Baltimore Orioles All-Star and Freehold Twp. Grad Brad Brach Talks About Beating the Odds, Preparing for this Season
*Click here to check out the spring training photo gallery of Brad Brach by Mark Brown/B51 Photography*
Baltimore Orioles reliever Brad Brach, a former star at Freehold Township and Monmouth University, is the ultimate underdog success story from the Shore Conference.
Brach, 30, was selected in a round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft that no longer even exists when he was grabbed in the 42nd round by the San Diego Padres in 2008 out of Monmouth.
He beat the long odds to reach the big leagues with San Diego, where he pitched for three seasons before landing in Baltimore. The 6-foot-6 right-hander blossomed into an American League All-Star last year, finishing 10-4 with a 2.05 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 79 innings while finishing in the top 10 in the league in appearances.
Brach was particularly dominant in the first half of the season, going 5-1 with a 0.99 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .147 average. He is believed to be the first All-Star pitcher from the Shore since Central Regional great Al Leiter made the National League team with the Mets in 2000.
Shore Sports Network caught up with Brach in Sarasota, Florida, the home of the Orioles' spring training.
What does it feel like coming into spring training after establishing yourself as an All-Star last year?
It's a little bit different this year just because they kind of scheduled my innings out so I kind of knew exactly how the spring was gonna go. I could kind of pace myself, know when to work out a little bit harder and when to take it a little bit easier, so that's a little bit of an advantage there.
What was that experience like getting to play in the All-Star game in San Diego?
Playing in the game last year was incredible. Getting to stand on that line and have my name announced with all the guys that were on that line, it was just unbelievable. Hopefully I get to experience it again.
Is there any favorite thing you like to do during the offseason?
I like to golf whenever I get a chance, and visit family and friends. I live down in Nashville now. I got family in New Jersey, my younger brother lives in California, my parents live in Arizona, so it's just kind of all over the place. I like to visit them as much as possible.
What was it like being inducted into the Monmouth University Hall of Fame with Miles Austin and others in December?
It was awesome. That whole weekend they just did an unbelievable job, not that I expected anything different from Monmouth. Putting all that together, the basketball game and everything, it just made me feel extremely honored. Looking back at my time at Monmouth, it was kind of unbelievable, and this is kind of capping off my career there.
Is it possible to top last season given how dominant you were in your role? What would you consider an improvement on last year?
Just being able to have two halves (of the season) like I had. The first half (of last year) was probably the best half I've ever had. I kind of fell off a little bit in the second half. Not as bad as the numbers might say, but I would like to just be able to finish that out for an entire season.
You were in the Top 10 in the American League in appearances and threw 79 innings each of the past two years. How do you prepare yourself for such a heavy workload and did you do anything different in the offseason to rest?
Nothing different. I had to get a minor knee surgery in October, so I had to just take a little extra time with the physical therapy for that. Besides that, just stay on top of conditioning and lifting and try to get as strong as possible. It wears you down, but if you're able to stay on top of your lifting and running, it's way easier to manage.
You were part of one of the best bullpens in baseball last year and return four core guys. Given how volatile bullpen success can be, how do you stay consistent as a group from year to year?
I think we just kind of challenge each other. It's kind of like a game-to-game thing. You don't want to be the guy that blows the game. I think it's just one of those challenges that we have within ourselves. The way this team works, if we have a lead after the sixth inning, we have to keep it or we're going to be fighting an uphill battle. So with us it's just challenging each other and just going out there not wanting to be the guy that loses
You are the ultimate underdog story. Any advice for other Shore players who might be struggling with being overlooked?
Don't worry about the radar gun. Just go out and keep working hard. For pitchers, just keep throwing strikes. I tell everyboy from Little League on up that the best advice I can give is to throw strikes. For me, the velocity didn't come until I was about 23 or 24. In the Northeast, I think it's just one of those things that it's slow developing, so you can't worry about the radar gun, just go out there, fill up the zone, and once the velocity catches up and your body catches up, the sky's the limit.
Favorite band: Jenae Cherry Band. (Brach's wife, Jenae, is a country singer/songwriter).
Favorite song to enter the game: AC DC's "Thunderstruck"
Favorite hometown restaurant: Federici's Pizza in Freehold.
Favorite player growing up: Cal Ripken Jr.