116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Hitters gonna hit.
So never mind that Brooks Lee had about a 2 1/2-month gap between his last college baseball game for Cal Poly and his first professional one in the Minnesota Twins organization Aug. 4.
He saw no live pitching during that off time or anything.
“So it kind of took a while to get used to,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels shortstop said Tuesday night after he hit his first professional home run in his team’s 7-2 win over Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “But I feel fine. It’s definitely different. The Big West is the conference I played in in college, and, obviously, it’s nothing like minor league baseball. The Twins have done a great job of acclimating me.”
Lee was Minnesota’s first-round pick, eighth overall, in the recent 2022 Major League Baseball Draft, signing a contract with the Twins that included a $5.675 million bonus. Many draft experts had him as a likely top-five guy because of his overall ability, especially his exquisite bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate.
He’s a switch hitter.
But former Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker surprisingly went third overall to the Texas Rangers, and Lee ended up slipping to the No. 8 spot, where the Twins were more than happy to draft him.
“I didn’t care where I went,” he said. “I just wanted to go to a good organization. That’s all I cared about. I’m happy where I ended up. I didn’t have any expectations going into the draft. I knew I was going to get picked pretty high, and I was going to be happy, no matter what.”
Lee immediately went down to the Twins’ minor league complex in Fort Myers, Fla., to get back into game shape. He went 6-for-17 in four games with the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and was sent up to high-A and the Kernels a week ago Wednesday.
In his five games with Cedar Rapids, he’s 8-for-20 (.400) with a homer and three RBIs. He has walked three times and struck out three times.
Defensively, Lee — whose father, Larry, was his college coach at Cal Poly — made a pair of errors in his first home game with the Kernels, dropping a very routine popup just onto the grass beyond shortstop. In the following inning, he fielded a routine grounder, but his throw to first base was high and wide of first base.
Later on, he showed his defensive chops, backhanding a ball hit into the shortstop hole and using a very strong and accurate throw across the diamond for the out. Some believe Lee eventually will wind up over at third baseman, which would be appropriate since he is named after former Baltimore Orioles hall of fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.
“It is what it is,” he said. “The first popup tonight it felt like that ball was just dancing. I feel fine defensively, it’s just part of the game. I’m usually a gold-glove type of defender, so I hope that’s what the rest of the team will see soon.”
Lee, 22, overcame a horrific injury after his freshman college season in which he snapped the lateral collateral ligament in his knee and tore his biceps femoris hamstring in the same leg while running out a groundball.
“It sucks, obviously The knee is foreign to me, I didn’t have any (previous) knee problems,” Lee said. “This injury was just so rare, that I didn’t know if I would be able to play baseball again. There have been only 20 cases reported since the 1970s, so there’s not very good odds. My surgeon, I think it was only his third one.
“So it’s nothing like an ACL or (Tommy John surgery). which are, like, common now.”
Lee worked his butt off to rehab after the injury, got back to playing baseball in the summer of 2020 for the Willmar (Minn.) Stingers in the collegiate Northwoods League. He played a couple of road games at Waterloo against the Bucks, a club the Kernels own.
“I was pretty nervous that I wouldn’t be able to play, but I really rehabbed the crap out of this,” Lee said. “I was going to make sure I was going to get back onto the field and be better than I was before.
“First home game tonight. It’s a lot different than college. It takes some time getting used to pro ball. But I like it here, I like hitting in Iowa. It’s been pretty fun so far. I’ve got really good teammates and good coaching staffs, so they make it easy for me.”
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