SCOTTSDALE – A former major league veteran of nine years, Javelinas manager Reid Brignac is no stranger to the game of baseball. In fact, after his career ended in 2018, the longtime journeyman couldn’t stay away from the game for longer than a year after his retirement.
During a brief hiatus from the game, Brignac missed not being on the field with baseball players who shared the same goals. He needed to get back into the game he loved but didn’t know how until the New York Mets offered him an opportunity to coach in their minor league system – after the team initially reached out for another opportunity in 2020 – before the minor league baseball season was canceled.
“I’ve always kind of been intrigued by it (coaching). I’ve always tried to help my teammates out when I see things,” said Brignac, whose first offer from the Mets was the manager job of the Columbia Fireflies. “Thankfully, the Mets gave me an opportunity and here we are.”
Now, Brignac is sharing the lessons he has learned with the next generation of baseball players this offseason in the Arizona Fall League, and his mindset of wanting to help younger players succeed hasn’t changed from managing the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to managing Peoria.
After all, Brignac knows the challenges of coming up from the minors. He was drafted out of high school in the second round by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2004 and spent four years in the Rays farm system, growing through the ranks before he was called up to the majors in 2008. That same year, the Rays advanced to the World Series and the rookie had a small part in almost making history with his team.
“You know, just being on those playoff teams with Tampa Bay was really fun,” Brignac said. “I hit a couple walk-off home runs in my career. You know, we lost in the World Series in 2008, (but) we had a great run that year.”
Brignac was designated for assignment by the Rays shortly before the 2013 season began, then traded to the Colorado Rockies and assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster but was once again out of a job by May.
Brignac went on to play for the New York Yankees, Rockies (second time), Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros and experienced a similar rollercoaster cycle from the minors to the majors in a four-year span. However, he’s grateful for his time and the “the guys that I came across over my 15 years of playing that I am still friends with today.”
While Brignac is usually found in the dugout, he also has taken on the role of third-base coach, building relationships with players and teaching players signs. He also leads team workouts and channels his inner-player instincts to relate to prospects. In return, Brignac’s players have taken a liking to not only his relatable background, but the way he approaches the game with understanding and wisdom.
“I love playing for Reid,” said Javelinas second baseman Luke Ritter, who noted that Brignac is one of his all-time favorite managers in part because of his ability to be tough on the team and communicate effectively. “Reid is a man that treats us like professionals. Great, great insight in the game and he’s helped me a lot defensively.”
Javelinas outfielder Brandon Mcilwain also played under Brignac this season in Binghamton and believes that he has made his full-time transition over to baseball easier.
“Oh man, it’s awesome playing under Reid,” Mcilwain said. “He’s got so much insight, but a big thing I’ve learned from him is just to relax. You know, baseball is an awesome sport. It’s played in great weather like we are here. It’s played in great stadiums and a lot of times when you just relax and go play and do what you can, it ends up with really good results.”
As he continues to coach in the Fall League, Brignac hopes that he can offer some advice to the younger generation of baseball players and inspire them to continue playing. And if their careers are cut short no matter the reason, his words ring true beyond the diamond.
“One piece of advice that I would say is, try to be better than the day you were before. Find something that you’ve done and try to bring it the next day,” Brignac said. “Also, handle your failures. Gotta handle your failures. This is a game of failure and we fail a lot and the ability to get past those failures and look forward to that next opportunity is the golden ticket.”