Brunansky, after 14 major league seasons and 16 postseason games, retired following the 1994 season. He returned to Southern California to do … nothing. And things were great.
“I was a dad,” says the 52-year-old Brunansky, who has five children, ages 14 to 23.
He thought he was done with the game, but the game wasn’t done with him.
He was asked by an old friend to observe the baseball program at Poway High School, near San Diego. So he did. Then he was asked to join the staff. Brunansky’s son was about to enter the program, so he went for it.
“That brought back the love and the life of the game for me,” he says.
He coached at Poway from 2005 through 2010. Before the 2009 season, he called the Twins about his interest in joining the organization. The Twins didn’t have anything available at the time. Then, in July 2010, Chris Heintz stepped down as manager of the Gulf Coast League Twins to coach at his alma mater, South Florida. Twins director of minor leagues Jim Rantz called Brunansky in to coach.
Out of cash
It was a perfect fit. Bill Springman, Twins minor league hitting instructor, played with Brunansky from 1978 to ’80 in the Angels farm system, and the two have remained close.
The former minor league teammates revel in tales from their youth. In 1978, when the two were at Idaho Falls, Springman and some other roommates were hungry and out of money. They sent Brunansky to a local grocery store wearing a large coat. They stuffed the coat with food as Brunansky walked the aisles.
“He was packed like a mule,” Springman says. “He went up to the counter and bought a stick of gum.”
Springman and Brunansky say they all returned to the store and paid the bill once they received their checks from the Angels. That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
The two get together frequently to talk about the old times, hitting and getting players over the hump. Springman said Brunansky had a mental approach as a player that should serve him well as a big-league hitting coach.
“The one thing I admired the most about him at that time was how after not a great game he would blow it off and get ready for the next game,” Springman says. “I was older and had extra baggage, I guess, and [bad games] would bother me. He had the ability to play the next day the same way, regardless if it was good or bad.”
Brunansky helped coach the rookie-level GCL Twins in 2010, was the hitting coach at Class AA New Britain in 2011 and moved to Class AAA Rochester last season. His arrival to the majors has been met with approval by several players.
“I’m really fired up,” says Parmelee, who is expected to be the Twins’ starting right fielder. “I’ve had the last two years to work with Bruno and it has been nothing but a pleasure. He’s fun to work with out there in the cage. He knows how to joke around, but he knows at the same time how to be serious. It was 2011, when I was in Double-A and it was his first year. It seemed like what he was saying to me just registered. I knew the first couple of days that I liked this hitting coach.”
On a recent spring day, Brunansky was seen on one of the practice fields with Mauer, putting balls on a tee for him to swing at as they talked about adjustments. The next day, Brunansky spent several minutes in the batting cages with Morneau talking about his swing and his thought process at the plate. He has working to build a bond with his best hitters while picking up where he left off with some prospects.
Brunansky has been successful in a Twins uniform before, being selected as an All-Star and helping them win a World Series, and manager Ron Gardenhire believes that being in that uniform once again will do wonders for a Twins team expecting a lot from its offense in 2013.