The Twins selected Brooks Lee with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 Draft. Here's a deeper look at Lee that was first published on MLB.com in the weeks leading up to the Draft.
Brooks Lee lay on a massage table, doing rehab exercises. He had suffered a gruesome hamstring and knee injury that could have ended his career before it started and required a surgery that had only been performed a few times prior. His leg was in a tourniquet and purple. He faced an uncertain future and a grueling path back.
Learning how to face adversity is important, but this wasn’t exactly what Lee was hoping for when he turned down significant bonus offers coming out of high school to head to college.
Lee had suffered the injury in an intrasquad game, of all things, in his first fall at Cal Poly. He would make it back, ahead of schedule, to make two pinch-hitting appearances in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but none of that was guaranteed as he lay on that table. He only was sure of two things: He was going to do everything within his power to make his way back to the game he loved, and he would have a tremendous support system holding him up.
“You’re doing rehab, it’s real painful, and you can see your dad, reading a book and giving quotes and things like that to help you get through it,” Lee said. “It's very special. The last thing you want to have during one of those dark times is to feel alone, and that's something that I never felt.”
The book, Lee recalls, was “Can’t Hurt Me,” by David Goggins, and his dad’s recitation washed over him like a healing salve.
“I'm trying to focus on not having so much pain,” he recalled, “and then I hear the quotes coming in about how to deal with it, things like that. So it helps”
Lee, of course, would come all the way back from the injury, with an OPS over 1.000 in 2021 and a .405/.432/.667 line in the Cape Cod League that summer. He followed that up by hitting .357/.462/.664 this spring to cement his place as the top college bat in this year’s Draft class, one who has a very good chance to hear his name among the top five picks on July 17. And while he never would wish that injury and torturous rehab process on anyone, he knows he might not be the player he is now if he hadn’t gone through it.
“I think it would have taken a little longer,” Lee said. “Going through that stuff and having to take that time off, I really jump-started getting healthy. I came in [to college] and I wasn't physical. I was just a big kid with long arms and I wasn't fast at all. I really took a lot of different things after my surgery to get me where I needed to be at that time. So I was grateful.”
His dad was there every step of the way, and not just to read inspirational quotes. The big reason why Brooks Lee turned down pro offers in 2019 was so he could head to Cal Poly and play for the head coach, his father, Larry Lee. Anyone who has ever tried to coach their own child, even in Little League, might think that doing so at the Division I level would be an impossible task, finding that balance between being parent and coach. But the Lees had years to find what worked for them.
“It was a great relationship on the field and always has been,” Larry Lee said. “There was so much time spent earlier in his youth all the way up through high school. By the time he got to … college, I just kind of let him do what he needed to do, gave him some freedom, gave him some instruction along the way. And I didn't try to be overbearing.
“I was so used to him over the last few years, just making his own adjustments, because he's so bright, and understands his body and his swing and how to play the game so well that I just I tried to let him grow on his own. He’s his own best coach.”
The younger Lee quibbles slightly.
“When he's talking about being your own best coach, I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that, because my best coach was my dad,” Brooks said. “And that's a pretty bright person so if I ever get there, that'd be a very huge success. But he was pretty relaxed with the way I played and the way I made adjustments. I think that's kind of why I have the baseball IQ, learning things on my own.”
Aside from his pure hitting skills, it is that baseball IQ scouts talk about the most -- and a reason why many believe it won’t take him too long to be big league-ready. And Lee knows his dad was instrumental in helping him forge that mentality. Not that he always appreciated the lessons.
Larry Lee would wake Brooks up early, before school, every day. Starting in fifth grade, he had laminated a schedule of things to do in the barn that they had fashioned into a batting cage and workout area. Hitting drills, agility ladders, sit-ups and push-ups, it varied day to day. Lee would leave his son to self-motivate and go for a run.
“Most of the time, he was doing them and other times he was out on his back sleeping,” Larry Lee said. “He's my first and only son, so there was no track record before. I just wanted to see if we could get a routine. Without being too hard on him and give him the freedom, whatever he did in that 20 minutes at an early hour in the morning before school, just to see what would happen.
“I'm amazed at how much he loves the game. And you can see it when he's out there.”
Brooks Lee estimates he probably was asleep 40 percent of the time in those early days and had figured out how to fool his dad.
“I would get away with it, sometimes,” Brooks Lee confessed. “He would open the door in the barn and you would kind of have like a second to look around and start doing sit ups or something. I’d get away with some things, but it really paid off. That really instilled hard work. And I know I didn't enjoy it as a kid to do that stuff, but over time it grew on me.”
There comes a time when every parent needs to let go. Larry Lee set that in motion long ago when he left Brooks to his own devices in that barn and continued that with letting him make his own adjustments on the field, albeit with a watchful eye. When the Draft comes along, that coach’s hat will be gone.
“I'd say it's only Dad,” the elder Lee said. “I think because he was never a problem on the field, I think it's always been dad. And so it'll be emotional, just because of just the journey. I get choked up right now. It's a bond that that we have.”
Brooks Lee will bring that bond with him to the next level, knowing he’s been very fortunate to have the baseball upbringing that got him to this point.
“I better be good, because I have such a great resource,” he said. “It's so unique. I have a really cool opportunity to continue playing baseball and wherever that may end up, I have the best family to do it with. I'm just very thankful for everything my family has done for me.
“There's a lot of time that my dad spent, tired at night, when I was a kid and we’d do a lot of different things, playing catch and hitting off a tee. Those things, I'll never forget. They shaped me into who I am, as a player, as a person, as a teammate. I just I can't wait to keep doing it. It's all about putting on for my family and that's what I've been doing. There's a reason why it's called a legacy.”