LONG BEACH, Calif — His first appearance at Area Code Baseball wasn’t exactly what Brandon Bonilla was looking for as a way to impress the scouts.
Unlike his former Major League slugging star dad Bobby Bonilla, Brandon is a left-handed pitcher and throwing the ball is all he did this year in Long Beach.
His first outing on Aug. 6 in a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers White team saw the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Bonilla struggle through two innings. He gave up three earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts, but he also walked three and had three wild pitches.
With his dad sitting in the stands next to another former Major League dad, Shawon Dunston, Brandon threw one behind White’s Shawon Dunston Jr.
“Yea, but I struck him out with the curveball,” said Bonilla with a grin.
Even though he had a rough outing, Brandon still threw in the high 80s and hit the 90s several times out of 45 pitches. His fastest was 92 mph.
“The first start was a little shaky,” said Bonilla. “After that I really wanted the ball back. I even asked coach to let me start Saturday.”
He didn’t get the call for Saturday but he did on Sunday, starting in a rematch against the White Brew crew in a 2-1 Reds’ victory.
Bonilla went two innings and faced seven batters with only one reaching on an error. He only threw 28 pitches but 19 were strikes and he fanned a pair.
The incoming senior at IMG Academy’s IMG Academy School (Bradenton, Florida) was just as impressive in his third outing in Area Code’s final game on Tuesday afternoon against Blue Brew crew.
He went one inning in a 9-3 Reds’ win, and although he gave up a hit Bonilla struck out two with 12 of his 18 pitches strikes.
After spending his freshman and sophomore years at Greenwich (Greenwich, Connecticut), Bonilla is now at IMG Academy, a college preparatory school on the IMG campus with a flexible schedule that allows students to mold their classes around athletic training sessions, games or tournaments when needed.
“The decision to come to IMG was a great one if I’m going to take baseball to the next level,” Bonilla said.
He committed to USC in late July and he’s chomping at the bit to come west again for college next fall.
“I’m very excited about USC. Its one of the greatest college programs ever. I can’t wait to get there and help them turn it around.”
Although he saw limited action this past season at IMG Academy, scouts still saw enough in Bonilla to invite him to Long Beach.
“Obviously Area Code is very prestigious. It’s great to be able to compete with the best in the country.”
And what does Bonilla want to show the scouts?
“To be myself out there and not try to be someone else. Have fun, throw the ball and hit the glove.”
Being the son of a big-time major leaguer can sometimes be a lot of pressure for a young man, but Brandon takes it in stride.
“He talks to me about the game and he and my pitching coach Mike Fetters (former Major League pitcher) taught me everything I know about the game, but he’s my dad. I love him but it’s nothing big to me.”
His four tips for young up-and-comers who dream of making it to Area Code Baseball?
“Work hard, be yourself, put a smile on your face and have fun every day,”