At 1:38 this morning, with two out and two on base, Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers’ reliever, threw a 92 mph fastball to Alex Bregman, the Houston Astros third baseman. Bregman swung, ending the game—at five hours and 17 minutes, one of the longest in World Series history—13 to 12.
No matter who you’re rooting for, it’s hard, looking at Bregman’s career, not to feel that there’s something to the whole divine election business. His great-grandfather Samuel emigrated from Russia to D.C., making a living selling cards that featured Joe Louis and other famous boxers. His grandfather, Stan, fell in love with a different sport, becoming the general counsel for the Washington Senators. His father and his uncle both played for the University of New Mexico, and Alex followed in their footsteps. He started playing tee-ball at the age of four; on his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play by catching a line drive, tagging a runner, and then hopping on second base. He began using the brick wall behind his house in Albuquerque to practice his pitching and his catching. Eventually, the bricks crumbled. “We were very proud to have to repair that wall when we sold the house,” his father said.
In 2010, Bregman, then 16, became the first high schooler in history to win the USA Baseball Player of the Year Award. The following year, he bat .678, and led the U.S. National Team to a gold medal at the International Baseball Federation World Championship. His future seemed bright. And then came his injury.
During an early game in his senior year of high school, he used his bare hand to catch a ground ball and shattered a knuckle, missing most of his season. His dream of being picked in the first round of the draft were shattered as well: The Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 29th round instead, and Bregman decided to defer playing in the majors and go to college instead.
He arrived at Louisiana State University in 2012, and asked to wear the number 30, reflecting the number of teams that had passed on him in the draft. His coaches were soon surprised to learn that this celebrated young player was unmoved by either his early fame or his disappointment, showing up instead at the batting cage at 8 every morning and practicing for hours.
“He’s probably the most positive, optimistic person I’ve ever coached,” said his coach at LSU, Paul Mainieri. “This guy legitimately wants to be the best player that’s ever been.”
The hard work and good attitude paid off, and Bregman had one stellar year after another in Louisiana. In 2015, he was drafted by the Houston Astros. In the first round of the draft.
This year started off auspiciously for Bregman. He started it as the youngest member of Team USA, with which he won the gold medal in the World Baseball Classic. And the year seems to be ending as well as it had started: Last night, Bregman had two runs, two hits, and the RBI that won the game; the night before that, he homered and made some stunning catches. Anything can still happen in this crazy series, but no matter who ends up winning, Alex Bregman will deserve our love and respect.