It doesn’t matter how many accolades you throw at him. Nick Brueser never stops working.
After he was named the National Junior Player of the Year last high school baseball season by MaxPreps.com, the Chandler Hamilton first baseman was right back on the field, working on his hitting.
In July, during Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities in San Diego, Brueser won the national high school home run derby contest.
Then, after a finger injury that caused him to miss the Area Code Games in Long Beach in August, Brueser was back at work, getting ready for a senior season that he hopes becomes even more special.
With Brueser leading the way, Hamilton’s baseball team is ranked by MaxPreps as No. 5 nationally heading into the season.
That means it’s grind time in February with Brueser getting out early for practices to spend extra time in the cage.
“It’s a nice perk (the home run derby win), a nice little something to have in your back pocket, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to focus on what you’re doing today,” Brueser said.
The Stanford commit, with all the tools scouts love (he throws left and bats right) – power numbers, work ethic, size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), coachability, projection, smarts – is the latest and maybe the greatest to come through the 16-year Mike Woods baseball factory at Hamilton, where five state titles, including last season, have been won.
Woods has had nearly 20 players taken in the MLB draft.
Brueser could wind up being the school’s highest draft pick, if pro scouts aren’t intimidated by his Stanford scholarship.
“It would take a lot to get him off the Stanford commit,” Woods said.
A high-academic kid, Brueser said he won’t shut the door on pro scouts.
“I really want to go to school, but if a team really gives me a good offer that I can’t refuse, we’ll have to see,” Brueser said. “It will be a tough decision.”
It’s going to be tough to top what Brueser has done the past two seasons at Hamilton, hitting a total of 18 home runs.
He had nine home runs with 46 hits and 47 RBIs, batting .442 last season, when he was named azcentral sports’ Big Schools Player of the Year.
Brueser has a strong supporting cast returning with shortstop Drew Swift (Arizona State signee) and outfielder Brayden Merritt (New Mexico) back for their seniors seasons after both hit .400 last year.
The Huskies lose only ace right-hander Zane Strand from their pitching staff. Strand, now at ASU, had an All-Arizona season last year when he won 11 games.
But Woods has four pitchers back who combined for 14 wins last season. Cole Bellinger, a talented second baseman, figures to step into the stopper’s role, after he went 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA and won the lightning-delayed state championship game against Glendale Mountain Ridge last season.
Woods said Bellinger won’t pitch that much early in the season, but, by season’s end, “he will fit that role” that Strand occupied.
“We have three three-year starters,” Woods said. “We won the state championship last year, and the year before that, we won 30 games. They’ve done nothing but win.
“We’re just trying to figure out who the complementary players are going to be.”