Odd Man Out: Brosseau Has Played His Way Into Post-Season Nostalgia

Tracy Ringolsby

Three years ago, while the Yankees were signing closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract, a record-setting deal for a reliever, Mike Brosseau was in Perth, Australia, playing winter ball, a year after finishing up his four-year college career, and signing as an undrafted player with the Tampa Bay Rays for $1,000.

Today, Brosseau and the Rays are preparing for a World Series showdown with the Dodgers, which opens on Tuesday night.

Chapman? He and the rest of the Yankees are embarking on an off-season, disappointed about a season gone wrong in no small part because when it came time to step up and make a statement it was Brousseau who answered the challenge of Chapman.

In the bottom of the eighth inning of the fifth-and-final game of the ALCS , Brosseau capped off what was a 12-pitch at-bat by unloading the game-deciding home run in a 2-1 Rays victory. 

Yep, that same Brousseau who was the Player of the Year in the Horizon League at Oakland University in suburban Detroit, where he led the league with a .456 on-base percentage, finished second with 10 home runs and a .571 slugging percentage and hit .354, but saw 1,216 players selected in baseball's 2016 first-year player draft without his name being called.

"Coming out of college, I thought I did what I could to get on some radars, but it was kind of a blessing in disguise," said Brousseau. "To have a team like the Rays give me a chance four years ago when nobody else did. ... It definitely makes it a little more special."

The Rays share that feeling.

A shortstop in college, Brousseau is their handyman off the bench. Real handy. Since he made his MLB debut on June 23, 2019, the Rays are 56-35 in games in which he has appeared.

And none of the games were bigger than that Game 5-loser-go-home ALDS game against the Yankees.

How big?

"This was hands-down the greatest moment I have been a part of in baseball," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "There's been some great ones, but for what that meant to this team, how we got here, that matchup (what Chapman), it's pretty special."

Special in part because back on Sept. 1, Brousseau got the call to hit against Chapman, whose first pitch was a 100.1 mile per hour fastball at Brousseau's head, which Brousseau was able to duck and avoid. 

The next night, in the first inning of the game with the Yankees, Brousseau delivered the first of what was to be two home runs.

And while Brousseau was a longshot to get to the big leagues, and is an extra man on the team, the Rays have come to expect success for Brousseau. He did, after-all, hit .316 with five home runs during the abbreviated regular season, appearing in 26 games while starting at first, second and third, as well as left field, and filling in in right field and in a mop-up role on the mound in a blowout.

"That was storybook," right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow said of the game-winning, series-clinching home run against the Yankees. "He grinded all year long. He had spare playing time, and in such a big moment like that, it was phenomenal. That's the most memorable baseball moment I've been a part of."

And a moment Brousseau will cherish forever.

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