A brief biography for Rico Brogna goes as follows. Rico was born on April 18, 1970 in Turner Falls, Ma. He attended Watertown High School in Watertown Ct. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1st round, pick number 26, of the amateur draft. He signed with the Tigers on June 18, 1988. He made his ML debut on August 8, 1992 for the Tigers at the age of 22. He played for the Tigers, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, and Braves. His final game was with the Braves in 2001.
The information for this three part posting comes from a face to face interview with Rico at Quinnipiac University on Feb. 25, 2013. Part 1 will take us from Rico’s youth until his signing with the Tigers. Throughout the interview I took notes and these postings are my attempt to organize these notes into a story about a miraculous multisport athlete who accomplished athletic greatness in spite of a genetic physical problem.
Rico’s story begins with a punt, pass, and kick contest when he was seven years old. He entered the eight year old group and won the contest. Unfortunately, when they found out he was seven years old they took the title away from him. In high school he was a three sport athlete. As a freshman he started for the varsity baseball team. When he reached his junior year scouts came from all over the US to see him. At one game a scout visiting got real upset. He came to watch Rico bat and the opposing coach intentionally walked him four times. After the game the scout approached the opposing manager and started shouting at him. As a senior he was chosen as an All-American High School Baseball Player. Rico also was an All-State High School Football Player. He was recruited as a college quarterback by such schools as USC, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami.
In his senior year he had to make a decision. Should he go to college and play football and baseball or sign a pro contract to play baseball? In the book “Moneyball”, Billy Beane had a similar decision to make. Should he take the bonus money or go to Stanford University? In Beane’s case, his family wanted him to go to college but Beane chose the money. Beane later admitted that this was a big mistake. In Rico’s case his father was afraid if he got hurt in college he would lose a substantial amount of money. So he encouraged him to take the money. Rico wanted to go to college and signed a letter of intent with Clemson University. His father felt it was best to play pro ball now and persuaded him to sign for the bonus money. As the 26th choice in the first round, Rico signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1988. Later on in 1991, Rico was diagnosed with Anklosing Spondylitis, a genetic joint disease which causes a person a great deal of pain. If he had played quarterback for Clemson a solid hit might have ended any chance for him to play pro ball. During his high school days doctors were unable to diagnose the cause of his pain. Rico forced himself to play three major sports often experiencing extreme pain in his joints.
Rico used a friend of the family to help him negotiate what his bonus should be. Rico confided that this was a mistake. The Tigers originally offered him a signing bonus of $50,000. For a first round draft choice in 1988, this was a very low amount. In negotiating himself he commented to the scout that he should get $100,000.00. The Tigers quickly agreed. Before signing, he discovered that this too was also a low figure. Even though he had not signed yet, he kept his word and signed for that amount. The lesson Rico learned was in the future let a professional agent do the negotiating. (To be continued)