Brujan honors father with big league ambition

After his dad's untimely passing, Rays prospect out to fulfill promise

March 6th, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In 2017, Vidal Brujan’s father was diagnosed with a stomach illness that didn’t allow him to consume high intakes of grease. After the diagnostic, Brujan urged his father to make the drive to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in order to get the proper medication to treat the disease.

“I told him to go to the doctor to take care of that,” Brujan said, in Spanish. “But he never went.”

It was September 2018, and Brujan was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic for the Toros del Este. He had just returned to his apartment after spending the night at the team hotel. Brujan had gone back to sleep that morning, but was woken up at around 8 a.m. to the news that his father had gotten ill.

“Are you kidding me?” Brujan replied.

The night before, Brujan’s father had a heavy meal that consisted of extremely greasy meats, causing intolerable stomach pain. Brujan rushed to his father’s home in San Pedro de Macoris, but when he arrived, Vidal Brujan Sr. had already passed away due to heart failure. He was 52.

“He meant so much to me,” Brujan said. “He would always take me to practice. He would always buy my gloves, my batting gloves. A lot of things that a lot of people might not know.”

With the support of his parents, Brujan began playing baseball when he was 5 years old. The idea of signing a contract and providing a better life for his family was always the driving factor behind his motivation as a player.

When Brujan turned 14, playing baseball for a living became a real possibility. He was taken into an academy in the Dominican Republic and began to ramp up his training. A couple of years later, the tryouts began.

Brujan doesn’t remember exactly how many he went through. He was just a skinny kid, weighing in at about 144 pounds, looking for a chance to sign with a team. After a couple of tryouts with the Rays in 2015, the club decided to give Brujan that opportunity.

“I wasn’t running as fast as I am now,” Brujan said. “Then, I remember it was a Sunday, I ran really well.”

The next day, Brujan got a call that the Rays were going to sign him for $15,000.

“It was so exciting,” Brujan said. “It’s a feeling that you always dream of, but you never really expect it to happen. My mom started crying, my dad was so proud. Everyone was just so happy.”

Now the Rays’ No. 7 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Brujan has risen through a loaded Rays farm system. He still needs to add to his frame, but he’s gotten his weight up to 175 pounds and is “running even faster” than he did when he signed.

“It’s really great to see the growth of a human being,” said Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics. “I tease him, ‘Remember when you signed? You didn’t even have a muscle!’

“He’s an excellent person. He worked hard. For three years, he’s here and he’s lifting, eating and has some better housing, and now he’s grown into a man.”

Most of the attention has landed on the organization’s No. 1 prospect, Wander Franco, after the now 18-year-old put up gaudy numbers in his first year of pro ball. But quietly, Brujan has established himself as one of the top prospects in the Rays' system and many people believe he’s just starting to figure things out.

Last year, Brujan played 95 games for Class A Bowling Green before ending the year in Class A Advanced Charlotte. Brujan finished with a combined .320 batting average and an impressive 55 stolen bases. His performance resulted in Brujan being the No. 1 overall pick in the Dominican Winter League rookie draft.

“I’m just more experienced,” Brujan said. “I learn something different through every level of the Minor Leagues. I also changed my batting stance. My hands used to be really high up, but I changed that last year. That helped me and I just stayed playing my game.”

Brujan will likely start the 2019 season back with the Stone Crabs in Charlotte. With another strong season, he has a chance to keep climbing up the Minor League system.

“He can really excite a ballgame with his speed and his bat,” said manager Kevin Cash, who had a chance to watch Brujan play Tuesday against USF. “[He has] kind of a fearless approach.”

As Brujan gets closer to his ultimate goal of reaching the Major League level, he’s had a chance to reflect on what that moment would mean to his family. He can only imagine how happy his mother and everyone back home would be.

His motivation to make it as a big leaguer has never lacked, but Brujan enters the 2019 season with a little extra.

“I promised my dad that I was going to get to the big leagues in either 2019 or 2020,” Brujan said. “It’s a moment that I’ve been dreaming of. I won’t be content with anything until I get up to the big leagues.”