Why big night at The K was so special for Brennan

June 28th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It was almost as if little  scripted Tuesday night’s win.

Brennan stood in foul territory by third base after Cleveland’s 2-1 win at Kauffman Stadium, getting interviewed by the team’s sideline reporter. A crowd of people -- it had to consist of 20 or 30 individuals -- lined up behind the Guardians’ dugout, screaming for him as he talked about delivering the game-winning hit just moments ago.

Brennan could only find one word to describe it: “Euphoric.”

The 25-year-old outfielder has already experienced so much in his young career. He came up last September and thrived for the Guardians. Not only did he make their playoff roster, but he started in two postseason games and appeared in three others. He made the Opening Day roster this year and got the start on the first day of the season.

He’s had so many moments to fill his résumé, but few compare to his homecoming in Kansas City.

“This kind of felt like a debut within itself,” Brennan said. “Just got to be top two, top three [moments] for me. It’s very special.”

Brennan was born in Colorado Springs, but he grew up in Stilwell, Kansas. He grew up going to games at Kauffman Stadium. He played in two high school games at the Major League ballpark and had a chance to come back and play there during his college days at Kansas State University. This is home for Brennan and his first trip back as a big leaguer was surreal, to say the least.

He had goosebumps and chills before the game even started. He knew there were going to be so many friends and family members sprinkled throughout the stands -- he guessed maybe 50. It turned out that people he didn’t even know were coming showed up, so that number was probably low-balling the actual total. But he didn’t know that before first pitch. All that mattered were the people he grew up with, the people he loved most were finally going to see him in his home ballpark.

Brennan took a few moments to reminisce on his childhood before the game. He recalled his favorite memory at this park, standing in between the two dugouts in the stands, begging for Red Sox manager Terry Francona to come over and sign his ball. After the skipper complied, Brennan asked if he could also get infielder Dustin Pedroia to come over and sign it. He distinctly remembers Francona using some … choice words in response.

It was one of the first things Brennan told his new manager, Francona, when he got to the big leagues.

“I laughed,” Francona said. “It happens all the time. Those [stinking] kids right here, they do it all the time. They’re like, ‘Hey, go …' and I’m like …”
I’ll let you guess how Francona responded. But both found the moment hilarious.

Brennan remembered experiencing playoff baseball for the first time during the Royals’ magical run in 2015. And when he played here as an amateur, it was easy for him to imagine what it would be like if he could come back to Kauffman Stadium as a Major League player.

On Tuesday, he got his answer. He went 3-for-4 with a double that handed Cleveland a comeback victory.

“When you come back home and you’re playing in front of family and friends, it’s a good nervousness,” Guardians bench coach DeMarlo Hale said. “He handled himself very well. You can see him walking around during the day when he got here, he was focused and ready to go out and perform as well as he could. He did that.”

The scoreless tie had just been broken in the bottom of the eighth on an error by pitcher Trevor Stephan when he was attempted to throw out a runner at the plate. The Guardians were trying to give some support to rookie hurler Gavin Williams, who had just thrown seven sparkling shutout innings. It took until the top of the ninth, but Cleveland got it done, thanks to Brennan.

Josh Naylor led off with a single and Josh Bell struck out. Andrés Giménez walked and Gabriel Arias pinch-ran for Naylor after he got into scoring position. Two on, behind by one, one out in the top of the ninth for Brennan at the plate.

“As a competitor, that’s like the best thing you could ask for,” Brennan said.

He swung at the second pitch he saw -- an 80 mph curveball below the zone -- and sent it under the diving first baseman and down the right-field line, easily scoring both runners on the stand-up double. He could hear his family screaming for him in the crowd. He clapped his hands exuberantly in celebration.

It was what he had always dreamed.

“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t think you could’ve written it up any better.”