The Occidental baseball team (20-5 overall, 15-3 SCIAC) has made quite a bit of noise this season, having won 18 of 19 games, including a three-game sweep over Pomona-Pitzer this weekend. But it is one of their quietest players who has helped lead the charge.
Brady Fuller (senior) — who likes to keep a low-profile — has cemented himself as the team’s everyday first baseman and leadoff hitter with a .388 batting average and a .514 on-base percentage. Fuller — a long, lanky lefty — may not fit the mold of a typical leadoff man for casual baseball fans, but his on-base skills have proved vital during the team’s current streak. Fuller sets the table for the Tigers’ flurry of run producers in the middle of the lineup.
“With the bat he is exactly what the team needs,” head coach Luke Wetmore said via email. “He sets the tone, sees pitches so his teammates don’t need to, gets on base at a ridiculous rate … and handles the short game as well as anyone.”
Fuller’s rise to stardom did not happen overnight. While not overlooked by his coaches and teammates, Fuller — who was stuck behind the accomplished Johnathan Brooks ’15 at first base — had to spend his first two years on Occidental’s now-defunct JV team.
While playing for the JV squad may have discouraged players from sticking with the game, Fuller embraced it. For starters, he said he simply enjoyed playing and felt that the team served as a great way to settle into college and make friends. But he also acknowledged that his time on JV was crucial for his on-field development.
“From the baseball side of things, it was mostly about getting stronger physically and seeing what college baseball is about,” Fuller said.
Wetmore believes Fuller’s first two years were a testament to his resilience. While he thinks that Fuller knew he could contribute at the varsity level and was disappointed it took so long, he never let it affect his demeanor. In the end, Fuller’s persistence and team-first attitude paid off. He got his varsity shot as a junior.
Seeing time at both first base and designated hitter, Fuller got off to a hot start, but eventually cooled. In 99 at bats on the year, he compiled a .212/.262/.242 slash line.
“Midway through the year, I was just physically tired and worn down,” Fuller said. “It was the longest I’d played since high school.”
With a full season under his belt, Fuller has transformed — particularly when it comes to his batting eye. He has a nearly 25 percent walk rate (20 bases on balls in 85 at-bats) and has continued to be a low-strikeout hitter.
Statistics only tell part of the story when it comes to Fuller. His quiet leadership on a young squad has helped boost them out of the middle of the pack in SCIAC and into first place.
“To be perfectly honest, I usually have no idea what Brady is thinking or feeling,” Wetmore said via email. “He is that unflappable. He doesn’t live and die with each pitch, gives his teammates and coaches his best effort and is OK with the outcome. He’s a ballplayer and our guys take their cues from him… And if they don’t than they need to start.”
Baseball has always played an important role in Fuller’s life. The sport even found its way into his academic career — his honors senior comprehensive project for the economics department was about the luxury tax and revenue sharing in Major League Baseball. He also loves the Dodgers despite hailing from the Bay Area (if they can stay healthy, he said, they should win the National League West for the fourth straight year). But above all else, he loves to play and is savoring every moment of his remaining time on the field with his teammates.
“It hasn’t really kicked in yet,” he said. “But I definitely try to take a moment before every game and realize how lucky we are. And that’s the thing the coaches, all the people who come back for alumni games, always talk about.”
The Tigers are the no. 11 team in the national rankings, but Fuller said the team is not taking anything for granted. Their goal is not to have a nice record midway through the year or even a national ranking, but to win the program’s first SCIAC championship since 1982. No matter how far they go, one thing is for certain for the Tigers: Fuller will continue to find a way to get on base, day in and day out.
“Brady takes care of business,” Wetmore said via email. “Period.”