Our next “Inside Spring Training” host is Angels minor leaguer, CJ Bressoud! This is yet another CJ I met through L.E.A.D., the terrific inner-city baseball program I keep mentioning (the others are CJ Beatty and CJ Stewart, one of whom has already blogged here and the other who will be soon).
Although I find something interesting and exciting about every baseball player I meet, particularly the minor league guys, CJ’s story interests me the most. Unlike the other guys who have been hosts during this series, CJ Bressoud is not participating in his first spring training. CJ has had an incredibly interesting journey, and although I don’t know him that well, his story tells me the one word that describes him is “perseverance.”
CJ was one of the top baseball players in Georgia coming out of high school in 2003. While playing for North Cobb High School, CJ earned the following, seemingly endless list, of awards in 2003: GACA 5A Player of the Year, GACA Player of the Year, Atlanta Journal Player of the Year, Atlanta Braves HS Player of the Year, Baseball Coaches of America District 3 Player of the Year, Gatorade GA HS Player of the Year, and Pro Line Hats GA HS Player of the Year. In addition, he was on the following All-American teams: Baseball America All-American, Rawlings All-American, and BCA All-American. He also played in the Inaugural HS All-American Game in New York and was a silver medalist in the 2003 Pan American Games for Team USA!
CJ had an offer to play baseball for the University of Alabama, but instead chose to sign with his hometown Atlanta Braves after they drafted him in the 26th Round of the 2003 First Year Players Draft. He spent 2004 with the Gulf Coast League Braves, but later decided to return to college.
CJ enrolled at Columbus State University, unaware he would have to sit out a year before the NCAA would reinstate him. Once he was finally back out on the field, he suffered an unfortunate injury that forced him to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Not one to quit, CJ returned in 2008 and posted an impressive .338 batting average with 10 homeruns and 42 RBIs. He earned All-Peach Belt Conference honors for his successful season at the plate as a hitter and behind the plate as a catcher.
Following his successful 2008 season, the Angels signed CJ to a minor league contract. He began the 2008 season with the Cedar Rapids Kernals (A) and finished it up with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-Adv). In 2009, he spent time with two Rookie teams in the Arizona League and Pioneer League, before moving on to the Cedar Rapids (A) club and then Rancho Cucamonga (A-Adv) club. While with Rancho Cucamonga, CJ hit 1.000.
It was in 2009 that CJ first made the switch from catcher to pitcher – a big enough change, even if you don’t factor in that he made the switch midseason after the All-Star break! While with the Angels in the Arizona League as a pitcher, CJ went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. He finished the season 3-0 counting his time pitching with Cedar Rapids, and he closed out a no-hitter during that stretch. That success meant he got to spend this past winter preparing to be a pitcher, not a catcher.
With that, I give you a peek inside Spring Training from my friend, CJ Bressoud:
Camp has been good. Games start tomorrow, and I’m anxious to finally play games. The past week has been soreness, bunt plays, 1st-n-3rds, signs, endless BP sessions, bull pens and lots of RUNNING. Time to compete, time to see what all the hard work in the offseason is for. So far my bullpens have felt strong, my pfp’s are solid, and I’ve been playing tons of COD. This past week already feels like a month, its good seeing the teammates from seasons past and picking up friendships right where yall left off not missing a step.
Spring training is a blast, listening to the Vets talk about just slowing the game down and letting it come to you. And always BREATHE. Just do what your capable of doing and it will work out in the end.
I asked CJ if and how he prepared differently for this spring compared to years past. As I said before, CJ is making the move from catcher to pitcher, so his training was very different indeed:
Well, this off season was different for me because I was converted from a catcher to a pitcher at the all star break of last year. So instead of my normal off season workout catching pens, long tossing lifting heavy weight trying to bulk up I spent a lot of time running. Long distance for stamina, sprints for endurance. I focused of loosing up my muscles and gaining flexibility. Lots of stretching and yoga. Light lifting lots of reps with light weight.
Mentally I try not to be a “pitcher” basically because I’m not a pitcher, I’m a baseball player with a good arm who just so happens to pitch. I try to keep it as simple and throw as many strikes as possible. Knowing going into this that I will have good and bad outings so I’m prepared not to get to high and mighty when I pitch well and not get too down if I walk 3 guys and give up 1 run in 1 and 1/3rd innings (like I did today). Its the nature of the beautiful beast we call baseball.
Tempe AZ Minor Lg Camp
I hope you all enjoyed hearing from CJ! His journey has certainly been an interesting one, and I admire his perseverence and determination!
I’m also excited to announce that CJ is going to let us check in with him throughout the season! I think it’ll be interesting to hear about his transition from catcher to pitcher and follow his season. Best of luck, CJ!
For love of the game,