BASEBALL 2004: Pretty Fly for a Shy Guy

Switch-pitcher seeks team glory while avoiding the spotlight

Matt Brunnig doesn’t want you to read this. He didn’t want it written and if being 6’7 didn’t make it impossible, he’d try to hide from any additional spotlight.

Sorry, Matt.

There are athletes who love the notoriety that comes with being a star and there are those who play off the attention they receive as unwanted, but who secretly relish the limelight.

And then there’s Brunnig, as humble as they come, who can’t even begin to find the words to describe himself since he does it so rarely; so he gently taps his fingers on the table, searching for as unassuming a response as he can think of.

“I’ve never really done that before,” he sheepishly admits after a few moments of fruitless mental scanning. “It’s not that interesting a subject.”

It’s not like there’s a dearth of things to talk about. Brunnig can pitch with both arms.

He’s simply the kind of guy—completely averse to any accolades or kudos that would separate him from his teammates—who you’d imagine trying actively to slouch his shoulders and hunch his back to avoid drawing unwanted notice; the same player who tries to minimize his frame off the field and downplay his own talent and successes on it the same way he walks under the ill-designed doorframes that have plagued him his whole life.

Then again, being the son of a chiropractor makes that pretty difficult.

“He’s a humble kid,” says Harvard coach Joe Walsh. “Last year, he got some attention which he didn’t want. You know that USA Weekly newspaper there did a story on him and Matt was like, ‘I haven’t played a game yet here, and I’m getting ink.’ He’s reluctant.”

The hype isn’t without its foundations. Brunnig hurled one-run, three-hit ball over eight innings against Michigan last time out on the mound, dispelling any doubt about that.

But then again, there are other solid right-handers out there who, when they’ve brought their ‘A’ game, can whiz through the Wolverines’ lineup. Plenty of left-handers, too.

“I’ve been decent,” Brunnig says. “I haven’t really done anything spectacular yet.”

Thing is, there are very few who can do it from both sides.

“It’s funny; when we recruited Matt, the story went, we had seen him an inning right-handed in a tournament,” Walsh says. “So we called a scout down in the Orlando area and asked him to go see him and give us some feedback. So he called me up and said, ‘Hey coach, I didn’t see him throwing 88-89 like we thought; he was only throwing 85. But I’m going back to see him tomorrow.’

“And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, I saw him throwing 85 left-handed and I loved him left-handed, but I’m going to go back and watch him right-handed.’ We didn’t know that when we first had seen him. You obviously don’t ask that question.”

At the plate, switching around is plenty common. On the rubber? That’s a whole different story.

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