PORTAGE, Ind. (CNS) — Mike Brosseau wishes to be known for his workmanlike dedication to his craft and even-keeled personality.
A member of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays since 2019, the graduate of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, is sometimes put into a national spotlight when he is identified with the drama of the game.
Before the 2021 MLB season began April 1, Brosseau reflected on some intense moments from last season and how he called upon his faith to navigate through them.
On Oct. 9, Brosseau found himself walking to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. The best-of-five series was tied 2-2. The score was 1-1 after homers by each team.
There was one out and no runners on base when Brosseau, who attended St. Bridget School in Hobart and Andrean High School, a diocesan high school in Merrillville, assumed his batting stance.
“Honestly, I was looking to get into scoring position somehow,” said Brosseau in an interview at his parents’ home in Portage. “I wanted to drive a ball with some authority into play.”
Brosseau faced Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and on the 10th pitch, he launched a home run into the empty left-field seats that wound up being the difference in the Rays’ 2-1 win.
Due to safety practices during the coronavirus, no fans were permitted in the stands, but a celebration of cheers, high-fives and dances greeted the 27-year-old Brosseau as he rounded the bases and headed to the dugout.
“Luckily (my hit) was two extra bases than what I was planning for,” Brosseau explained with a smile.
The home run that sent Tampa Bay to the American League Championship Series for the second time in club history was only half of the story.
On Sept. 1, Chapman threw a 101-mph fastball at Brosseau’s head as he ducked, avoiding injury. A TV announcer called the toss a “a very scary and dangerous pitch.”
The Rays and Yankees benches cleared as players reacted and an announcer said: “We hope what prevails is something better than what we’ve seen here.”
After the Oct. 9 home run, internet highlight footage, memes and even T-shirts bearing the slogan “Mike Brosseau’s Revenge” went viral.
Brosseau never saw his historic homer for the Rays as revenge. In an interview with Northwest Indiana Catholic, Gary’s diocesan newspaper, he put his sports career in perspective and gave credit to values he learned from his parents and his Catholic education.
“I personally never saw the scenario as revenge; I just thought it was a really top-tier-level reliever in the big leagues that has electric stuff and you have to be on your A-game every time you step in the box,” Brosseau said. “It was never a (revenge) storyline to me.”
He said the offseason for him was mainly about relaxing with his parents and playing with his dog, Doc, and getting more than a dozen media inquiries.
Brosseau is the only child of Michael Joseph and Bonnie Brosseau.
He played Catholic Youth Organization sports, including soccer and basketball. But he said he was more known as the skinny kid who took a strong interest in baseball.
While in junior high, he was taken under the wing of longtime Andrean baseball coach Dave Pishkur.
“I was well aware of (Pishkur’s) legacy in the area and the reputation of Andrean for baseball,” said Brosseau, of the all-time winningest coach in Indiana state baseball history. “Coming from a Catholic school like St. Bridget and liking baseball, Andrean was a perfect fit for me.”
Pishkur said Brosseau was a scrappy utility player who contributed as a shortstop to the school’s 2010 state championship team.
“He is an awesome guy who we are so proud to call an Andrean guy,” said Pishkur. “His hard work and relentless desire to be an MLB player is simply amazing.”
Brosseau accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Rays, where he started with one of its minor league teams, the Durham Bulls in Durham, North Carolina.
Like millions hoping for the coronavirus to recede, Brosseau also looks forward to playing before fans at stadiums.
Recently, the Brosseau family reviewed the 2021 MLB schedule with the hopes of seeing their son play in Chicago when the Rays are set to meet the White Sox in June. He also awaits the opportunity to compete against his favorite childhood team, the Cubs.
For now, he is pleased to have earned a career in the big leagues and credits his Catholic education for inspiring his faith and helping him with life skills.
“I think a big thing that I learned throughout Catholic school was how to be disciplined,” Brosseau explained. “That carries through in time discipline, moral discipline and all those different avenues.”
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Alonzo is a staff photographer and writer and maintains the website at Northwest Indiana Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Gary.