Tournaments : : Story
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Bruno bros big on books, BCS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Ryan Bruno, Jaden Bruno (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – These are the killer-B’s for at least this one household in Wellington, Fla., and it’s fitting that the family’s last name, Bruno, also starts with the letter-B. Books and baseball have always been a big part of Jaden Bruno and Ryan Bruno’s life, and this week in Southwest Florida they’ve added another ‘B’ to the banter: BCS.

Twin brothers Jaden and Ryan Bruno, the sons of Peter and Christine Bruno, are here competing with the (more B’s?) Boynton Beach-based Rawlings Stealth FL Underclass team at the Perfect Game 17u BCS National Championship while also trying to broaden their baseball horizons.

“It’s a great experience playing with my teammates at all of these events, and really playing with a lot of the great players from South Florida,” Jaden told PG late Wednesday morning, not long before the Rawlings Stealth Underclass took the field for their fourth pool-play game of the tournament. “We’re just trying to play as a team and just really go as far as we can go.”

But there’s more to the Bruno brothers than what a casual observer might take-in while watching them perform, just as they did in a pair of pool-play games at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex on Wednesday.

Ryan Bruno is listed as a 6-foot-2, 170-pound, left-handed pitcher/left-handed hitter who will be a 16-year-old junior at American Heritage High School in Delray, Fla., this fall. His twin brother Jaden is listed as a 6-foot-3, 171-pound right-handed pitcher/hitter/third baseman/outfielder who, not coincidentally, will also be a 16-year-old junior at American Heritage-Delray when the 2018-19 school year begins next month.

Is there really any noticeable physical difference between the brothers?

“First of all, one’s a lefty and one’s a righty, so that’s going to make a difference right there,” Rawlings Stealth FL Underclass head coach Manny Sanguillen Jr. said while cracking a smile.

Both of these young men are athletic and well-spoken, with Ryan ranked as the No. 155 overall national prospect in the class of 2020 and Jaden not far off that standard at No. 496. But there is another number associated with the brothers that means even more to both them and their parents: 5.0.

That is the grade-point average each of them carries at American Heritage HS and it is a number that undoubtably had a lot to do with academic and athletic powerhouse Stanford University from the Pac-12 Conference extending early offers to the brothers; they have both committed.

“Academics are very important to both of us,” Ryan told PG on Wednesday. “Ultimately, our parents (have said) that academics comes before the sports; you’ve got to be good in the classroom before you can compete on the field.

“If you’re not good in the classroom you can’t even make it out on the field at a lot of schools. You’ve got to be good in the classroom first and that will ensure your future before baseball.”

It was not totally coincidental that Jaden and Ryan both chose Stanford, and after conversations with their parents – Peter is a sales manager, Christine an attorney – it seemed like a no-brainer that the perfect fit for a school sat about 3,200 miles west of their Florida home.

“We both have very similar interests, and we wanted a school with both very strong academic and athletic platforms,” Jaden said. “So, it just kind of happened that way.”

Their exploits on the baseball field are as similar as their exploits in the classroom. Jaden has been named to five PG all-tournament teams, four while playing with the Stealth organization; Ryan has four all-tournament selections on his resume, three of them with Stealth. They were both members of the Florida Stealth 2020 team that won the PG WWBA Freshman East Labor Day Classic in 2016.

“Jaden is a little more calculated while Ryan is more like, ‘Hey, I’m just going to come in there and get it done,’” Sanguillen said.  “It’s good, because they sort of complement each other that way; they’re different people with different styles.”

“I like to say I take a bulldog mentality out there with me when I’m on the mound,” Jaden said. “Even when I’m hitting it’s very important to attack and be competitive and have that nature so you can be the best that you can be.”

This full Rawlings Stealth FL Underclass roster features players almost exclusively from Florida, with 13 of the players being seniors in the fall (class of 2019) and nine about to enter their junior year (2020); 12 of them attend American Heritage HS at either the Plantation or Delray campuses.

AHHS, with MLB Draft first-round pick Triston Casas (No. 26 overall, Red Sox), finished 24-4 this past spring after losing to Merritt Island in a FHSAA Class 6A Regional Final; Merritt Island featured the talents of first-round pick Matthew Denaburg (No. 27 overall, Nationals).

