ST. LOUIS- A little more than eight years after the former Parkway South pitcher-outfielder signed his first professional contract, Jake Brentz is ready to play in the stadium where he once sat as a season ticket-holder. But he’ll be doing it for the first time, and doing it for the visiting team when the Kansas City Royals start a weekend series at Busch Stadium Friday night against the Cardinals.
Brentz, 26, was an 11th round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 and signed at the deadline over slot instead of playing on scholarship at the University of Missouri. After a series of trades where he pitched in the minors for Seattle and Pittsburgh, Brentz signed a free-agent contract with the Royals in 2019.
In his rookie season, Brentz is 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 52 appearances, a league-high for rookies in 2021. Thursday, he notched his first MLB save in a 3-2 win over the AL Central-leading White Sox.
“This season, I didn’t know if that opportunity would come,” Brentz said Thursday of being put in a save situation, “but I just kept telling myself if it did, don’t go out there and try to do too much, don’t change what you’ve been doing all year, just gout there and execute pitches, just have fun and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, warming up my heart was racing a little more than normal.”
He described his first save as a surreal moment. What’s to come this weekend is the kind of stuff that kids can only dream about. For the first time since he appeared in a high school all-star game at Busch with Devin Williams, now starring in the Brewers bullpen, it will be Brentz’s turn to walk between the white lines.
“Growing up obviously we went to games all the time I had season tickets. I’ve always dreamed of playing there, every time I walk in that stadium, I’ve always dreamed of playing there whether before I started pitching in the outfield and obviously now that I’m a pitcher, I’m gonna pitch there,” Brentz said Thursday.
“I honestly don’t know how my emotions will be just because I’ve always wanted, dreamed of playing in that stadium so I’m very excited, I have a lot of family and friends that are going to be there and people coming to town so definitely something I always looked forward to, I’m pretty excited for tomorrow (Friday) night.
HOMECOMING, PART II
The weekend series won’t be Mike Matheny’s first trip back to Busch Stadium since he was fired as manager of the Cardinals in July 2018. The Royals played here in 2020. But it will be the first time he’ll be here with fans in the crowd.