I had the great privilege to interview Tennessee Volunteers freshman outfielder Brodie Leftridge. Leftridge is a versatile outfielder with a 6’1 160 lb. frame from Highland, MD, who graduated from St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C.. He has a slender build, stiff strength and great speed. He is able to get good jumps on the ball with his speed and shows very good range. He closes on the ball quickly and has shown the many centerfield tools.

Leftridge has a rocket arm that has been clocked at 93 mph in the outfield. He holds a loose long arm action and tends to throw uphill. He is a right handed hitter with simple swing mechanics with very quick hands and can handle inside velocity. He projects some power, but bat will develop with better rhythm and additional physical strength over time at Tennessee. Speed and swiftness is without a doubt Leftridge’s forte. He is a total terror on the base paths and can steal a bag whenever he has the chance.

Leftridge posted a eye-popping 6.54-second 60-yard dash and is a two-time Perfect Game Underclass All-American. The outfielder also lettered in three years at St. John’s and helped bring back the WCAC Baseball Championship to St. John’s as a senior last year, the first since 2011. Leftridge, before officially signing and playing at UT was considered a Top-50 outfielder in the country in the 2014-15 class according to Perfect Game. He was ranked a Top-200 overall prospect, the No. 4 overall prospect in Maryland and the No. 2 outfielder in the state by Perfect Game as well. I actually played against Brodie in high school and I have never seen a more complete outfielder who can track a ball down and lead a team like he can.

While speaking on the phone with the freshman, I got the sense that he is very ecstatic about this year and the goals him and the rest of his teammates can accomplish. The Volunteers have a laundry list of goals to check-off and we all know Omaha is one of them, but we first talked about personal goals and what he is looking forward to this season. “I want to be at the top of the list in the SEC stolen bases, batting average, and fielding percentage,” Leftridge exclaimed. “I’m excited to face SEC pitching every weekend. They are the best college pitchers in the country, that’s what I am really excited about” he added. “I want to help my team win anyway I can possible.”

The Volunteers wrapped up a three game set this afternoon beating Grand Canyon 7-1 to take the weekend series. With Tennessee being an overall 6-5 on the season, conference play is coming up this week and Leftridge knows it is important to start off on the right foot and is anxious to face Florida to begin SEC play.

“It’s huge, it starts off SEC play like you said. We want to set the tone how we want the rest of the season to go. Florida, being is a top 10 rank team, we want to go in there and show them  that doesn’t mean anything and hopefully sweep them.”

The winter weather has been an achilles heel to college teams across the country and has cancelled or postponed countless regular season games. Leftridge and the rest of his Tennessee teammates have also been victims of the snow and wintry mix resulting in a staggering 10 games cancelled and only two are postponed for a later date. The freshman noted on the games cancelled and highlights he is still hungry to face the Gators pitching staff. “A lot of games have been cancelled and postponed. We have the least amount of games played in the SEC, but that means nothing. “It’s no excuse, we feel like we can sweep Florida.”

The talented outfielder starts for the Vols and has been contributing well for the SEC team. In his first three games starting for the Vols, he hit .444 with two doubles, one triple and three runs scored. He recorded his first collegiate multi-hit game going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple during the 12-10 victory at UC Irvine on February 28th. He feels no pressure at all and just does what he can to help his team win and compete. “Its huge, coming from where I came from at St. John’s. It’s fun to compete with my teammates, but it’s not overwhelming at all. These kids put their socks on just like I do. Its great to be challenged with older guys, some of which are going to the pros.”

Leftridge was highly recruited out of high school by other schools, but Tennessee had something other colleges didn’t. “The fans,” he said. “When I came down here there was so much fan support. Even in the cold weather there was still a lot of fans supporting Vols baseball. I just wanted to go down south to a fan orientated school.” He had scholarship offers from numerous schools including Ole Miss, Wake Forest, University of North Carolina, and University of Maryland.

Head coach Dave Serrano is currently molding Leftridge into being a great college player in the little time he has been at UT. He loves Serrano as a coach and all of his coaches affiliated with the program. They are the main reason why the outfielder is producing as a first year college player. He has the utmost reverence for his coaching staff.

“They gave me the skills to be strong and all around player. They gave me a great chance to develop as a player to get better and be able to start as a freshman,” he said. “I have all types of respect for them.”

The ultimate goal of every division one college team is Omaha, but that is just one of the many realistic goals that the Volunteers have this year. “Toughness, we have to be the toughest team every game. Serrano talks about toughness and wants us to be the toughest team on the field every game,” Leftridge added. “He wants us to lead the conference in hit by pitches and walks as well as committing the least amount of errors possible.”

It is obvious Serrano doesn’t want his Vols team to beat themselves. Then the topic of the postseason and the possible Omaha run came to Leftridge’s mind.

“We want to win the SEC Conference, Regionals, Super Regionals, and then Omaha.”

Leftridge has made some adjustment during the offseason and winter to make him a more complete ballplayer. With his speed, playing small ball and bunting can dismantle a team quick and really open up vulnerable spots. “Coach Serrano and coach Aric Thomas have taught me to put my foot down earlier now that pitching is a little bit harder. I’m looking for bunts every at bat whether it is a drag bunt or a push,” he told me. He explained to me that they call it “walk the dog,” which is a drag bunt to the first base side. He has to perfect that.

“I’ve been working on that. Bunting opens up more holes in the infield because the third baseman plays me I can hit it by him, first baseman plays me I can hit it by him,” he explained. “It definitely opens up a lot of opportunities for me. That’s credit to my batting average right now.”

It is sometimes overwhelming for to go from a high school in Washington D.C. to a major university seven hours away and not know anyone or have your parents around anymore. Luckily for Leftridge, there have been current Vols helping him get accumulated to the atmosphere. “Christian Stewart and Vincent Jackson who are both junior outfielders have helped me get used to the system and they make the outfield easy while having a lot of fun.”

Every athlete has a particular person where if they weren’t in their lives or hadn’t made an impact, they wouldn’t be in the position they are in right now. This goes for the same with Leftridge. “My dad, he used to take me to all of my baseball games when I was growing up and used to always hit with me in the basement.”

“He gave me the tools and the right mind set to be successful.”

Like every ballplayer has a person who has made a significant imprint on their lives, they’re one or multiple sports figure that players idolize after. For Leftridge it is three different baseball superstars for each aspect of his game. “On the base path I like to resemble my game after Rickey Henderson. In the outfield it’s Ken Griffey Jr,” he said. As you can imagine it is harder to hit the ball farther for Leftridge in college than high school so he found other ways to succeed.

“Newly I’ve been bunting a lot during games and using my speed to my advantage, but bunting has become a huge part of my game so I like to resemble myself after Dee Gordon in the batter’s box.

This experienced outfielder has the potential and ability to be one of the elite outfielders in college baseball over the next few years. Not only does he have his rapid speed, but he can hit for average. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, you know all that matters is getting on base and Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) doesn’t stress that enough. This is all this kid does and focuses on doing is making his game better and strategizing a way to get to first base.

 

 

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