Stephen Bruno exhibited a radiant smile after the Emeralds’ 6-3 win over the Spokane Indians on Monday at Avista Stadium, but it had little to do with his 4 for 5, three RBI performance.
Emeralds’ manager Jesus Feliciano announced to the team in the locker room following the game that Bruno, who was on a rehab assignment in Eugene after re-tearing his lat muscle in June, is being called up to the Iowa Cubs — the team’s AAA affiliate — for the first time in his career.
“It’s pretty special,” said Bruno, who was greeted with hugs and handshakes from his Emeralds’ teammates following the announcement. “This is my fifth season (in the minors) and I’ve never seen anything like that. For him to surprise me like that in front of the team with a great bunch of guys, I’ll remember it for a long time.”
Bruno spent the last two seasons with the Tennessee Smokies (AA), hitting .276 in 2014 and .263 in 2015. His original Northwest League stint dates back to 2012, where he hit .367 in 67 games with the Boise Hawks — which was the Cubs’ Short Season A affliate from 2001-2014 — to win the league’s batting title.
While Bruno only played six games with the Emeralds, his veteran presence made an impact on the players, many of which are in their first minor league season.
“He’s an organizational type player,” Feliciano said. “He knows what it takes to be a winner and about Cubs’ culture. … to have guys like that is always good.”
Bruno, who was drafted in the 7th round by the Cubs out of the University of Virginia, has not only displayed his talents and how he prepares for each game. He’s shared stories and given advice to many of the young players, providing insight on what it’s like to play at higher minor league levels.
“When you want to sit and talk about anything baseball related, he’ll sit and talk to you for as long as you want … and he’ll do it with a smile on his face, too,” Emeralds shortstop Zack Short said. “That’s the type of player you want to model your game after.”
Bruno said Eugene “had a special group of players” and enjoyed his time with the team. But he’s ready to embark on his new journey.
“I’m just happy my rehab assignment went well,” Bruno said. “I feel good, I feel like my old self and I’m ready to get back in there.”
All three of Bruno’s RBIs came from singles to left field, accounting for runs in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
The Indians scored their only runs in the second. Tejeda lined an RBI single to score Chad Smith and Preston Scott plated Tejeda with a single to center field.
Eugene struck first with two runs in the top of the first. Chris Pieters brought home Yeiler Peguero on a sacrifice fly and Jose Paniagua was plunked by Alex Daniele with the bases loaded to provide the Emeralds an early two-run lead.
The Emeralds added an insurance run in the eighth inning on Peguero’s RBI single.
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