When Orix Buffaloes outfielder Brian Bogusevic was in college at Tulane University, years before setting foot in Japan, he was a two-way star as a pitcher and outfielder.
He was a decent pitcher, too, earning first-team All-Conference USA and second team National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-American honors in 2005. Bogusevic was 13-3 with 129 strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA in 19 games on the mound for the Green Wave in 2005.
After being drafted, he even got a turn on the mound in MLB, despite being solely a position player, coming on for the Houston Astros in the ninth inning of a 14-2 blowout loss in 2012.
NPB’s 12-inning limit on games will probably prevent any reprisal of Bogusevic’s pitching days, and for that, the 32-year old, currently in his first season in Japan, is grateful.
“I could give an inning,” Bogusevic said with a laugh. “I gave an inning a couple of years ago (for Houston). I’m glad that they have the 12-inning limit here, because it’s probably not going to happen. I was sore for like two weeks. If we absolutely needed it, I probably could. I could throw strikes. I wouldn’t be good. I don’t know if I could get anybody out, but I could throw strikes.”
Luckily the Buffaloes signed the Palos Heights, Illinois, native for his bat, not his pitching prowess. And Bogusevic signed with the Buffaloes for a chance to play at one of the game’s highest levels. While Bogusevic made 22 appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies last season, he spent most of his time with the club’s Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Iron Pigs. Now, he’s getting a taste of life in NPB.
“In terms of competition level, it’s intense,” he said. “It’s what I came here for. I’ve been in Triple-A for years and you’re always in that situation where, everybody there wants to win, but what they really want is to get out of there and play somewhere else. Where here, everybody’s here for this game tonight, to win this game. That’s really what I’ve enjoyed most and what I wanted in coming over here.”
Bogusevic has appeared in 24 games for Orix this season. He’s still finding his way in Japan, hitting .237 with one home run and 10 RBIs.
Playing baseball at a high level requires a number of adjustments and the first year in Japan adds a level of the unknown to the mix. Before coming to Japan, Bogusevic knew a sea of changes awaited him, and just hoped to keep everything as simple as possible. Rather than tweak his approach beforehand, he’s instead dealt with every challenge as it’s come.
“It’s constant adjustments always, but I think to make major adjustments before you even get here would be a disadvantage,” he said. “Why change something before you have to?
“It goes team to team also. You might face one team for a series and think, they’re throwing me all breaking balls, I gotta change my approach, wait back and be more selective. Then three days later, you go against a team and they do nothing but pound you with fastballs. So I think it’s a learning experience.
“There’s a lot that you can get caught up in. I think in the very beginning the best thing to do may be to simplify as much as possible. Try to play to your strengths instead of the pitchers.”
Bogusevic’s transition has been eased by the welcoming nature of the Orix clubhouse.
“They go out of their way to say hello and try to communicate with us (the foreign players) as much as they can,” he said. “They probably all speak more English than we speak Japanese. It gives you kind of a new respect for Latin guys, or the Japanese guys coming over to the U.S.”
Having other foreign players around, including pitcher Brandon Dickson, currently in his fourth year in Japan, has also helped.
“It’s different. Everything is different when you move to a different country,” Bogusevic said. “Life is different. But, you go through the adjustment period of a couple of weeks. It’s nice that there are other people going through it with you. You’re not the only one. There’s other players, there’s other players’ families, the team has been through it before with other guys. There’s a lot of advice on what to do, what not to do, things that are helpful. So it’s been a good experience so far.”