Tournaments | Story | 6/29/2019

Bruno flashes prowess at 17u WWBA

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Ryan Bruno (Perfect Game)
Some baseball players can get past the competition on pure skills alone. Others rely on a high baseball IQ to yield the best results.

This week at the 2019 WWBA 17u National Championship, pitcher Ryan Bruno is the rare player who excels at both.

“It feels great playing with 300 some teams,” Bruno said. “Playing some of the best competition. I’m just trying to go out there and compete. We’re playing with the best in front of a lot of scouts. We have to put out and show our best.”

The East Coast Sox 17u Select southpaw continually leaves scouts and spectators with their mouths agape. That was the case once again on Saturday afternoon when Bruno fired three no-hit innings, walking just one and striking out six batters en route to the 11-1 victory over MGBA 17u. Using a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s that touched as high as 96 mph, coupled with a plus slider and changeup, Bruno exhibited why he’s the No. 25 overall prospect in the 2020 class.

With a rangy 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame that screams projection, Bruno is so much more than the tools he demonstrates on the bump. He’s as cerebral as they come, studying the intricacies of Justin Verlander’s mechanics in his free time to apply to his own game.

And off the field? Him and his twin brother, Jaden Bruno, are exceptional students at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida. The competition between the duo doesn’t just stop on a baseball field.

“Me and him always battle it out whether it’s on the mound or personally in school,” Bruno said. “It’s great to have that kid next to you who is very similar to you and you guys can compete together.” 

It’s why both decided to commit to Stanford University all the way across the country in California. The historic baseball program combined with the academic rigor for Bruno, who plans to study Finance, was the right decision.

“We considered a balance between the academics and baseball,” Bruno said. “Stanford is a really good academic and baseball school. Ranked very highly in both, so we thought it would be a great fit for both of us. We decided to risk the travel out there for the benefits of it."

While the trek to Palo Alto certainly seems intriguing to Bruno, he may never find a home there if MLB suitors aggressively come calling in the 2020 MLB Draft. At the recent Perfect Game National Showcase, Bruno was given his chance to impress a bevy of professional scouts in Phoenix.

“It was an absolutely awesome experience at Chase Field,” Bruno said. “You feel like you’re a big leaguer standing on the mound there. You look down and see all the scouts behind home plate. It’s just awesome being there.”

Whether his time as a big leaguer comes sooner rather than later, Bruno is now attempting to bring the 17u WWBA title to the East Coast Sox who fell just short last year in the semifinals with players like Bobby Witt Jr. and Rece Hinds on that team. The Sox have jumped out to a 2-0 start in pool play. There’s undoubtedly high expectations that exist, but it’s all about how those expectations are managed.

“We had a little meeting last night and we said, ‘Hey, there’s high expectations.’ There’s no doubt,” head coach Thomas Wilson said. “But with our players, it’s no more expectations than what they put on themselves. They all put high expectations on themselves. Just go out and play the game. Relax and play the game. Play hard. We’re going to be aggressive and just play the game.”

In the opening game of the tournament, those expectations may have lingered a little too long before some late energy that allowed East Coast Sox to sneak by Home Plate Chilidogs 17u West. Aaron Downs blasted a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth and Kyle Chastine collected the save to win 2-1.

“It was pretty crazy,” said Downs, a Louisville pledge. “I love the energy. The energy is unreal. It’s just awesome playing with all these guys. We all get along really well.”

In the second game of pool play, Bruno’s brief but brilliant outing elevated the rest of the team as Wilson predicted. Slade Wilks, the No. 64 player in the 2020 class and a Southern Mississippi commit, led the offensive charge by going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.

“A lot of the guys haven’t seen him so far, but with the reputation that [Bruno] has, everybody is excited,” Wilson said of Bruno’s impact before Saturday’s game. “When you have somebody with his caliber who goes out on the mound, everybody else raises their game up too. We’re very excited about having him.”

Wilson and Co. know that they have a target on their back with the reputation that the East Coast Sox carries, but that doesn’t impact the team. Opponents may throw their best pitchers against them, but the Sox build their game on an intensity and old-school style that has stayed true to form over the years.

“We have some blue collar players who will get dirty and like to play the game,” Wilson said. “They’re always into the game. Everybody is into it, focused, and locked in.”

Win or lose, the East Coast Sox are relishing the time at the 17u WWBA knowing that it’s baseball in its finest form. Baseball, the sport that brings an unexplainable peace to so many, including Bruno.

“I feel for me [baseball is] just an obvious passion,” Bruno said. “I love the game. Coming out here is just something I want to do and I want to continue to do. I can’t really imagine it not in my life. It’s just that thing that’s a part of my life that needs to be there.”
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