex. What did you think of it?
TJB – It’s amazing. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m happy to say I call this work. I get to wake up and go to that beautiful place. So it’s amazing. It was a great experience. It really was.
CPB – Is there anything that it helped you out with. Was there something that maybe you didn’t know about yourself from before?
TJB – I think just the biggest thing is having everything available to me. You only know what you know, but coming here you have dieticians, you got lifting coaches and conditioning. You know, lifting and conditioning are the same thing. You’re doing something every single day. You’re with the trainer working on arm care, getting stronger. Everything goes together and you know, in school, it’s kind of just like, ‘Alright, you go play baseball and then that’s it’, you know? So coming here with the Blue Jays, they really care about the players, really care about the development. And then also having mental coaches here that are actually like genuinely wanting to help you and talk to you just about life. Not just problems. You don’t talk about just problems. You talk about things that are going great. So just everything was different, but it was amazing to have all those resources and being able to use those resources was a great thing.
CPB – You got to make your professional debut with Dunedin – two strikeouts in one inning. What was that like for your first pro experience on the mound?
TJB – It was really fun. I was on a team, didn’t know anybody, nobody knew me but it was wonderful to come out there and just play baseball, you know. You speak the language of baseball, you go out there and just let it fly and then play for the team and I was fortunate enough to get two strikeouts and put the team in a position to win.
CPB – You got promoted to Vancouver not too long after that. Did you think that was coming so soon?
TJB – To be honest, yes and no. I mean, I focus on what I can focus on, so being able to help the Vancouver team get to the playoffs was a wonderful goal. And you know, that’s kind of what I’ve been focusing on is just how to help the team. And we’re in the playoffs now so now it’s all right. How can I help the team win the championship and ultimately become victorious?
CPB – How did you find out about the promotion?
TJB – I got a phone call. I didn’t have a passport so I had to go to Miami and get a same-day passport. And then once I was cleared for my same-day passport, they called me and said I was leaving for Eugene, Oregon the next day for the Vancouver Canadians. And I was really excited. It was wonderful. Mason (Fluharty) and I both got called up at the same time so it was great to have a buddy to come up with me. So we flew from Tampa, we had to get up at 5:30, got to the airport at 6:00 just to find out that our flight was delayed three hours. So we’re sitting at the airport for three more hours and then they’re like, ‘Hey, we could fly you to San Francisco and then San Francisco to Oregon.’ We’re like, ‘Is that faster? And they said, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s do that.’ So we flew from Tampa to San Francisco, three-hour layover in San Francisco, then from San Francisco to Oregon and got in. It was a nice 15-hour day. It was a long day, but it was well worth it. It was wonderful.
CPB – I wanted to ask you about (the August 31) game against Spokane. You got five big outs and the team,pulled it out in the end. What was that like pitching that crazy situation?
TJB – It was wonderful. I mean, it was a fun experience. I’ve had roles like that at Ohio State so, you know, it wasn’t any different than playing against Michigan. My last outing was against Michigan, so beating them was kind of a high-pressure situation. So I was in that situation before and just know that I have to take a deep breath, calm down, just rely on my fastball, slider, and, you know, ultimately throw strikes and put the team in a position to win. And we came out victorious.
CPB – Your pitching repertoire. Is it just fastball, slider or four-seam, slider?
TJB – Yeah, I throw a four-seam, two-seam and slider.
CPB – Did anyone teach you the slider or did you develop that on your own?
TJB – Scott Williamson was my coach when I was 12-, 13-years-old. He taught me, he was the 1999 (National League) Rookie of the Year. He played for the Cincinnati Reds and he was in the ’04 World Series with the Red Sox. So he taught me that slider and just kind of been rocking with it for a while. Him and Eric Minshall, my pitching coach from back home, he helped me really define the slider. Scott taught me the grip but Eric really helped me define the slider and throw it the way I need to throw it and allow me to get the swing and miss on it while keeping the velo.
CPB – You started out at Ohio State, had a really good year in 2021. You didn’t get drafted that year but you did get drafted in 2022. Did you expect to get drafted in 2021?
