The combined forces of familial pressure and a career-threatening injury are enough to make most baseball players give up on the sport. For one Brazos Valley Bomber, however, they only added fuel to the fire.
Baseball has always been at the forefront of Jack Brinley’s life. His father Dustin played professionally as a pitcher and catcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates before becoming a full-time coach. The right-handed pitcher said he doesn’t remember a time that didn’t revolve around the sport, largely thanks to Dustin’s influence.
“It all started with my dad,” Brinley said. “He’s always been big in the game of baseball, and it just worked its way down the family until it got to me. I’ve always been a field rat.”
Before reaching Brinley, however, this passion first made its way into the heart of his oldest brother Ryan. After 25 years of hard work, Ryan finally secured a place on the Washington Nationals’ professional squad, continuing the blueprint set by Dustin.
Even with two professional baseball players in his immediate family, Brinley said he has never felt pressure to overperform or “live up to the family name.”
“They’ve always been super supportive of everything I do,” Brinley said. “It’s always been, ‘Do what you want to do, and if you’re enjoying it, keep doing it.’ They made it easier for me to love the sport.”
These influences and motivations ultimately compounded upon themselves, culminating in Brinley signing to play collegiate ball with the Temple Jaguars. In his two years with the team, the pitcher has averaged a whopping 9.64 strikeouts per game while maintaining a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
Bombers head coach James Dillard said it is Brinley’s family which helped him reach this level.
“That whole family is just pure gold,” Dillard said. “I can’t say enough about the influence that they’ve had not only on Jack but on myself as well. It’s just outstanding in the baseball community.”
Brinley said there is no doubt in his mind when it comes to his plans for the future.
“I’m going to chase my dream of being a professional baseball player,” Brinley said. “That’s the ultimate goal in my life.”
Having coached Brinley for two years, Dillard said he knows what the Georgetown native is capable of, and believes the goals set in the young man’s mind are completely achievable.
“If Jack puts his mind to something, he’s going to find a way to get it done,” Dillard said. “If he says he wants to go play Major League Baseball, then the chances of him playing Major League Baseball are really high.”
With a clear vision for the future solidified, it seemed that Brinley was on top of the world as he marched to success. That all changed after one wrong pitch went south.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Brinley strained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. Inflammation quickly built up, and he was forced to step off the mound. Brinley said this injury initially threatened everything he had worked for as a ballplayer.
“It was extremely humbling,” Brinley said. “I dropped down from 210 pounds to 182. It was definitely a tough experience. I felt like I let my coaches and teammates all down.”
Rather than succumbing to defeat, Brinley immediately began working toward recovery. Satisfied with his progress after 10 weeks, he signed on to spend his second consecutive summer with the Bombers.
This rehabilitation approach is unorthodox in terms of how athletes usually handle UCL strains. Regardless, it would be unwise to expect anything less from Brinley, Dillard said.
“That’s a tough injury to bounce back from, and mentally, it’s even harder,” Dillard said. “You’re always wondering as you throw the ball, ‘Could this be my last pitch? Could things flare up again?’ That’s always in the back of your mind. So for Jack to come out and do what he does, day in and day out without even thinking about it, that’s huge.
“A lot of college guys coming off of injury would sit out the summer and rest. That’s not Jack. He committed to being here, and he’s getting better every day.”
Now, one month into the 2021 summer season, Brinley has made close to a full recovery, appearing in 11 innings across six games. With a dominant 0.81 ERA, he has solidified himself as a player the Bombers can rely upon in tight situations by using “a total love for the game itself.”
Dillard said there is nobody else he would want leading the team to what will hopefully be its third consecutive Texas Collegiate League Championship.
“When last year’s season was over, I sat down and made a short list of guys that we wanted to bring back [to the Bombers] this year,” Dillard said. “Jack was at the top of that list. He’s a great pitcher, a great teammate and a great individual.”
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