Ben Browdy sets his sights on professional career, national title
If you watched any of last month’s Division I men’s basketball tournament, you likely saw an NCAA commercial starring Jerry Rice at least once. The ad underscores that while there are star college athletes who go on to play professional sports, the majority of student-athletes’ athletic careers end after college. As a Division III school, this is certainly the case for most Washington University’s varsity athletes. One Bear, however, is not letting his dream die when he receives his diploma in Brookings Quadrangle this May.
“I’ve had the dream of playing professional baseball my entire life,” Ben Browdy, senior second baseman for the Wash. U. baseball team, said.
It might sound a little far-fetched for a Division III player to end up in the majors, but Browdy’s goal has precedent. In fact, just last year, 20 Division III baseball players were selected in the MLB draft. The highest pick among these, Lake Bachar of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was picked by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round, 144th overall. Considering there are 40 rounds in the draft, being selected in the fifth is impressive.
Browdy knew heading into his college career that he wanted to push himself to go pro after graduation. He also knew, however, that even for the most talented players, the odds of making a career of baseball are pretty slim. With these two things in mind, Browdy decided to balance athletic and academic ambitions.
“Wash. U. gave me an opportunity to compete at a very high level in Division III, playing a tough schedule, and surrounded by quality players, but at the same time [to] get an education that I really value and will pay off regardless of what happens,” he said.
As his college career winds down, Browdy said he recognizes some of the moments that will make or break his professional career are beyond his control.
“Pursuing professional baseball, to me, kind of means there’s a lot that’s out of my hands,” Browdy said. “I’m obviously relying on someone with some decision-making ability to like the product that I put out on the field.”
To Browdy’s credit, the product that he’s put out on the field over the past two seasons has been pretty outstanding. As a junior last spring, he drove in 79 runs, a program record, and was a third-team All-American. This season, he held a Wash. U.-record 37-game hitting streak stretched back to April 16, 2015.
It hasn’t always been this easy for Browdy, however. When he first arrived on campus, he struggled to adjust on the diamond. As a freshman, he hit .095, managing only two hits in 21 at-bats.
“The first couple of years here, things just didn’t work out,” Browdy said.
It took a certain amount of self-belief and self-confidence to turn and Browdy believes this can take him to the majors, despite spending his NCAA days in Division III.
“I’ve always believed in myself as a player,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have a lot of the natural attributes that a professional athlete would have. I’m not the biggest. I’m not the strongest or fastest, but I’ve always believed that I know how to play baseball, and I just try to play my hardest.”
Aside from simply hoping someone notices his performance and picks him over a Division I player in the draft, Browdy said there are other opportunities to put himself on the MLB’s radar, so to speak.
“Teams host different workouts where, if you’re not someone who they’re necessarily going to use a draft pick on, people can go and showcase their skills, and hopefully someone thinks highly enough of them to give them an opportunity from there,” Browdy said.
Most of these workouts, however, take place in the late spring, and Browdy has the rest of his senior season between now and then. Despite any personal ambitions for late March and beyond, Browdy said he remains resolutely focused on the Bears’ season and goals.
“One thing I’ve always believed is that if you put the team first and do everything you can to help your team win, everything falls into place,” he said.
As for what those team ambitions are, Browdy defined them simply.
“I’m really focused on playing the best I can to help the Wash. U. Bears go to a national championship,” he said.
The national championship is a goal that this year’s baseball seniors have set for themselves, Browdy said, and in pursuing it, several of them are having career years. After struggling for three years, relief pitcher Jake Mintz now is a shutdown relief pitcher. Brad Margolin, the star starting pitcher of the Red and Green staff, is having a standout final year as well, posting a career low ERA with a career-high in strikeouts per game. Browdy himself is going out on top, with career-bests across his slash line.
Browdy credited the success of the senior class to a couple of factors.
“Number one: The coaching staff is just working tirelessly to make us the best team we can be,” he said, referring to head coach Pat Bloom and his staff, who took over the program in June 2015. “They came in here two years ago with a vision to take the program to where we can be, which is a nationally competitive, championship-caliber team.”
As for the second reason? The seniors themselves.
“I think the senior class—we have something pretty special going on,” Browdy said. “We have a lot of confident and hard-working guys that take pride in the work that we do and the process and try to bring everyone along with us.”
It’s not just the seniors who have taken this approach, though.
“The younger guys have really bought in incredibly well, too,” said Browdy.
Because of this mentality, Browdy said, the team can focus on its ultimate goal: the national championship.
“This is something we can only do once,” Browdy said. “We only have a handful of games left together at Wash. U., and it’s a goal that we all came here with, so we’re really pouring everything we have into making that a reality.”
While the NCAA title is first on Browdy’s mind, he admits it’s hard not to think about his professional dream.
“It’s hard not to be on the back of my mind,” he said. “It’s always been a lifelong dream.”
It’s that childhood dream that has pushed Browdy throughout his career.
“Baseball is a kid’s game, and it’s as simple as keeping your eye on the ball,” he said. “You can overcome a lot of physical drawbacks just based on mental toughness and perseverance and tenacity. I’m really confident in my ability to play the game.”
The MLB draft is not until June 12, and Wash. U. still has 12 regular season games left before that date, as well as several playoff games, if all goes according to the team’s plans. Until then, Browdy will keep looking toward the majors.