Athletic excellence a family business for this Brewers prospect
PHOENIX -- There are athletic families, and then there is the veritable Olympic team that is the Turang clan of Corona, Calif.
The patriarch, Brian, is a one-time Brewers Draft pick who made it to the Major Leagues as a Mariners utility man in the early 1990s. The matriarch, Carrie, played in the NCAA softball championship for Long Beach State.
Their four daughters all played college athletics. Brianna won a national championship in softball at Oklahoma and played four years of soccer. Carissa played softball at Southern Miss and Cal State Fullerton. Cabria played four years of soccer at Utah. And Bailee was an all-conference outside hitter for the Southern Nazarene (Okla.) University volleyball team. Among the sisters’ spouses is a college pole vaulter and an NFL player. Brianna’s husband, Tress Way, is the punter for the Washington Commanders.
The youngest of the bunch is 22-year-old Brice, the Brewers’ third-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. He played baseball, basketball and football in high school and had a baseball scholarship waiting at LSU before the Brewers made him their first-round Draft pick in 2018, starting Turang on a career that’s seen him play young at every level. When he made it to Triple-A Nashville last year at 21, Turang was 5 1/2 years younger than the league’s average position player, per Baseball-Reference.
Dad has a hunch that familial competitiveness has played a role in Brice’s quick rise through pro baseball.
“It definitely gave him that edge because all of his sisters were better than him,” Brian Turang said. “He just wanted to keep up with them.”
That’s still happening today, be it in Wiffle Ball tournaments or pickup soccer matches. At Christmas, Brice said, there was a particularly competitive Nerf gun battle.
“We all compete, and we just love what we do,” said Brice Turang, who twice reached safely and tallied one of the Brewers' 14 hits in a 13-6 win over the Giants in Scottsdale on Monday. “That's for sure helped me with my career. I mean, I looked up to my sisters. They're all left-handed hitters, played the infield. For sure, that helped me in that aspect.”
Good genes help. The Brewers drafted Brian Turang in the 20th round in 1987, but he stayed in school and was drafted again by the Mariners two years later. Brian played eight seasons in the Minors and saw extended stints in Seattle in 1993 and ’94.
The Brewers took note of the genes when they drafted Brice Turang 21st overall in 2018 and signed him for $3.4 million.
“He just comes from a super athletic family, and it always helps when the DNA is good,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “With older sisters like that, he probably had to compete along the way. He has a chance to be pretty good.”
Brice was born in 1999, three years after his father’s final pro season. He’s hit for less power than his dad did as a pro but has reached base at a higher clip (.364 OBP in three Minor League seasons so far) and has shown great speed, with 64 stolen bases including a 30-steal season in 2019.
Brice also plays the premium position of shortstop and has mostly eliminated the Draft-era questions about whether he would wind up playing second base in the Majors.
So, who was better at 22?
“I mean, he would say he’s better than me, but there’s no way,” Brian Turang said. “No way. I still have him. He doesn’t have the power that I have, but it will come, I think. He still has time. He started pro ball way younger than me. I didn’t even start until I was 22.
“Honestly, at 22, he’s way ahead of me. I was a little bit stronger than him, but that will come. He has height on me, speed on me. I just try to tell him, ‘Hey man, keep doing what you’re doing. Be you, and you’ve got it.’”
Al LeBoeuf, a baseball lifer who is the hitting coach at Nashville, has seen Turang’s budding strength come through in early batting practice sessions. Opposite-field line drives that went to the left fielder last season are now more regularly hitting off the wall, LeBoeuf said. And LeBeouf has seen Turang’s contact point move farther out front, a harbinger of power.
“I think last year was probably like a, 'This guy can play shortstop' type of year for him,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Handling Triple-A how he did last year, it's really impressive. He's going to continue to get better.
“He's at an age where you do make big jumps. And he's got a good baseball head on his shoulders. That's going to really serve him well and he's going to continue to get better.”