For the sake of this post’s sake, I’m going to take us back seven years ago. I was a freshman at the university made famous by flying chairs and shit-filled lockers. One of the kids I met the first few days of school was from Lafayette, Ind. (otherwise known as God’s Unwashed Gooch).
He was a bit of a baseball player and bragged about going to the same high school and playing with a guy named Eric Bruntlett.
I, being the obsessed sports fan I am, had never heard of an Eric Bruntlett. And for good reason. He was still a minor leaguer in the Houston Astros’ farm system. But my friend kept touting him.
Bruntlett finally made his debut in the bigs in 2003. He hasn’t done anything special or, to be honest, noteworthy. He’s played 440 games and has a .240 career batting average, but we always kept tabs on Bruntlett.
Any time we were watching television “constructively” at 3 a.m., and the name “Bruntlett” came across the bottom ticker it was time for another (cough).
It was our way to honor one cow-tipping kid’s fantasy of living vicariously through a local high school superstar three years his senior.
Well, imagine my surprise when I tune in to watch this World Series (yes, people were watching and it actually was a great series) and there’s this character looking like Ulysses S. Grant with the name “Bruntlett” on his back.
Can it be?
Can this Oregon woodsman looking fellow be the Eric Bruntlett?
Indeed it was. The utility man joined the Phillies prior to this season and bat a whopping .217 during the regular season.
But in the World Series, he’s been everywhere.
In Game Two, Bruntlett hit a solo shot off rookie sensation David Price with two outs in the eighth with the Phils trailing by two. As Bruntlett trotted around the bases, I laughed. A buddy asked why I was laughing, and I explained my “connection” to Bruntlett. The cherry on top was receiving a text message from my friend from freshman year, the fella from Lafayette, “Bruntlett homer baby!” The Phillies still lost the game.
In Game Three, in the bottom of the ninth, Bruntlett pulled a Roger Dorn and took one for the team – HBP. Grant Balfour put a pitch in the dirt and Bruntlett darted for second. Dioner Navarro’s throw to second was awful and Bruntlett dusted himself off to reach third base easily, 90 feet away from glory.
After two intentional walks, Carlos Ruiz singled home, that man, Eric Bruntlett to win the game.
So, now we’re at this re-started Game Five. Three innings to win the Series in Philly; Three innings to win in front of a city that has seen a winner about as much as Urkel got laid.
Was it any surprise then that the man to cross home plate last for the Phillies and count for yet another game-winning run was Eric Bruntlett?
He didn’t have to do much – again. With the game tied at 3-3, Pat Burrell lead off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double. Bruntlett was brought in to pinch run for Burrell and advanced to third on Shane Victorino’s ground out. A Pedro Feliz single sent Bruntlett dashing home and forever into Phillies’ lore.
Eric Bruntlett everybody, the new Craig Counsell.
A utility infielder from Indiana (Counsell is from South Bend) who can’t hit (Counsell bats .255 for his career), yet scores huge run after huge run (who can forget Counsell scoring the winning runs in the 1997 World Series for the Marlins as well as key runs during the Diamondbacks run in 2001).
Is it a stretch?
Possibly, but if you told me seven years ago that I’d be writing about Eric “F#$king” Bruntlett in the same sentence with World Series winner, well my friend, I’d tell you, you’ve been (coughing) too much.