Growing up in a family of athletes, sophomore outfielder Drew Brutcher has been playing baseball since he was 3 years old, following his father and brother’s lead.
“My dad got me into it, and just from there, my brothers always played baseball, my mom was always an athlete, so I always played baseball, following them,” Brutcher said.
His older brother, Cole, played baseball in college and had offers from major programs such as Florida and Samford. Their father, Len, however, was the major baseball influence in Brutcher’s life.
Len was drafted in the second round of the 1988 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. He went on to pitch for them and the San Diego Padres in his time in the Major Leagues.
Once his career ended, he became heavily involved with his sons’ baseball journeys and coached them through high school.
When it came to picking where to play in college, Brutcher said it was easy to commit to USF since it’s close to his hometown, Lakeland.
“I like when my parents can watch me,” he said. “I like to go home every weekend to see them.
“That was the main thing and then I love the coaches and players here. It just felt like home when I came and visited.”
Coach Billy Mohl also saw something in Brutcher during his recruitment and was eager to have him on his team.
It wasn’t until fall 2020 that Mohl was able to see Brutcher for what he is beneath the surface, a mature player beyond his years.
“Obviously, I thought he was going to be a really good player. I didn’t think he’d be what he is,” Mohl said.
“Drew had a really mature approach even in [batting practice] and I thought, ‘OK, well, maybe we got something.’ And then in the fall, he struggled as most freshmen do. Then the lights came on in the spring and was like, ‘Man this guy’s pretty good.’”
Once baseball season began, Brutcher stepped onto Red McEwen Field and was instantly explosive, especially in the batters’ box. Despite being a freshman, he produced at the level of a veteran.
In his 32 games played, Brutcher sported a batting average of .294 with 35 hits, 17 RBI and 25 runs, numbers that earned him AAC Player of the Week in March as well as 2021 Perfect Game USA/Rawlings Freshman All-American.
Brutcher also flexed his power at the plate with eight home runs, the majority of which came when USF needed them the most.
In a three-game series against Stetson, he hit a homer in each matchup, culminating in a walk-off in the 12-inning series finale.
Unfortunately, after a hot start to the season, he had to take a short hiatus due to a hand injury.
Brutcher said this small setback allowed for a deeper connection with his teammates that he didn’t have before.
“I made a lot of good friends sitting in the dugout,” he said. “I’m always in the outfield playing so being with them honestly, I got more chemistry with the other guys. I loved it honestly.”
After missing two months of action, he made his comeback to the field just as USF was building momentum entering the Gainesville Regional.
Brutcher’s biggest moment of the season came in the first game against the Longhorns.
Down two runs in the ninth inning, he tied the game with a two-run jack, silencing the Longhorn crowd and giving hope to the few USF faithful in the stands.
The Bulls ultimately lost in the bottom half of the inning on a Texas walk-off, but the moment still cemented Brutcher as one of the young stars of USF’s run.
While he receives accolades and praise for his play on the diamond, Brutcher has made a name for himself among Mohl and his teammates for the work and leadership he puts in behind the scenes.
“I still don’t think I have heard the kid speak 10 words since he’s been here,” Mohl said. “His team will tell you otherwise, but around us on the field, he just goes about his business, puts his work in, and you know he’s a lead by example.
“Not exactly a vocal leader but kind of lead by example. He has the chance to be a really special player for us.”
USF baseball will begin its season Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. against UCONN at the USF Baseball Stadium.