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All American Game | Story | 8/31/2020

Bruns brings big heat, big name to AAC

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Maddux Bruns (Perfect Game)

There are dozens of questions that could be directed towards this talented and hard-throwing 2021 lefthander but the first one, at least for baseball fans of a certain age, has to be about his first name, right? How else are you going to start a conversation with rising star Maddux Bruns?

“My dad really liked Greg Maddux,” Bruns said while speaking with Perfect Game over the phone late last week. “He always watched him when he was growing up so he named me after him. It does put the expectations high a little bit, though.”

It’s understandable that being the name-sake of one of the  greatest right-handed pitchers in baseball history might put some added weight on an 18-year-old’s shoulders but Bruns, who calls Saraland, Ala., home, spent the summer doing his level-best to live up to any expectations that may be out there.

Maddux Bruns, the son of Alex and Karen Bruns, is a 6-foot-2, 210 pound lefty, which actually makes him a bit bigger than The Professor. But this is where we’ll end the comparison’s because Bruns, the No. 12-ranked class of 2021 prospect overall, No. 1 ranked lefthanded pitching prospect and newly minted Perfect Game All-American, still has a long way to go. Never mind that he’s been pitching like he’s in a real hurry to get there.

In the past 12 months, amateur scouts have watched with intense interest while Bruns’ fastball velo has jumped from a top effort of 88 mph at last August’s PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego to 97 mph at June’s PG National Showcase in Hoover, Ala.

As PG National Scouting Supervisor Brian Sakowski wrote in a recent post identifying the 30 fastest draft-risers among the 2021 prep prospects, “Bruns came into the summer as a relatively known name having shown upper-80’s velocity with projectable spin last summer (but) his newfound velocity was something of a revelation at the PG National.”

Like is so often the case, this didn’t happen by accident. Bruns was listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds at the PG Junior National Showcase in June 2019 when his fastball topped-out at 88 mph; he was ranked Nos. 209/50 at the time. Bruns has added an inch and 25 pounds to his frame in a year’s time.

“I think the one thing was just getting in the weight room and getting stronger,” Bruns said of his new-found power. “My velo’s been going up since last summer or two summers ago and I was up to 91 at Jupiter last year. This school year I was sitting 90-92 and I touched 94, and during (COVID-19) quarantine I really got to long-toss a lot.

“I got to take a little bit of a break and not focus so much on just lifting weights; I got to focus on my mobility a little bit more. I had a lot of extra time just to do stuff like that and I think that helped a lot.”

Bruns, a Mississippi State commit, works out on a regular basis at Southern Elite Athletics in Mobile, a facility he’s used since his freshman year in high school. He told PG that he credits the people there with helping him become the player he is today.

And, the fastball isn’t the only arrow in Bruns’ quiver, either. He has shown a plus-slider to go with a curveball and changeup and he isn’t afraid to go to his off-speed stuff. During a conversation with local Alabama prep sports website al.com, Bruns’ coach at UMS-Wright Prep School in Mobile, Ala., Kevin Raley, had this to say about his talented lefty:

“Maddux is a true four-pitch player. His velocity is special. … He has what I call an ‘old-fashioned’ curveball, a real 12-6 pitch that’s tough for even right-handers to hit. He complements that with a slider and a changeup – he’s just a special player.”

University Military School (UMS)-Wright Prep School is a kind of a special place in its own right. USM first opened its doors in 1893, making it Alabama’s oldest private prep school; it combined with Julius T. Wright School for Girls in 1988.

The school had won 156 total state championships in all sports through 2019, including 10 in baseball (4 since 2010). The baseball team went 11-5 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and Bruns was 3-0 with a save and a 1.11 ERA, allowing nine hits and striking out 39 in 19 innings.

“Sports-wise, it’s just a winning culture,” Bruns said of the place where he’s beginning his senior year. “They’re known for winning and academically it’s a challenging school. They push you and they want to prepare you for whatever it is you want to do after high school.”

Bruns plays his travel ball with the Mississippi-based East Coast Sox. He enjoyed his first PG tournament experience with the elite program at the 2018 WWBA 16u National Championship in Emerson, Ga., and has been an EC Sox ever since.

He was with them at last year’s WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., where his fastball touched 91 mph, and pitched for them at this summer’s Ultimate Baseball Championship powered by Baseball America & Perfect Game (94 mph fastball) and at the WWBA 17u National Championship (96 mph fastball).

Bruns praised his association with the EC Sox, speaking specifically about program directors/coaches Joe Caruso and Eric DuBose. Caruso was an All-American infielder at Alabama and DuBose an All-American lefthander at Mississippi State; DuBose was also a first-round pick of the Oakland A’s in 1997 and pitched parts of five seasons in the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles.

“That’s a bunch of good guys over there,” Bruns said. “Coach Caruso, Coach DuBose and all of them, really, they helped me talk to colleges during my first year there and they’ve helped me all the way. They’ve always wanted to do what’s best for me and I think it’s a great organization.”

As noted, Bruns was at both the PG Junior National Showcase in Hoover, Ala., and the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego last summer, and he got to know a lot of his talented peers from the class of 2021 at those events (along with his participation at WWBA tournaments).

He feels like just getting to know the other top prospects and getting an understanding of how exactly a high-profile PG showcase works helped him when he returned to Hoover for the PG National Showcase in June. Based on performance alone, it appears he went into his National outing both relaxed and confident.

“I was prepared to go out there and do that,” Bruns said. “I had been working for it so I expected to do well and I think I did pretty well. It was fun, I had a good time and I’m ready to get to (the PG All-American Classic) to see what I can do out there.”

Bruns was part of the USA Baseball 17u National Team Development Program in 2019, and also performed at the East Coast Pro Showcase and the Area Code Games this summer which provide other examples of his comfort level on many of amateur baseball’s biggest stages.

When it came to making the decision to commit to Mississippi State Bruns was again captivated by the Bulldogs’ coaching staff, much like he was with the staff at the EC Sox. He committed during the fall of his sophomore year in high school and feels like he’s already developed a great relationship with head coach Chris Lemonis and top assistants Scott Foxhall and Jake Gautreau.

“All of those guys out there, I think they’re great coaches,” he said. “And also, the (game-day) atmosphere there is isn’t like any other college.”

The 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft may ultimately decide if Bruns ever makes it to Starkville and as PG’s Sakowski noted, “… the power stuff from the left side gives him prodigious draft upside.” Scouts should get a couple more opportunities to evaluate Bruns as he is scheduled to pitch for the East Coast Sox 2021 Founders Club at both the WWBA World Championship Round Robin-Southeast in Hoover and at the PG WWBA World championship in October.

The first pitch for the 18th annual PG All-American Classic is scheduled for 3:48 p.m. on Friday, Sept.4 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City; the game will be streamed live on Perfect Game.TV.

Maddux Bruns was the only Alabama prospect invited to this year’s Classic but he’ll still be surrounded by dozens of his close friends from all across the country. He’s played alongside and against so many of his fellow PGAA’s over the last four years and, in fact, East Coast Sox teammate Braden Montgomery, an outfielder and a Stanford commit from Madison, Miss., will join him on the East Team roster.

“I set (the Classic) as a goal as something that I wanted to do and I accomplished it, so I’m excited to get out there and throw,” Bruns said. “I’m sure I’m going to know a lot of (the players). I’ve seen them at the National, the Junior National, the Underclass All-American (Games) and just every other event during the summer.

“You can follow them in high school and follow every event that they do and kind of keep up with them. And then you see them in college or any other baseball after high school, and I think it’s awesome.”

Perhaps even as awesome as Maddux Bruns’ namesake.

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