Saturday Sports Q&A: Rochester's Bruss jumping arm-first into pro baseball
Rochester's Thomas Bruss, a relief pitcher, has signed a professional baseball contract to play with the New Jersey Jackals of the Frontier League.
Thomas Bruss, who played baseball in high school at Century and then at Division II University of Augustana, has signed a professional baseball contract with the New Jersey Jackals.
The Jackals are an independent minor-league team in the Frontier League. Bruss is a 6-foot-8, 280-pound hard-throwing right-handed relief pitcher. The 23-year-old recently had a chat with Post Bulletin sports reporter Guy N. Limbeck.
POST BULLETIN: You signed a contract with the New Jersey Jackals, how exciting was that?
THOMAS BRUSS: It came up pretty quick. I was playing with the Mankato MoonDogs (in the Northwoods League) this summer and was hoping to sign an affiliated deal. Nothing really came of that so I kind of mentioned something to my (Augustana) coach. We had talked about this for a bit, independent ball, and New Jersey was the first team to contact me. I mean, it’s exciting and a different feeling to be getting paid to play baseball.
PB: You haven’t been playing pro ball long, but how is the experience so far?
BRUSS: It’s a great group of guys to be around. Even summer ball and college baseball to an extent is like a melting pot of guys with different backgrounds. But independent and minor-league baseball is just a whole (other) step beyond that. I'm playing with guys who are ages 24 to 33. Some of these guys I played against in college, some of these guys were second-round picks by big league clubs out of high school and some of these guys came straight from the Dominican Republic and don’t speak much English.
PB: How long has it been your goal to play pro ball?
BRUSS: It’s been my goal since I understood what it was. I think any kid who really loves baseball has that goal.
PB: You weren’t selected in the amateur baseball draft, was that a disappointment?
BRUSS: Maybe going straight to independent ball wasn’t what you thought was going to happen. As a kid you dream about getting drafted and signing a huge deal and making your Major League debut at the age of 21 or 22, but that’s not the story for everyone. But it really hasn’t quite set in that I’m a professional baseball player. I think once I get my first check … it might set in then.
PB: You have always been a relief pitcher in college. What is your role going to be in New Jersey?
BRUSS: Definitely out of the bullpen. There aren’t any really set roles, outside of we kind of understand who’s going to throw in what situation. We just stay ready and be prepared to get warm as soon as your name’s called.
PB: You’re a big guy, how fast do you throw and what are your go-to pitches?
Bruss: This summer in Mankato, my average velocity was probably 94-96. I tapped out at 98 a couple times. … The fastball, as long as you can hit your spots with that, you’ll have a lot of success. But I honestly think my go-to pitch right now is my slider. I’ve gotten a good grasp for that over the past year. I’ll throw 12 in a row sometimes and throw it for a strike when I’m behind in the count.
PB: You had some different options to sign with other teams, how did you select New Jersey?
BRUSS: My (college) coach reached out to me and said a Schaumburg (Illinois) team near Chicago was interested as well. But I told the New Jersey coach — I hadn’t signed anything — that I would come there and I didn’t want to back out of a verbal agreement. I also thought it would be fun to go halfway across the country, someplace I’d never been. And I’ll only be here a little over a month, it’s not like I’m committing full time. And the Frontier League is a good league to end up in. It’s an old league and a highly competitive league.
PB: What are your plans for the offseason?
BRUSS: I’m going to live back in Rochester, honestly. One offseason to rack up some money and then just work and train. Five years of college and quite a few years of summer ball and my savings account isn’t as deep as I would like it.