GREENWICH, Conn. — Brandon Bonilla grew up around some of the best sluggers in Major League history. But the Greenwich native is paving his own way to the big leagues — on the mound. The son of baseball journeyman and one-time New York Met Bobby Bonilla, the college freshman has made seven appearances out of the bullpen for Arizona State University.
His father played a productive 16-year career for eight teams. Brandon’s godfather is another Arizona State alum who blasted more home runs than anyone else in history: Barry Bonds.
So with all this hitting around him growing up, how did Brandon become a fire-balling, left-handed pitcher?
“I did grow up hitting and played a lot of first base, but pitching really caught my attention. I just love being in control of the game,” Bonilla said. “My dad has always had my back. He gets out here as much as he can to watch me pitch.”
A friend of Bonilla’s father, Mike Fetters, another former Major League pitcher, has coached Brandon for several years; he credits Fetters with a lot of his success. But Bonilla loves talking with and getting advice from his godfather, Bonds.
“It’s cool to have him as my godfather. He’s a great person and it’s great to kind of have him in my family,” Bonilla said. “I talked to Barry about two or three weeks ago, and we just talked baseball. I knew he went to Arizona State, but going there was really more about being able to pitch right away and picking a school I was comfortable at.”
Bonilla grew up in Major League clubhouses, taking in the sights and sounds of the games with his father. He had the chance to get to know baseball legends Mark McGwire in St. Louis and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in Atlanta.
“I feel really fortunate I got to go with my dad a lot and hang out in the clubhouses,” Bonilla said. “I’ve seen what these guys do and the preparation they put in — and that’s what I want to be, and I know what it takes to be a Major League Baseball player.”
Bonilla played Little League and Cal Ripken League baseball in Greenwich, making the 11- and 12-year-old All-Star teams. He made the Greenwich High varsity baseball team as a sophomore before transferring to a boarding school in Bradenton, Fla., for his junior and senior years.
Bonilla was drafted out of high school by the Colorado Rockies last summer but opted instead to attend Arizona State. In 7.1 innings pitched so far this season, Bonilla has a 2.45 ERA with six strikeouts for the Sun Devils.
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