Former Liberty pitcher establishing himself
For The Madera Tribune
Former Liberty pitcher Connor Brogdon (pitching for Lehigh Valley in AAA) played for many teams on his way to the Major Leagues. He went to Fresno City College and then to Lewis and Clark State before being drafted in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Brogdon made his Major League Baseball debut last season and is expected to make the Phillies’ 2021 Opening Day roster.
With a baseball career of ups and downs, former Liberty Hawks pitcher Connor Brogdon reached the pinnacle in his Major League Baseball debut last season with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Brogdon, a 2012 graduate of Liberty, allowed a home run on his first pitch as a big leaguer. However, he closed the season on a roll by not allowing a run over his last 8 2/3 inning pitched with six strikeouts.
With that experience under his belt, Brogdon heads into spring training somewhat as a veteran, but he hasn’t forgotten the long road it took to reach the Big Leagues.
“It hadn’t hit me until an hour after I got the office call-up last year,” he said of the realization he was going to be a big leaguer. “It was actually on the drive to the ballpark that I reached the ultimate journey to get there. It was a surreal experience. The Ranchos is so small and now I’m a big leaguer.”
Brogdon says that he was the typical elementary school kid with Big League dreams who wrote that he wanted to be a baseball player when he grew up.
“I’m pretty sure I wrote what I wanted to be when I grew up was a baseball player,” he said. “Or it was a cop because my dad was one. I knew from age 4 on up, I wanted to be a pro baseball player. I didn’t want to pitch. I wanted to hit, play third base or catch. One thing led to another.”
With two stints with the Phillies — one successful and one not so successful — Brogdon points to just getting the call and making his debut as the highlight of the year.
“Just getting the call and making my debut, although my debut was bad,” he said. “That, and it went hand-in-hand with coming back in my next outing after getting a week off and getting a strikeout in Fenway. To say I struck somebody out at Fenway is up there on my list of accomplishments.”
Brogdon started playing baseball in the Ranchos area and grew from there.
“I played for Andrew Brooks’ dad in T-ball.” He said. “I played for Anthony Garcia’s dad in rookie ball. I played at Webster. I played with the Central Cal coached by Terrance Frazier.”
While at Liberty, Brogdon signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Fresno State. On the same day he was pitching for the County in the City/County All-Star Baseball Game, Brogdon was drafted to the Major Leagues, although it was late in the draft. He decided to attend Fresno State, but didn’t last too long and landed at Fresno City College.
“We just didn’t agree with each other,” Brogdon said of his time at Fresno State.
After two successful years at Fresno City College, Brogdon transferred to Lewis and Clark State and had another successful career there.
“The No. 1 reason why I went there is because they were good.” He said. “I didn’t know anything about them so I Googled them. They had just won the National Championships and were in the National Championship two straight years. My first year I was there, we won the championship, but I didn’t play. I pitched the whole season, but didn’t play in the World Series. They won it to make it two straight. My senior year, we won it again. I got my life together a little bit. That made it three straight for them.”
While at Lewis and Clark State, Brogdon learned to become a better player
“Hard work, discipline and playing under their coaches just molded me into a great player.” He said. “The pitching coach kept saying we’re making machines. Hard work and discipline was engrained into us. They made us better men and a better baseball player. I’m extremely thankful for their tutelage. Without that, I don’t think I would have the mental discipline I have now. I don’t know how I would have gotten over that first outing giving up a first pitch dinger. I would have crumbled. Because of those guys, I built up a lot of mental strength.”
Brogdon also credits the coaching at Fresno City College — head coach Ron Scott and pitching coach Eric Solberg — into molding him into the pitcher he is and also pushed him to go to Lewis and Clark State.
“They knew that’s what I needed, the discipline to shape myself,” he said. “They knew I wasn’t going to class and wasn’t a good student. They did me a favor by pushing me in that direction. I learned so much from Coach Solberg how to be a better pitcher, how to attack, how to plan.”
After his career at Lewis and Clark State was over, Brogdon was drafted in the 10th round by the Phillies.
“I was drafted way higher than I was thinking,” he said. “I always hoped. There’s three days of the draft. For a guy like me, there was no shot I was going on the first day. On the second day, I thought I would love to pitch myself into that spot. I didn’t think there was any shot of it happening. At about six in the morning on that second day, luckily I just woke up and happened to check my phone. Someone from the Braves told me they were thinking about me in the eighth round. I got another one from the Cardinals and Dodgers. Finally, the Phillies were the most matter of fact about it. They said they were going to get something done. Within 15 minutes from their first text, I got a call from them telling me, congrats.”
At that moment, Brogdon realized all the hard work he put in paid off.
“It’s a great feeling to get drafted. Me and my buddy celebrated in Las Vegas that night,” he said.
Brogdon then went to the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater, Florida, to get his physicals done and then went to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for short-season Rookie League.
From there, Brogdon started a steady climb through the Phillies’ program, especially after he was transferred to the bullpen to become a reliever.
“At first, being a 10th round senior, I didn’t know what their hopes were,” Brogdon said. “I didn’t feel like I was noticed until I got moved from Clearwater to Redding. I was going about the everyday business of it. I got called into the manager’s office. He was trying to joke with me that I was in trouble and he told me I was moving up. I wasn’t expecting a promotion at all. I kind of thought I was stuck behind some people. That was the first time I thought I had a shot and they knew who I was. After that, it was a steady rise.”
Brogdon excelled in the bullpen, although there were thoughts about making him a starter, again, but fate intervened and he stayed in the bullpen.
“When I first came in and went to short season, I went straight to the bullpen,” he said. “That went well and I had a good year. I came in spring training the next year and my innings were getting longer and longer. I asked what was going on, whether I was a reliever, long guy or a starter. They asked if I could start. That’s what I did my whole life. It was a blessing in disguise when we had a guy come off the injured list and make some moves. He took my spot in the rotation and I went back to the bullpen. That led to my stay there. I made one spot a week later.”
Brogdon built on the success he had in the minors and excelled late last season. Early in Spring Training this year, he continues to have success and hasn’t yielded a run in his first three appearances and looks towards a bigger and better 2021.
“I want to build off last year,” he said. “I want to show the last five appearances weren’t a fluke. That’s what should be expected of me, not the first few appearances.”