April 15, 2010
By Allen Wagner
At age 16, Bradley Boyer had to make a choice few high-school students get to make.
Now primarily an infielder for the UW baseball team, Boyer played three different sports while in high school: baseball, soccer and football. And at 16, the senior from Lake Tapps, Wash., was given the opportunity to play for Werder Bremen, a major force in Germany's soccer scene that was the runner-up for the 2009 UEFA Cup.
It would be a tough decision for any young man to make: Pursue a golden opportunity in Europe, or side with your true love -- baseball.
Boyer, using more of his intuition than any nudges from coaches or family, sided with his American roots and continued his love of baseball.
It was a good choice for the fifth-year senior, who has been around since the 2006 season.
"Am I ready to do something like [going overseas to play soccer], or am I more apt to just stay and play baseball and have my family close to me?" Boyer said. "It was one of those decisions that there was nothing more than my gut feeling that went into it."
Boyer knows he made the right move, even though he turned down the opportunity to possibly play in the UEFA Cup or in front of thousands of rabid fans. And even though he sometimes misses soccer, it doesn't change the way he thinks.
"From time to time, I would love to kick the ball around, but as far as for my future, I think I made the right decision," Boyer said. "Do I want to go move overseas and play this professional-type soccer at 16, or do I want to want to be a normal American kid? It was a tough decision for me, but it was ultimately a decision I made to play baseball. It was always what I loved to do since I was 4 years old."
But the sport he loved since he was 4 hasn't been to kind to him in the past year.
After a couple of solid seasons in 2007 and 2008 -- especially in 2007 when he was a sophomore, finishing with a .363 batting average and a .946 OPS -- the starting second baseman played summer ball for the So Cal Fire in '08.
But on a routine throw across the diamond -- he was playing third base -- during a game in July, Boyer felt a pop in his shoulder.
"I knew it wasn't good," Boyer said. "I took a couple weeks off thinking I just strained something, but it just never got better."
It was a dreaded torn ulnar collateral ligament -- commonly known as a torn UCL -- and it required "Tommy John surgery."
After having surgery in September 2008, Boyer sat out the 2009 season, looking on at his team from afar. And since starting up this year, he hasn't been the same Boyer that fans saw in 2007 and 2008.
"He came back this fall and was not in sync," UW head coach Lindsay Meggs said. "The fall was tough for him. He struggled. And so when the spring rolled around, I don't think he was completely comfortable at times."
Boyer was batting .258 before yesterday's game at Portland with just one home run and 13 RBI. Not lighting it up, to say the least.
But as a fifth-year senior who is only one of two remaining Huskies to have played with two-time Cy Young Award winner and former UW pitcher Tim Lincecum -- Adrian Gomez is the other -- Boyer's best attributes for the team may be his preservation of institutional knowledge and the way he can spark some of the younger players.
"Brad brings intensity to the field every day," Meggs said. "He loves to play, and he's dedicated to getting better, and he puts the time in. You can tell your young guys to watch him work, and learn about the level of energy that you need to bring to the field every day. That's his biggest plus."
That's not unlike what a then-freshman Boyer did when then-junior Lincecum took the hill every weekend to mow down more Pac-10 opponents: Learn from, emulate and enjoy what your older teammates bring to the team.
"[Lincecum] always had a good spirit and was a fun guy to be around," Boyer said. "So whether it was him doing something amazing on the mound that night or keeping the mood nice and cool in the dugout, that's the kind of guy he was while he was here."
And that's what Boyer is to Meggs -- a guy whose attitude rubs off on younger players the right way. As a guy who plays hard and enjoys baseball more than anything else, it seems appropriate that he gets praise, especially for the way he carries himself as the elder statesman of the UW baseball team.
"Brad's going to be successful in whatever he does," Meggs said. "And it wouldn't surprise me, whether he's playing [professional baseball] or not, if he has some connection to baseball. It would be difficult for him to get that out of his blood, because I think he really, truly loves the game, and he has a lot to offer that he can share with younger kids, once he gets out there and pursues his goals."
And Boyer, who says he's still learning more about baseball every day -- thanks, he says, to the new coaching staff -- knows his role is important.
Said Boyer: "Being an older guy and having the experience of playing under different coaches, or just dealing with adversity in different ways, [I] just try to be a good example."