Alex Bregman’s Red Sox connections run deep, all the way to Ted Williams
HOUSTON — As the Houston Astros were taking batting practice before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series last week, Carlos Correa and George Springer looked out at the lone red seat in right field at Fenway Park and wondered aloud if the old story was true, did Ted Williams really hit a ball that far?
No chance, they agreed.
Alex Bregman, standing a few feet away, smiled. He knew better.
Houston’s star third baseman grew up in a family with a direct connection to Williams and a reverence for the greatest hitter who ever lived.
It goes back to 1968, when the late Stan Bregman, Alex’s grandfather, worked as general counsel for the Washington Senators and negotiated a contract with Williams to manage the team starting in 1969.
Their business relationship became a friendship that lasted until Williams’s death in 2002.
Now Alex is the player the Red Sox are determined won’t beat them. They’ve already walked him six times in the series.
“All my life I’ve heard about Ted Williams,” Bregman said. “My dad used to always tell me I would be the next guy to hit .400 in the big leagues. He grew up loving Ted Williams and passed that down to me.
“When we talked about hitting, we talked about Ted Williams.”
Unlike many players of his generation, the 24-year-old Bregman is a baseball historian. Some of his first memories are hearing stories about Williams and other players from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s from his grandfather.
Bregman grew up with an appreciation of the players who came before him and believes that’s a foundation of his talent for the game.
“No doubt,” Bregman said. “Baseball is all I ever knew and the only thing I wanted to do. I’m not saying I hit like Ted Williams, but what he believed about hitting is what I was taught. I’ve watched and read everything I could about him”
Surely Williams would approve of what that all has led to. Bregman hit .286 with a .926 OPS for the Astros this season and was tied for third in the majors with 86 extra-base hits.
Bregman broke a tie in the All-Star Game with a 10th-inning home run off Ross Stripling. That earned him the Ted Williams Trophy as Most Valuable Player.
“Think about that for a second,” said Sam Bregman, Alex’s father. “My family comes from that area, and my son goes back and wins a trophy named after Ted Williams, who was somebody I knew.
“Talk about emotions.”
As a child, Sam had full run of the Senators’ clubhouse at RFK Stadium, tagging along with his father to games.
“My father became pretty close to Ted,” he said. “When I was a kid I would go to the home games and then at the end of each game, my dad would give him a ride home to his apartment oftentimes.
“I’d sit in he back seat and listen to Ted Williams talk. I’d also be down in the locker room hanging out with the greatest hitter of all time. It was pretty unbelievable. I was a kid in a candy store. It was very special. I love the game, and obviously I passed it on.”
In 1998, by then raising a family in New Mexico, Sam Bregman won a raffle for four tickets to a game at Fenway Park and took his family across the country. Alex was 4 at the time, and it was his first major league game.
The Red Sox were playing the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the first base coach was Frank Howard, the former Senators slugger.
“I started yelling, ‘Hey Hondo,’ and he came over,” Sam Bregman said. “I said, ‘You won’t believe who I am. You would have no idea. But 40-something years ago I was sitting on your lap in the clubhouse.’ ”
Howard paused and then said, “Sammy, is that you?”
Howard signed a ball for Alex. The whole day left an impression.
“A great place to watch your first game,” Alex Bregman said. “Fenway Park is unbelievable. Fans are incredible.”
Sam Bregman, an attorney, did not return to Fenway until Saturday for Game 1 of the ALCS. This time he saw his son reach base four times on the same field Williams played on.
“It gives me chills,” he said.
There was a fleeting chance Bregman could have played for the Red Sox. The Sox took him in the 29th round of the 2012 draft out of Albuquerque Academy in the 29th round. But Bregman kept his commitment to play at LSU and in 2015 was the second pick of the draft.
“Honestly, I wanted to sign really bad if it was going to be in the first round. But they didn’t take me in the first round,” Bregman said.
“I basically told them I was going to go to school. It was a big honor to be drafted by them.”
Arizona Diamondbacks senior vice president Amiel Sawdaye, the Red Sox scouting director at the time, said the Sox liked Bregman a lot but knew he was destined for college.
“Alex would have been a first-round pick, but he broke his finger his senior year,” said Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart, a summer-league teammate in New Mexico and a close friend. “He was that good. I’ve never been around anybody who likes baseball as much as he does.”
A 5-foot-10-inch righthanded hitter can’t be compared with Williams, but Bregman approaches the game with the same single-minded ferocity.
“That’s the difference between him and others,” said Sox manager Alex Cora, who as bench coach of the Astros last season found a kindred spirit in Bregman. “He’s always looking to get better, and he’s a baseball rat.
“He eats baseball 24 hours and seven days a week. He has no life, honestly. It’s baseball, baseball, baseball. That’s what I like about him.”
Cora recalled a meeting before the 2017 season when Astros manager A.J. Hinch told Bregman he would be hitting sixth.
“By the end of the season I’m going to hit second here,” Bregman shot back.
That he did, 42 times. Cora also helped turn the former shortstop into an excellent defensive third baseman.
“When it comes to Alex Bregman and Alex Cora, it’s a mutual love affair,” Sam Bregman said. “They adore each other. My Alex has expressed that time and time again. They really bonded. Alex Cora is a stud of a guy, a great baseball mind, and a good, good person.”
Now they are competitors trying to get to the World Series.
“This is what it feels like I should be doing,” Bregman said. “My grandfather wanted this for me. He’d love me playing against the Red Sox, he really would.”