Brandon Loy might be the most important, the most skilled and the most selfless of any Texas baseball player.
But a box score won’t tell you that.
Neither will a season’s worth of stats.
A Who’s Who of future MLB draft prospects? Probably not.
Try something else.
On the NCAA career sacrifice bunts list, you’ll find the best measure of Loy’s value because the junior shortstop ranks ninth all-time with 47 career sacrifice bunts.
They say chicks dig the long ball. Well, Texas head coach Augie Garrido digs the small ball, the premise of which is to get the leadoff hitter on, bunt him to second and then bring him home. That run isn’t possible without the bunt, which is where Loy, the usual two-hole batter, comes in.
Garrido, who has coached well more than 1,000 players in his 37 years, says Loy is among the best bunters he’s ever had.
“I’d put him right at the top of the list of the guys I’ve coached,” he said. “Brandon is a very unselfish player. He does what we ask him to. He has the tools to be successful. He’s really a good player.”
Loy’s reason for being in the top 10 in career sacrifice bunts is twofold: Texas, Garrido reckons, bunts more than any other team in baseball, so Loy has maybe the most opportunities of anyone. But there’s the increasingly obvious fact that Loy has no peer when it comes to laying one down.
“Bunting is something I’ve always prided myself on,” Loy said. “It’s not easy to do sometimes, but it’s something I have worked hard on. The stuff the coaches have taught me here, combined with what I learned in high school, has turned me into a great bunter.”
Never to be feared as a power hitter — in his career, he’s hit one home run — Loy has instead mastered the little things. Each bunt is almost without flaw, perfectly placed right down the line, as if he set the ball in the grass by hand. He offers his two cents when he sees his younger teammates struggling to bunt. He talks about small-ball strategies such as crashing (in which the opposition scoots its third and first basemen up to better play the bunt) and slashing (which is recognizing the “crash” and pulling the bat back and swinging away) like he’s in the WWE.
“If whoever we’re playing knows we’re bunting, sometimes they’ll crash on us. If they do that, you have to be able to pull back and slash,” Loy said. “Teams know not to crash on us, but if they’re going to crash on us, we’ll slash on them.”
Loy might be the Babe Ruth of bunting, the Sultan of Sac. But for whatever reason, despite his merits and status as one of the best collegiate bunters ever, he manages to fly under the radar — just fine for a player who excels at the most selfless skill in baseball.
“You’re always glad to be on a records list, unless it’s for strikeouts,” Loy said. “But I bunt to help my team, not for records.”
After talking about Loy’s bunting for a good five minutes, Garrido made a request.
“Don’t forget about Brandon’s defense. He’s a very gifted shortstop,” he said. “He’s awesome at it.”
The mark of a good infielder is that you don’t recognize his presence because he’s not messing up. The mark of a great one? With the diving grabs, smooth throws to first, leaping snags, it’s hard not to notice Loy at shortstop.
“It seems like he’s making a great play all the time,” said third baseman Erich Weiss. “Whether the ball’s to his left or his right, he’s automatic.”
Growing up, Loy would mold his game after an in-his-prime Derek Jeter — sans the Captain’s iconic jump throw, which Loy admits is tough to imitate. But he thinks his professional career might, at best, be an emulation of the Texas Rangers’ Elvis Andrus, a defensive specialist at shortstop.
“I’ve been watching Andrus lately. I watched him play in the minors and saw him doing things I do,” Loy said. “He hits for average, he’s a great defensive shortstop, has good speed and is a good bunter.”
His team mired in a recent offensive slump, Loy predicts the No. 8 Longhorns (18-7, 4-2 Big 12) will get back on track this weekend against the visiting Missouri Tigers (13-12, 1-1).
“We’re going through a rough time with offense, but we’re going to get through it. This team has all the potential in the world,” he said. “We’ll figure it out and get it rolling.”
Loy will look to lead the way, doing whatever he needs to do to help — bunt, hit, turn the double play — just like usual.