It’s been nearly 11 seasons, but Jonathan Broxton can still remember every detail of his Major League debut. It came on July 29, 2005 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“That was a pretty special day,” smiled Broxton. “I dreamed my whole life of becoming a baseball player. To make my debut against the Cardinals and facing two guys and not getting an out and then all of sudden I’ve got probably the best hitter of that stage.”
It was Albert Pujols. At the plate with David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez on base after singles. Broxton didn’t get too fancy, he reared back and let it fly to record the first out and strikeout of his career.
“I didn’t know too much about setting up guys, the league, and watching batters and all that–their strengths,” he said. “I knew my strength was a fastball with a pretty good slider.”
The fastball doesn’t usually top 100mph as it did then, but Broxton has evolved from a thrower to a pitcher over the years and the Cardinals are looking for him to help provide some that knowledge and perspective in the bullpen this year.
“You can call me the veteran down there but I still like to have fun and go out there and handle my business,” chuckled Broxton. “When it comes time to take care of business, I’m going to do it the right way and I’m going to take those young guys and if they do something wrong, I’m going to teach them and try to guide them in the right direction.”
After coming over from Milwaukee at the trade deadline last season, Broxton appeared in 26 games for the Cardinals and struck out 26 batters in 23.2 innings pitched.
“I’m not all into this bunch of stuff on guys–have them do this, do that,” added Broxton. “People can say you got the candy bag or whatever, I think we’re in the bullpen–everybody’s one unit. It doesn’t matter if you have one day or 20 years. Everybody’s still the same down there. You go out there and you handle your business and do it the right way. If you do make a mistake or wrong pitch, then we’ll talk after. I’m going to show by a lot of example instead of talking.”
Standing at 6’4 and weighing in around 300lbs, Broxton doesn’t always have to do a lot of talking to make his point.
“You do not want to tangle with big Brox,” stated fellow Georgia-boy Adam Wainwright. “First of all, you wouldn’t want to tangle with someone like that anyways but then once you know he’s tackling hogs with his bare hands and knifing them…you just don’t want to mess with people that are tough as nails like that.”
“You get help with dogs and stuff but we’ll go in there and catch them,” said Broxton, who had been hunting with a bow and rifle before watching some friends just use a knife. “I started getting closer and closer and watching, finally I just went in there and grabbed one.”
To be clear, the hog hunting is not a trophy or blood sport for Broxton or others in the area. It’s a necessity.
“The hogs in Georgia right now are just getting out of hand, they’re multiplying by the thousands,” he explained. “Say you plant a 1000-acre field of corn and you take a group of hogs out there, they’ll wipe that place out in three nights. So you just put all that money in there, fertilizer, prepping the land, everything planting it. Next thing you know, three nights–if you haven’t checked it in three nights you go back out there and the whole place is gone. So you’re trying to help the farmers out and help out the deer population.”
This year, Broxton is hoping his two joys can be intertwined–an extended trip into the post-season for the Cardinals, which would allow him to be around for deer season in Missouri.
“Exactly,” laughed Broxton.