Youthful Bratsen looks to continue 2011 success
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
First-year baseball players that provide an immediate impact to their team are a scarce commodity in the world of college baseball, though few in the country gave their program a shot in the arm in 2011 as much as Aggie sophomore outfielder Krey Bratsen.
The 6-foot 170-pound first-year starter earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as well as freshman All-American accolades from Collegiate Baseball after batting .332 with 45 runs, 36 RBI and leading the Aggies with 31 stolen bases and 19 sacrifice hits in 2011.
Bratsen played in all 69 of the Aggies' games last season despite his lack of experience in the college game. He admitted, even after his success, that the switch from high school to the NCAA level took some adjustment.
"It's a lot different when you go from facing a low-to-mid 80 mph slider in high school to a low-to-mid 90 mph [pitches] here in college with nasty sliders," Bratsen said. "You have to be able to change and live up to your dream."
Those dreams of baseball glory became reality soon after joining the college ranks. A major contributor to the 2011 team's success, Bratsen would be part of a roster that sent the Aggies to their first College World Series since 1999.
"As a freshman, you don't get to experience that very often," Bratsen said. "Going to Omaha, a lot of people don't get to experience that from freshman to senior year so it was unbelievable for me to do that."
Though he received several offers as a high school recruit out of Bryan High School, Bratsen said he could not ignore the Aggies' local presence. The son of former Aggie baseball player and All-American James Bratsen, he couldn't see himself anywhere but Aggieland.
"[My dad] graduated in '75 and played baseball here and that was a big factor in me wanting to come here," Bratsen said. "I had a lot of offers, but [A&M] was my number one spot."
For the upcoming 2012 season, Bratsen says he's been working to improve recognizing changeups when batting. Though he ranked second on the team in batting average and on-base percentage in 2011 –— trailing only junior outfielder Tyler Naquin — he had the second most strikeouts with 54.
"[I've worked on] hitting off speed. I struggled with that probably first to the middle of the season last year and I wanted to cut down on strikeouts a lot more this year," Bratsen said. "I ended up doing alright [at the end of 2011]. I had a lot of strikeouts but I had a higher on-base percentage."
Fellow outfielder and All-American Naquin had only praise for Bratsen's accomplishments and progress as a player. Hitting was the main attribute Naquin saw in his game that could be improved, but recognized the sophomore's knack for getting on — and stealing — bases.
"Krey has a lot of natural ability. He can really run, really throw, really bunt and his hitting isn't one of his strongest things but he puts the ball in play," Naquin said. "He's always got a shot to be on the bases and he'll steal any base at any time."
As the 2012 season approaches, Bratsen said this year's team has as good a chance as the 2011 team to make noise in the post-season.
"I think we'll be just as good this year as we were last year, especially if our pitching holds up," Bratsen said. "I think our offense will do well and we'll be just as good."