And though he also already has 100 strikeouts to his name, the lefthander’s ability to hit both righties and lefties for power could put him in company with the best power-hitters in the game – over 50% of his hits have gone for extra bases this season; he’s batting .320/.379/.604 overall. Defensively, Bruce’s strong arm and athleticism make him a good fit for right field.
I had a chance to catch up with Bruce (prior to his promotion to Triple-A) and talk with him about why he dropped Scott Boras as his advisor entering the draft, who he grew up idolizing, and how the Chattanooga fans treated him after he struck out four times in his Double-A debut.
Adam Foster: The Florida State League is a pretty tough league to hit in, but you didn’t make it seem that way. Did you enter the season with any sort of tempered expectations for yourself because you were going to be playing there?
Jay Bruce: No, not really. I just still need to play the game that I play and not worry about where I’m playing. I didn’t really put any extra expectations on myself at all.
Foster: You’re making more consistent contact against lefties this season than you did last year, what do you attribute that to?
Bruce: Experience. Just knowing it’s nothing different than a righty throwing. It’s still a ball coming, and that’s about it.
Foster: So many minor leaguers talk about how difficult it is to adjust to the grind of full-season professional baseball. What advice would you give high school kids who were drafted last June as they prepare for full-season leagues next summer?
Bruce: Eat healthy. Get your rest. And take care of your body...make sure to stretch and make sure to lift to maintain your strength that you already have. That’s a big thing. I don’t think enough people do that.
Foster: Heading into the 2005 draft, why did you initially choose Scott Boras as your advisor then switch your representation?
Bruce: At the beginning, I was kind of in the dark about it all, and I’d heard Scott Boras’ name before. He’s obviously one of the best at what he does for established major leaguers. Then after a while it just didn’t really work out for us. We had some different interests and went our separate ways. He didn’t do anything wrong to me at all.
Foster: Can you describe what it’s like to soar up the draft ranks your senior year in high school?
Bruce: It was amazing. And the weird thing is I didn’t do anything different. I didn’t change anything I was doing...it kind of just happened. It was exciting obviously...puts me here now.
Foster: Did you ever really stop to think, “Wow, I’m getting $1.8 million to play baseball?” Or were you just focused on getting back on the ball field?
Bruce: I think a little bit of both. It was kind of a shock at first, but once I got on the field it was totally the same as always...just go out there and play hard – it’s still baseball.
Foster: What are some things you like to do in your free time?
Bruce: I like to fish a little bit, listen to music, hang out with my friends...my girlfriend, my family – you don’t get a lot of time with your family.
Foster: Who were some baseball players you grew up rooting for?
Bruce: Ken Griffey Jr. is my idol.
Foster: You’re in the right organization then.
Bruce: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Foster: When did you start playing baseball?
Bruce: Since I can remember...since I could walk.
Foster: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Bruce: I played soccer when I was younger...really just baseball and soccer.
Foster: Do you have any family members who played baseball in college or professionally?
Foster: So you’re the first guy. What’s that like?
Bruce: It’s cool. My parents are very proud, my family’s very proud.
Foster: What was your initial reaction when you heard you were heading to Double-A this year?
Bruce: It was something I’d dreamed about. I feel like I performed well enough and I was just happy to get there and get my career going in that direction.
Foster: Were the fans in Chattanooga easy on you when Gio Gonzalez and the Birmingham Barons welcomed you to Double-A with a golden sombrero?
Bruce: Yeah, they were pretty forgiving. It was just another game. And it’s probably not going to be the last time it happens either.
Adam Foster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.