Brosseau helps fuel Gophers offense

Last summer, Gophers shortstop Rick Brosseau packed his bags and traveled east to Cape Cod.
But unlike the thousands of vacationers who inhabit the Massachusetts peninsula each summer, Brosseau wasn’t there to relax; he was there to play baseball.
The previous season, his second at Minnesota, the defense-oriented Brosseau batted just .276. He went to the Cape in an attempt to improve his stats from the plate.
“Defense has always been my strong point,” Brosseau said. “I’ve just tried to work hard on becoming a better offensive player.”
The work has paid off. This season the junior is leading the team in hits with 46, and has jumped his average up 92 points to .368. But it wasn’t an easy improvement for Brosseau to make.
It started when he changed his stance from a narrow one to a wider one. That adjustment is something Gophers coach John Anderson says made a world of difference in Brosseau’s stability at the plate.
“To be a good hitter, you have to be balanced so your head stays still and you can generate good bat speed,” Anderson said.
Brosseau has proven he can produce at a position historically reserved for a great fielder but not a great hitter.
But things have changed at shortstop over the years, at both the college and professional levels.
When Brosseau was in Massachusetts, he was lucky enough to be one of 30 Cape Cod-leaguers invited to play up in Boston’s historic Fenway Park.
While he was there, he had the privilege of meeting Red Sox All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
Garciaparra is one of the “new age” major league shortstops that have transformed the position. It used to be shortstops were just in the lineup because of their gloves.
But now, Garciaparra and his colleagues at short throughout the majors are beginning to add offense to their resumes — something Brosseau has taken notice of.
“The game has changed a lot,” Brosseau said. “Back when my dad played, the shortstops were just there to play defense. Now they’re hitting 40 home runs a year.
“If you’re going to play nowadays at any position, you have to be able to hit.”
Anderson said he thinks most of the good college programs still look for shortstops who can first play defense, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love to have a player like Brosseau.
After all, Anderson said Minnesota was first attracted to Brosseau because of his defense. The growth in his offensive game has been a welcome addition to the Gophers, whose record stands at 20-13.
“Rick showed us as a freshman that he could play in the field,” Anderson said. “But now he’s become more of a complete player.”
Becoming a complete player is something Brosseau has strived for throughout his career at Minnesota.
And now is as perfect a time as ever for Brosseau to heat up at the plate for the Gophers. As the Big Ten’s second-place team, Minnesota is in the thick of the hunt for a Big Ten title. The Big Ten season takes the Gophers to Northwestern this weekend.
For Brosseau to improve at the plate, he just needed to relax — something he didn’t do a lot of before this season.
“After three years, I’ve realized every at-bat isn’t life or death,” Brosseau said. “I just need to take an even attitude throughout the whole game of baseball.”

John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected]