By most accounts, Alex Bregman has a very bright future in baseball. But this year almost certainly will be his last chance to get his one shining moment.
Bregman, who starred at Albuquerque Academy, begins his junior season at LSU Feb. 13 with only one goal in mind.
“I can’t wait, I’m so excited,” Bregman said. “I’m ready to go out there and compete with the best teammates in the world and hopefully win the last game of the year in Omaha.
Winning the College World Series in Omaha has been a goal for Bregman since he first took the field for the Tigers, ranked No. 4 in the 2015 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll and No. 2 in the Baseball America preseason poll.
And while Bregman — who was named a 2015 preseason All-American by Perfect Game and Baseball America — has been a star, each of his first two seasons have ended in disappointment.
LSU | SS | Jr.
In 2013, Bregman hit .369 with six home runs and 52 RBIs and led LSU in runs scored (59), doubles (18), triples (7) and stolen bases (16). He earned a national freshman of the year award, national shortstop of the year award and was named first-team All-American.
But Bregman went 0-for-8 in Omaha and committed a costly error in the opener as LSU was swept out of the CWS.
After another stellar season for Bregman — he hit .316 with 16 doubles, six homers, 35 runs and 12 stolen bases — last year, the Tigers lost in the regionals.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Bregman, who went 8-for-15 with three RBIs in the regionals. “When you decide to go to LSU, that’s the only thing that is on all of our players’ minds and all of our coaches’ minds. We’re going to work hard and play hard and do our best to find a way to win.”
In all likelihood, this will be Bregman’s final chance to win a national title. As a junior, Bregman will be eligible for June’s MLB Draft. Unlike in football, college baseball players who are three years removed from high school don’t have to declare for the draft and the better players are almost guaranteed to sign and leave school early.
“In baseball, the leverage in negotiations plays a much more significant role than it does in football,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “When a player has the leverage of the threat of going back to school for his senior year, it really forces a major league team to pay them a significant signing bonus. If they wait until after their senior year, they have no power in negotiating.”
Bregman was drafted in by the Boston Red Sox in 2012, but an injury to his finger cost him most of his senior season at Academy and sent his stock plummeting to the 29th round.
“We’re really glad we will have had Alex for three years,” Mainieri said. “He could have very easily signed professionally out of high school. He gave me his word that if he did not get drafted in the first round he would come to LSU and he was a man of his word.”
Mainieri doesn’t expect his program to be so lucky after this year’s draft is over.
“I very much expect him to go in the first round after his junior year at LSU and, with my blessing, he’ll go off to professional baseball and hopefully make the major leagues in a very short time,” Mainieri said. “In my opinion, he’s the best position player in all of college baseball and he’s going to be an asset to any organization.
“I wish I could sign him to a 20-year contract instead of just three years. But I know all good things have to come to an end. That’s what college baseball is like.”
Some mock drafts have Bregman going as high as third overall to the Colorado Rockies, the new parent club of the Albuquerque Isotopes.
“That’s every kid’s dream to play in the big leagues,” Bregman said. “I’m fortunate enough to play at a university like LSU that’s going to give me an opportunity to do that in the future.”
That opportunity might come at a different position as some baseball gurus aren’t sure if Bregman can stick at shortstop at the next level.
His coach disagrees.
“I’m his biggest fan as a shortstop,” Mainieri said. “He’s made himself into one of the very best shortstops I’ve ever coached. I have no doubt that he has the ability to stay at shortstop in the major leagues.”
Bregman does his best to concentrate on the present, he too thinks that’s his position.
“Shortstop, I’m a shortstop,” Bregman said. “I’ve heard a lot of it and it’s all noise. In order to play shortstop you have to be able to make three plays: a backhand in the six-hole, turn a double play and make every routine play and I can do that. I’m a shortstop.”
While a return to the Duke City or a move to a new position may or may not be in his near future, Bregman remains focused on finishing what he came to LSU to do.
“He’s so determined to win a national championship and that’s all he’s focused on,” Mainieri said.
But even if Bregman’s immediate goal doesn’t come to fruition this season, he will still have left a lasting impact at LSU.
“He’s been such a joy to have,” Mainieri said. “He’s made our program better, he’s a phenomenal young man, he has an amazing work ethic. He loves the game of baseball so much that I’m sure he’d rather play baseball than eat or sleep.”