TJB – No, I got calls from teams, but at the same time, I wanted to bet on myself and go back to school because I know that I had more opportunities to go back to school and show what I can do and it did work out going back to school. I got with a great organization in the Blue Jays and I honestly, genuinely can’t say I would rather be with another organization. I love the Blue Jays organization and I was so happy that I didn’t sign, didn’t take any of the offers in 2021 and come back. Just because the opportunity to play for the Blue Jays is a blessing. And I’m very excited to play for them and you know, ultimately win a World Series with them.
CPB – You pitched at Ohio State and your dad played in Michigan. What’s that dynamic like?
TJB – Yeah, so both my parents played at Michigan. My dad played baseball and my mom played volleyball. I grew up a Michigan fan my whole life. From the age of six to 17, I didn’t miss one Michigan football game. I was at every one. So we drove four hours every Saturday to go to the games. I loved the football games. When I committed (to Ohio State) in my senior year is when I really started to change. I was like, ‘Alright, I’m starting to root for Ohio State.’ When I went to Ohio State, my friends were on the football team and I was like, ‘Oh man, okay. I’m starting to root for Ohio State now.’ I never really liked Michigan baseball. When I committed, it was like, ‘Alright, no Michigan baseball.’ But it was 50-50 my freshman year. I was like, ‘Oh, I want Ohio State to win. Ooh, I want them to lose.’ Now it’s go Buckeyes. I want them to win all the time.
CPB – Your Dad played in the Mariners organization. How big was that to have your Dad with the ins and outs of professional baseball?
TJB – It was great. I mean, just having my Dad and then his friends and then, you know, my friend’s Dads, having them play pro ball. It helps kind of know what to expect, just how to act and go about it and be a pro. Growing up as a kid, just the biggest thing my Dad said is to act like you’ve been there before. It’s just the same as being a pro. And so it helps to have people that I know that have played pro ball and have friends that are in pro ball and my Dad ultimately helps, you know, just how to act. That’s kind of the biggest thing. If you want to act like a pro, be a pro. So carrying yourself on and off the field, like a professional is probably the most important thing that my father has taught me. And especially my Mom too, both of them.
CPB – The IMG Academy. What was that like?
TJB – IMG is great. You play baseball and go to school, you do both. You don’t have any other distractions or anything, you know. I was a freshman and sophomore going there. I woke up, I went to class, and then right after class I went and played baseball and I did baseball all day. No distractions or nothing. So it really prepared me for college. It was a lot like college. So going to college was no different than being at IMG. So it prepared me. I knew how to take care of stuff on and off the field and, you know, ultimately prioritize stuff. That was the biggest thing is learning how to prioritize what’s important and not important. So IMG helped a lot.
CPB – You’re from Cincinnati. I take it you were a Reds fan growing up?
TJB – Yeah, I was definitely a Reds fan. My dad played for Seattle and (Ken Griffey Jr.) played for Seattle. So when Griff got traded to Cincinnati, it was great. He was definitely my favourite player. Big Cincinnati fan. I love Cincinnati. Huge Bengals fan. My buddy plays for the Bengals so I’m excited for him. Tee Higgins. He’s going to have a great year this year. He’s going to ball out this year. He’s going to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl this year so I’m excited.
CPB – Final question. Is there something someone should know about you that maybe they don’t or do you have a hidden talent?
TJB – I can do the splits. That’s my hidden talent.
T.J. Brock File
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 17 with Ohio State and number 2 with the Dunedin Blue Jays
- Instagram – @tjbrock3
- Twitter – @tjbrock3
- The More You Know – T.J. Brock is the first player named T.J. to pitch for the C’s since 2016 righthander T.J. Zeuch.
- Baseball Connection – T.J.’s father Thomas was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 13th round of the 1985 MLB January Draft out of Central Arizona College before being taken by Seattle in the 46th round of the 1988 June draft from the University of Michigan.
Thanks a million to T.J. Brock for taking part in the latest chapter of C’s Chat and to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for arranging it. To hear more from T.J., check out his appearance on The Walkoff Podcast.