The highest-ranked 2019 on the Rawlings Stealth roster is catcher/first baseman and Vanderbilt commit Maxwell Romero Jr., but he didn’t make the trip here after playing in every game last week at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship in Atlanta.

Delray American Heritage HS 2019 infielder/right-hander and South Florida commit Carmine Lane is a top-500 ranked prospect who is with the team – and playing well – this week. Delray AHHS finished 22-7 this spring after a loss in the FHSAA regionals; No. 5 overall pick Jonathan India is a Delray AHHS alumnus who was chose No, 5 overall out of the University of Florida in June's MLB Draft.

Ryan Bruno is the highest ranked 2020 at No. 155, followed by infielder Christian Adams at No. 463 and Jaden Bruno at No. 496. Infielder Jacob Lojewski, one of those American Heritage prospects and a Florida Gulf Coast University commit, is a 2020 top-500.

“We’re a pretty tight group and we love to play together,” Ryan said. “We’ve been together for quite a while now, and there are a lot of talented kids on this team. We just need to keep getting better every day because it’s our goal to win this tournament and win every one that comes after it.”

The Rawlings Stealth FL Underclass finished 5-1-1 at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship last week, and just missed qualifying for the playoffs. They won their first three pool-play games at the PG 17u BCS Monday and Tuesday, a good start by anyone’s standards.

“There’s a learning curve (at the 17u WWBA) … and I think we saw that when we play consistently that we can play with anybody,” Sanguillen said. “But if we don’t bring our best game, we can lose to anyone. I really like going from there to here. (The BCS) is a long tournament and it’s about being consistent, and we’re trying. We started good and now we’ve got to finish strong.”

Sanguillen went on to say that he likes the “team environment” this group has created amongst itself, and how they take a team-first approach to each one of their games.

“It’s very easy to coach these guys; there’s not a lot of me-me-me. When we play as a team, which we do a lot, it’s so easy and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Our desire is to compete every game at every level, and we believe we can do that; we can play with anybody,” he added. “We just have to worry about us.”

Ryan Bruno agreed: “Atlanta was a big tournament and ultimately we didn’t have the result that we wanted. Coming down here we’re going to play for each other and win this tournament and try to show everybody what we can do as a team.”

The Bruno brothers add a lot to the Stealth FL Underclass’s chemistry, and that is a reflection on what they can bring to the table as both great students and highly regarded ballplayers. And Sanguillen, a baseball-lifer himself and the son of former Pirates’ great Manny Sanguillen Sr., understands how important that is.

“First of all, to be that good of a student you have to be disciplined in the classroom and at home,” he said. “If you can take that type of discipline and start to bring it to athletics, that’s a big deal. And, that tends to rub off on your teammates.”

Above anything else, the Bruno brothers seem to enjoy playing with one another, which goes a long way toward assuring a certain measure of success. Ryan spoke of how special it can be just having his brother sitting next to him the dugout because, he said, “He’s got the same past, the same future.”

“I know that we’re both really competitive but he’s mainly focused on pitching and I’m focused on both pitching and hitting,” he continued. “The way we approach (the game) is a little different because I go out there thinking I have to do good both on the mound and at the plate and he’s just focused on the mound.”

Added Jaden: “Sometimes it’s very challenging because we’re very competitive (but) we keep each other motivated to be the best that we can be at the sport.”

As incoming high school juniors, the Bruno brothers still have two more high school seasons in front of them at American Heritage and two more years before they can consider their futures at Stanford. Sanguillen feels like that right now, as 16-year-olds, they already have the physical attributes required to be solid contributors at the college-level and achieving anything beyond that is totally up to them.

“Now it’s just how far are they willing to sacrifice and do what it takes to get there; now it’s in their corner,” he said. “Is the potential there, absolutely, but it’s up to them.”

The brothers often sit down and talk with one another after a game and aren’t afraid to tell each other what they felt what went right and what went wrong. That’s the baseball side of this relationship; the academic side – which will come into full focus at Stanford in a couple of years – remains the real deal.

“I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my academics; I have a very high standard,” Jaden said. “My parents instill a very high standard into us and it’s very important to not only excel in the academic side of it, but also to take that intelligence out on the field.”

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