In sports, the bond between a father and son usually blossoms.
For Brooks Lee, he told 30 Major League Baseball teams to not draft him out of high school so he could attend Cal Poly University to play for his father, Larry.
“He’s been the biggest impact out of anybody in my life, other than my mom,” Brooks Lee said. “I’m extremely blessed because I was raised the right way…. I’m grateful just to give back these three years that I gave with him, ever since I was growing up he’s given me everything I’ve ever had, as a person, as a baseball player, as a son, and all those things that kind of made me who I am. I just want to reflect as one of his players.”
Larry Lee has been the head coach at Cal Poly since 2003, when Brooks was just two years old. Growing up, Brooks would always fill in during inner-squad scrimmages, having the unique opportunity to face live collegiate pitching early in his career.
Out of high school and ahead of the 2019 MLB Draft, scouts considered Lee as a top 40 prospect. Expecting to arrive on campus as a freshman and make an immediate impact, Lee hyperextended his knee in his first semester which required surgery. He only had two at-bats in his freshman year before COVID-19 shut down the remainder of the season.
“I was kind of lucky, honestly. I felt like I came back from my knee and hamstring injury a little too quickly,” Lee said. “It was kind of a blessing in disguise that we ended up not playing. I got to really rehab and focus on getting every other part of my right leg stronger.”
Lee was lucky enough to play summer ball in 2020 in the Northwoods League in Minnesota. He hit .345 and held a .866 OPS in just 36 games. This opportunity helped him tremendously entering his first full collegiate season as he was able to play consistently while many others were unable.
“It’s all about consistency,” Lee said. “Everybody always sees the ups and downs they have in baseball. Personally as a player, when you’ve gone through them and it’s evident on the stat sheet. So, you’re just trying to be as consistent as possible. I’ve always viewed myself as being tough and having a different mindset.”
At the plate, Lee doesn’t like to watch many strikes go by without a swing. He only struck out in 34 of 250 plate appearances in his sophomore season.
“As a kid, I was taught to swing at every single pitch,” Lee said. “When guys take pitches out of the zone, it kind of just shrinks out their zone even more…. I know I need to be a little more relaxed. I’m always aggressive at the plate. I know that if I want to have that continued and consistent success, I got to be a little more patient”
In those 250 plate appearances, Lee only reached via base on balls 18 times.
In what will be Lee’s last season at Cal Poly, Lee is excited to have the opportunity to win.
“I’m excited just to play baseball, but I’m really excited because things have changed. I feel that we have better pitching; we have more notable guys that can hit and then you have some guys that really needed some games under them and they got that this summer,” Lee said. “The most important thing is that we win. We have to get sweeps or win two out of three, and we need to win all of our Tuesday games.”
The goal for Lee is to finish the year with 40 wins. In 2021, Cal Poly finished with a 31-25 record, winning the last seven games of the year.
“We need to make a regional, so we got to win 40 games,” Lee said. “When you make a regional, you got certain guys on the mound for two or three games and can make a super regional. Then when you get to Omaha, literally anything can happen. That’s the way I want go out and as [Larry] always says ‘Winning takes care of everything.’”
After this season, Lee will be headed into the 2022 MLB Draft. Even though he’s a projected top-10 selection, he doesn’t let that get to his head.
“I love looking at the write ups and seeing what people have to say because I know my game better than anybody,” Lee said. “I love what people have to say and I especially love it when it’s not positive. That’s just the way I am. I’m a stubborn person.”
He says although he tries to not pay attention to it, sometimes—especially when he’s tagged in posts—it’s impossible.
Lee compared his situation to Corey Seager’s. Out of high school, scouts projected Seager to have to move away from playing shortstop due to his size. Scouts are projecting the same for Lee, which is something he doesn’t pay attention to.
“Whatever happens [in the draft], I’m good with. It’s just another checkpoint down the road,” Lee said. “I want to be a Hall of Famer, I don’t want to just be a big leaguer. I don’t care about being a top five pick in the draft. I want to be a notable name 20 years down the road.”
In College Baseball Nation’s Preseason Top 50, Cal Poly is ranked at No. 49. The Mustangs were fourth in the Big West preseason coaches poll.