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Andrean grad Brosseau makes major league debut with Tampa Bay Rays
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Andrean grad Brosseau makes major league debut with Tampa Bay Rays

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A line drive the other way.

Jacke Healey, Oakland University's former co-head baseball coach, saw it many times when Mike Brosseau was in college.

“That’s who he was for three years that I watched him in college,” Healey said.

Except this time, the Andrean alumnus and Portage native wasn’t playing for Oakland University. He was playing against the Oakland Athletics in his major league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays.

On the fourth pitch he saw Sunday, Brosseau notched his first major-league hit.

“It was a pretty surreal moment walking up to the plate for sure,” Brosseau said in a video interview provided by the Rays. “It was definitely pretty cool to see it go through. ... I got the jitters going a little bit, but luckily it fell through and (I) felt a big monkey off the back.”

Brosseau finished 1-for-5 in the Rays' 8-2 win.

Healey had seen Brosseau hit line drives before.

For Rays manager Kevin Cash, it was a new and welcome sight.

“For him to go up there, stay on a ball, it looked like it was a ball or two off the plate and he stayed on it and smoked it to right field,” Cash said in a quote provided by the Rays. “(He) made some nice plays at third base. It’s really encouraging.”

A remarkable sight, really.

“He’s playing in a major league ballpark for the first time,” Healey said. “He’s playing in front of 20,000 to 30,000 people. He’s got a ton of people watching him on TV, not that he can’t handle the pressure, but the nerves of that to go up there on your (fourth) pitch of your major league career, hit a ball probably 100 miles (an hour) off the bat, it speaks volumes about him.”

His first hit in Oakland came dizzyingly fast — much like his climb from Oakland to Oakland.

Brosseau wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, per Andrean coach Dave Pishkur.

As Valparaiso University coach Brian Schmack put it, Brosseau was “the one that got away.”

But there was something special about him, which Oakland quickly found out.

“He was just a hard-working kid and a good athlete, but just a passion,” Pishkur said. “He was probably 160 pounds when he graduated from Andrean and (that) might be generous.”

When Brosseau got to Oakland University, all he did was hit. In just his sophomore year of college, he hit .321, earning first team All-Horizon League at shortstop. He spent the rest of his career as one of the top hitters in the Horizon League, one Schmack got to see firsthand.

“He was very confident and that went a long way,” Schmack said. “Whatever the matchup was, different guy on the mound, we just couldn’t get him out, and he would hit good pitches, he would spoil them, and then he would hit a mistake and he’d hit it pretty far and hard.”

Brosseau wasn’t even drafted out of Oakland University.

“He was called up as a free agent to fill out a roster, no more than that,” Pishkur said. “There’s no way they were going to think he was going to be this type of player. Fill out a roster, give some guy a rest once in a while. Every time, he had to literally wait for someone in front of him to fail to get an opportunity, and every time he got an opportunity he better produce, and he did.”

That didn’t stop him from racing his way to the major leagues. Everywhere he went, he hit.

In rookie ball, with the Gulf Coast Rays, he hit .319. He hit at right around the same clip, .318, for the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. In Montgomery, for the Double-A Biscuits, he flexed his muscle, with 24 doubles and 13 homers, but hit for a lower average (.262). At Triple-A Durham this season, it all came together, as he hit for average (.313) and power (20 doubles, 14 homers and 57 RBIs in just 240 at-bats).

After three seasons and change in the minor leagues, just 1,094 at-bats, he learned he was MLB-bound on the side of the road as Durham traveled from Pawtucket to Scranton.

“It’s really, really cool,” Healey said. “It’s not overly surprising.

“He’s worked extremely hard. He’s been passionate about the game since before I’ve known him. He’s just an extremely hard worker. He eats, sleeps, drinks baseball since he’s probably been about 6 years old and he achieved the dream of playing Major League Baseball.”

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