Jay Bruce: the Story behind the Phenom

Andrew KneelandSenior Writer IJune 2, 2008

They are calling him a phenom. A savior. Bruce Almighty. Jay Bruce certainly seems to fit those descriptions.

The newest Cincinnati Red, through six games, is batting .591, with a slugging percentage of one and an on-base percentage of .690.

Bruce had a quiet start to his baseball career. Playing outfield in Beaumont, Texas for West Brook High School, Jay Bruce was selected as a Third-Team High School All-American outfielder.

Bruce opted to skip a potential collegiate career and entered the 2005 amateur MLB draft.

Among names such as Ryan Braun, Alex Gordon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki, and Clay Buchholz, Bruce was selected 12th overall by the Cincinnati Reds.

That same summer, Bruce made his professional debut with the lowest rookie affiliate the Reds had.

With the Gulf Coast League Reds, Bruce hit .270 with five home runs in 37 games. He was promoted to Cincinnati's other rookie squad, the Billings Mustangs.

In the 17 games he played for the Mustangs, Bruce hit .257 while belting out only six extra base-hits.

Bruce finally gained some recognition in 2006, where he hit .291 with the Red's Low-A affiliate, the Dayton Dragons.

2007 was a remarkable year for the then 20-year-old. He started the season with Cincinnati's High-A team, the Sarasota Reds. He played with them for 67 games, during which he compiled a .325 batting average and 42 extra-base hits.

He was then promoted mid-season to the Chattanooga Lookouts, where he batted .333 while slugging .652. After only 16 games, the Reds felt the need to promote the 20-year-old again, this time to the Louisville Bats; Cincinnati's triple-A affiliate.

After this second promotion in the same year, both fans and the media thought that Bruce would get some major league playing time in 2007.

Reds’ manager Wayne Krivsky debunked this idea, and informed both Bruce and the media that Bruce would finish the year with Louisville.

Bruce wasn't discouraged.

He finished the season, a total of 50 games with the Bats, by totaling 57 hits and 11 home runs. His performance across the nation (in Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky) in 2007 prompted Baseball America to name him the 2007 Minor League Player of the Year.

Bruce was invited to Cincinnati's Spring Training to start the 2008 baseball season. He was not expected to make the team until later in the year, but there were rumors that he would beat out Ryan Freel for the final outfield position.

That didn't happen, and Bruce was back in Louisville again as he started the 2008 season.

After 49 games, Bruce had compiled a .364 batting average, while slugging .567 and having an OBP of .358.

Bruce had one of the best major league debuts of all time, as he drew a walk in his first at-bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and promptly stole second. He later scored on an Adam Dunn home run.

He ended his impressive debut with a total of two runs scored, two RBI, and going 3-3 with two walks.

His second game was equally impressive. He became the first player since 1977 to reach base safely in his first six plate appearances.

On May 31, Bruce hit his first major league home run. It couldn't have come at a more opportune time. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Bruce launched a walk-off home run to give the Reds the win.

As Bruce says, he enjoys this "winning" thing that he is helping bring to Cincinnati.

“Winning is fun,” Bruce said. “That’s something I think we’ll be doing a lot more of.”

Bruce is receiving his share of media attention, but how many actually know his story?

This historic success may not last, but it sure is fun for now.