A preseason All-American and highly regarded 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft prospect, Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa had high expectations placed on him entering last season.
However, he missed significant time due to injury and only played in 30 games in 2015, finishing with a .291 batting average, four home runs, 13 RBIs and 10 doubles. He also struck out 31 times in 110 at-bats.
“I think I finished the season on the up and up despite the injury,” Brusa said. “Ultimately, God had a plan, and I believe last went exactly how it was suppose to because going through that adversity I’ve learned a lot.”
Brusa was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 23rd round of the 2015 draft, but decided to turn down the opportunity and return to Pacific for his senior season.
“I’ve always prayed for God to make my decisions very clear to me,” Brusa said. “The decision was an easy one. Last year, with the injury and the way the season played out, it didn’t seem right to go out of college that way.
“I really came here to help this program and haven’t necessarily accomplished what I wanted to accomplish being here. It made a lot of sense to get closer to my degree and have one more shot at this.”
In his final college season, Brusa is hoping to be a productive player and team leader.
“I think just competing for my team,” Brusa said is his goal this season. “I think just staying the process and being out there and putting it on the line for my teammates will ultimately get this program where we want to go.”
Pacific is coming off of a 14-37 season, after having aspirations of winning the West Coast Conference title prior to the start of the season.
After 12 seasons as the head coach of Pacific, Ed Sprague stepped down following the season. Pacific hired former Cal pitching coach Mike Neu to replace him.
Despite last season’s struggles, the expectations are to be competitive in the WCC this year.
“The expectation is to be in our conference tournament,” Brusa said. “Last year our expectations didn’t really work out well last year. We faced a lot of adversity last year.
“However, I’m a believer that the harder the adversity the greater the reward. This program has gone through some adversity, and I think that this is the year that it will pay off for persevering through it.”
In order for Pacific to accomplish its goal, every player needs to buy in and believe they can win ball games, Brusa said.
“We need to be confident and proud that we are playing for the University of Pacific,” Brusa said. “No matter who we are playing, we just need to come out and bring it to the other team. I’m confident with the team we have.”
Brusa, who is a switch-hitter, is better from the left side of the plate and possesses outstanding power. But, his plate discipline and health are two question marks as he enters his senior year.
If Brusa can perform up to the level he’s capable of doing, not only will his team succeed, but he will also have a shot at being selected in the early rounds of the 2016 draft.
When Brusa is selected in the 2016 draft, it will mark the third time he’s been selected. Besides last year when the Cardinals selected him, Brusa was also drafted coming out of high school.
He had the opportunity to be selected in the fifth round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 draft, but decided to turn down the offer and purse his college education at Pacific. Brusa was eventually taken by Atlanta in the 37th round.
“It is kind of crazy because I thought I learned a lot going through it my first time as a senior in high school,” Brusa said. “But, I learned even more going through it last year to where this year I don’t even think about it.
“No matter what happens, God’s plan is ultimately what’s going to happen. Trust in it and just go out and play. The cards will fall where they are suppose to.”
Going through the process twice has caused Brusa to realize that he can’t focus on the attention and pressure associated with the draft. Instead, he has to go out and play the game he loves.
“One key that I learned was to just play baseball and to play for the audience of one,” Brusa said. “Yeah there is a lot of people in the stands, but ultimately playing for the man above is the definitely the main thing.”