July 17, 2013
CHICAGO - Brian Bogusevic is at home.
Right now, though, he is at his house in Houston, taking a break from the action as 40 or so of the best players in Major League Baseball showcased their talents in the Midsummer Classic. Unlike those few who played in the exhibition match at Citi Field on Tuesday night, the rest of the league's talent is recharging for the final push, in the hopes their team can make it to the end of October.
Since June 25, Bogusevic has been `home' in a more figurative sense of the word.
After destroying Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .319 batting average to go along with 10 home runs and 32 RBI while starring for the Iowa Cubs, his contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs. While the Boys in Blue will more than likely fall short of the postseason this year - they sit 15 games behind the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals at 42-51 - Bogusevic has been making the most of his time with the big league ballclub, batting .261 with three doubles, three RBI and six runs while patrolling the same outfield that has seen the likes of Cub greats and MLB Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Andre Dawson and Hack Wilson.
You see, Bogusevic is from Oak Park, Ill., a mere half an hour from the Friendly Confines. He starred at De La Salle Institute on South Michigan Avenue in high school, just under ten miles away from where he currently plays. Bogusevic's family still resides in the greater-Chicago area, meaning they don't have to purchase a Direct TV package from their cable provider to watch him. They can simply get in a car - or take the Green Line of the famed `L' to the Red Line, dropping them off directly behind the right field bleachers of Wrigley Field at the Addison stop - to catch a glimpse of him in action.
"It's been cool to be at home in Chicago," said Bogusevic. "I haven't had a lot of time to do anything away from the field in the short amount of time I've been there, but it has been a lot of fun so far."
For what they saw on the mound from Bogusevic, the Houston Astros drafted him with the 24th pick of the 2005 amateur draft, becoming the eighth player in Tulane baseball history to be tabbed as a first round pick. Like fellow two-way Greenie Micah Owings - drafted two rounds after Bogusevic by the Arizona Diamondbacks - he started his career on the bump, going 14-21 in 64 starts with a 5.05 ERA. After progressing only as high as the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, the Astros asked that he move to a full-time hitting role.
The switch paid immediate dividends. In 145 at-bats in 2008, Bogusevic batted .371 with three home runs and 20 RBI. He moved up to the Triple-A Round Rock Express in 2009, where he would play in 138 games, batting .271. One more year of seasoning at the minor-league level is all he needed, as he was a late-season call up by the Astros in 2010, making his major league debut on the first of September. He played in 19 games that year, but more than quadrupled that in 2011, when he batted .287 is 87 contests.
"Brian is a tremendous athlete," stated Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "He has great foot speed. He put a lot of pressure on the defense every time he put the ball in play. While he was here, he shortened his swing to become more of a contact hitter. He still had power, but he could really put the ball in play."
Things were great. He was a 27-year-old former first round pick, who was just starting to turn things on for the team that drafted him, focusing on the talent in which the Astros did not originally plan to utilize. He was slated to start in the outfield for the team in 2012.
However, in late 2011, the Astros began to undergo changes of seismic proportions. The franchise was sold to Jim Crane. Jeff Lunhow was brought in as the general manager. George Postolos became the new president of the organization. They began to make decisions that would rock the state of the MLB, ultimately moving from the NL Central to the AL West. Amongst all of the constant change in the front office came the reassessment of the talent on the field.
After playing his first true full season in 2012, starting 83 games and playing in a total of 146, Bogusevic was told by the Astros that his services would no longer be needed at the conclusion of the year. Despite the unfortunate news, Bogusevic took it in stride.
"It's never something you want to hear, but at the same time, it's understandable," he said. "I enjoyed my time with them. For seven years, the Astros organization was all I knew. But you get a better understanding of the business side of things. Houston brought in a lot of new people, who wanted to bring in their own people, and sometimes you end up on the outside looking in. It's just how it is sometimes. You just have to accept it and move on. I enjoyed all of my time with the Astros, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity they gave me."
But everything happens for a reason, and Bogusevic parlayed Houston's decision to go in a different direction into an opportunity to, coincidentally, move closer to home. All he needed was a few days to decide to sign a minor-league contract with the Cubs, as he did so in late November 2012, relatively early in the free agency period.
"I had discussions with a few other teams," stated Bogusevic of his time as a free agent. However, the Cubs situation seemed like a perfect fit, as they are in the process of rebuilding their franchise, as well.
"Chicago is kind of in a rebuilding mode, and they were looking for players to come in and fill some holes," he added. "I'm just here right now, trying to play well and help the team win some games. Hopefully I can show the team what I can do and make an impression. The whole hometown thing was kind of on the peripheral. It was kind of like the icing on the cake. Obviously, I wanted to be able to play at the major league level. Being able to do it for a team in my hometown has just been an added bonus."
When Bogusevic earned his callup, he became the fifth former Tulane baseball star to play at the MLB level in 2013. Preston Claiborne (New York Yankees), Aaron Loup (Toronto Blue Jays), Brandon Gomes (Tampa Bay Rays) are all playing in the majors right now, although Gomes is currently on the disabled list. Josh Prince (Milwaukee Brewers) has also been called up a few times on the season. In the 13 games he has played in so far this season, Bogusevic's Cubs have only played one of the former Green Wave's current major league teams. However, when Bogusevic squared off against the Brewers during his first action of the 2013 season, Prince had been sent back down to the minors just four days prior.
Despite missing an opportunity to connect with a fellow Greenie at the major league level, Bogusevic always found the time to do so in the minors when his path crossed with a player who also wore the Olive and Blue during their collegiate days.
"They may not have even been a teammate of mine, but I've come across a lot of former Green Wave players in the minors," he stated. "We share the common school. We will always talk. It's always good to see guys who you played with, or even played after you in college, that you can talk to and find common ground."
His time at Tulane will always be cherished - by him and the fans who watched on the mound and in the outfield at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. His 25 wins still rank as the sixth most in Tulane history. In 2005, he batted .328 while posting a 13-3 pitching record, punching Tulane's ticket to the College World Series, the school's second in four years. He still follows his alma mater and believes they can get back to the level in which he associates them with.
"When I came to Tulane, I was just a high schooler from Chicago. I didn't know much about the game of baseball," he reminisced. "Coach Jones has years and years of experience, as does everyone on the staff. Any incoming player should just soak up any information and knowledge they can learn from the coaching staff at Tulane. They know so much about the game that you will really never run out of things to learn from them."
While he has followed the Green Wave since he left the school in 2005, the school has kept a close eye on Bogusevic during his professional career.
"I'm just really, really proud of Brian," added Jones. "The Brian Bogusevic's of the world are the kind of players that will get your program to Omaha. He not only had the physical ability, but he had a tremendous work ethic on top of being a great student and quality teammate. He was just a consummate guy, and I'm not embellishing any of this. He was just a team-first kind of guy, and I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to coach him."
After a career in which he has made stops in New Orleans, Troy, N.Y., Lexington, Ken., Salem, Va., Corpus Christi, Texas, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Houston and Des Moines, he is finally somewhere in which he is relatively familiar. His travels have included many trials and tribulations, but when you want something as bad as Bogusevic wants to play in the majors, you learn to cope with the hardships.
"When you play baseball long enough, you realize that there are constant ups and downs that come with it," stated Bogusevic. "When something happens, you kind of just have to get back to working out and working hard on your game to get to where you want to be."
But right now, Brian Bogusevic is relaxing at his place in Houston. He'll have a few more days to do so, as the Cubs will not play again until Friday afternoon.
When it's time to return to his team, though, Bogusevic will once again get to go home.
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