After retiring in 2001 as an active player, Rico spent a short time figuring out what a 32 year old retired ballplayer will do with the rest of his life. He continued his connection to Major League Baseball scouting for such teams as the Rays, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. He returned to his roots and coached the Watertown High School boys basketball team from 2006-2009. Next year he managed the Mobile Baybears, the Diamondbacks AA minor league affiliate. In 2011, Rico was the head football coach at Notre Dame-Fairfield High School in Ct. He left his coaching position at the end of the season.
This brings us to today. The person who suggested Rico meet with me was Father Gabe Costa, a Professor of Mathematics at West Point and a leader in the field of sabermetrics. While playing baseball, Rico attended Post College as a part-time student earning his BA degree in business management. Rico wants to further his education and enroll in a graduate program. Father Costa felt I could help Rico decide on a program. One of several programs Rico is considering is a leadership MA program combining mathematics with political science and economics. His interest in mathematics was nurtured by his work as a pro baseball scout. Today many teams use sabermetrics, a field of mathematics, developed by the likes of Bill James and Paul Depodesta, to evaluate baseball players. As a scout, he used these mathematical tools to quantify a player’s ability to contribute runs for his team. Rico will be talking to my baseball and statistics class about his use of statistics to scout players.
My interview with Rico turned to the question: What does it take for a player to be a successful Major Leaguer? Of course a player must have the ability but ability alone is not enough. In the book Moneyball, Billy Beane was depicted as a true “five tool player”. Many baseball scouts viewed him as a better prospect than both Darryl Strawberry and Beane’s minor league teammate Lenny Dykstra. Whereas both Strawberry and Dykstra were successful in the majors, Beane failed as a Major Leaguer. Rico referred to baseball as a game based on failure. In what other endeavor can you be successful 3 out of 10 times and be a Hall of Famer? Beane’s failure was more mental than physical. Beane could not live with failure. Failure in prior plate appearances affected his future plate appearances. Rico told me that every time he came up to the plate he had a game plan. Many times if there was a runner on base he would want to see a lot of pitches so he would take the first strike. He told me that failure must be accepted and that when you approach home plate past failures should not change your game plan for hitting. Rico wrote in an article, “You have to have the skills and work ethic to become a Major Leaguer, but learning the subtleties of the game is the difference between winning and losing. The talent level in the big leagues is amazing. Emotionally, there is a lot of pressure. Until I came to grips with that pressure to perform and win, I didn’t become a better player.”
This posting concludes my discussion of Rico Brogna, the Major Leaguer. On a personal note, I found Rico to be a very humble and respectful individual. In my correspondence with Father Costa, he describes Rico as a fine gentleman. Considering his serious arthritis condition, it is amazing what Rico was able to accomplish during his ten years in the majors. Young players should consider Rico a role model for how a Major League player should conduct himself. Rico will never be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame but the combination of Rico the player and Rico the gentleman makes him a Hall of Famer in my eyes.