Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interview Part 1: Matè Borgogno, The Rest

Matè Borgogno with the Everett Giants in 1990. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: The Rest | Part 2: Limited Time

Matè Borgogno was just a freshman, but he asked anyway.

He was asking the baseball coach at his high school to give him a chance.

"I said I could compete with the guys you have out there," Borgogno recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently. "Give me a chance and I'll do well. He gave me a chance and the rest was history."

The rest included four seasons on his high school varsity squad, time on a local scout team and three seasons spent playing college baseball that included an appearance in the College World Series.

After that, was the chance for Borgogno to play professionally.

"I was excited because as a kid you play baseball for all those years and then you finally get an opportunity to go out and play professional baseball," Borgogno said. "That's the goal no mater how you break it down."
Matè Borgogno at the 1990 College World Series in Omaha. (Photo Provided)
Borgogno ended up getting two seasons as a pro, limited playing time and a second-season injury helping to shorten his career. He then went on coach the game in high school and teach.

He's also gone on to see his four sons play the game. His oldest, 16-year-old Brett Borgogno, is now high school prospect himself.

Borgogno spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone from his California home. He covered his connection to the game from learning it as a youth to high school, college and the pros.

Borgogno recalled staring to play at age 5 and quickly growing to love the game.

"Growing up, I just always liked playing baseball," Borgogno said. "I played in the neighborhood, I played in the leagues. I didn't play any other sports groing up. Just baseball."

Borgogno recalled sticking to baseball partly because of his size. He wasn't big enough to play basketball or football. But he loved competing and he loved playing.
Matè Borgogno, right, as a freshman at the University of Nebraska. (Photo Provided)
Borgogno played his high school ball at Nogales High School in La Puente, Calif., making the varsity team his freshman year.

He credited his high school coach John Romano with helping him improve through his years at the school.

"He was a good motivator and he kept me going in the right direction," Borgogno recalled.

Borgogno also made the area Angels scout team while in high school. Soon, colleges started to take notice. The pro scouts, though, didn't, at least not in high school.

He knew the pros wouldn't come calling out of high school. That was because he was small. He was 5 feet, 8 inches, 140 pounds. He knew he needed college time to get the interest of pro scouts.

At first, he thought the best way to do that was by playing in college right away. He went on recruiting trips to several schools, including the University of Nebraska.
Matè Borgogno, right, with Cal State Fullerton. (Photo Provided)
Nebraska seemed to offer Borgogno his best shot at playing immediately. The team also seemed to have a following. He liked the coaches, he also liked the players.

So, that's where he went. When he arrived and started playing, though, he realized that the team didn't have the other thing Borgogno needed: Pro scouts regularly coming to games.

And someone Borgogno's size needed scouts regularly watching him play.

"If I wanted the chance to play professional baseball, being a smaller guy, I realized I needed to play in front of scouts on a daily basis for them to like me as an athlete.

"I just wasn't a guy you could watch just one time and go 'Man, that guy's big and physical and good.'"

Things have changed since, Borgogno said. There are more thorough reports on players and scouts can better follow players closer. Then, though, "if you went to Nebraska, you might as well have been on the other side of the world, it was that far," Borgogno said.
Matè Borgogno's Cal State Fullerton team with the scoreboard that sent them to the College World Series. (Photo Provided)
With that, Borgogno played his freshman season and then returned to California.

He expected to have to go back to junior college. He couldn't go directly to another Division I school unless his previous school gave him a release.

So, when Cal State Fullerton had a need for a middle infielder and came calling, Borgogno was surprised to learn Fullerton coaches had already talked to Nebraska and got the release.

Borgogno played well his first year. In his second, his junior year, his Fullerton team won the conference, then went to the regionals and beat No. 2 Texas on Texas' home field.

That win over Texas sent Fullerton on to the College World Series in Omaha.
Matè Borgogno, left, after the 1990 win at Texas that sent Fullerton to the College World Series. (Photo Provided)
"That was just great," Borgogno said. "Having the chance to go to the College World Series was awesome."

It also kind of marked a return for Borgogno, as he returned to Nebraska, if not Lincoln. 

Fullerton ended up losing its first two games and was eliminated. Borgogno picked up three hits overall and two RBI. He also walked three times.

Overall, he said, "it was just an incredible experience."

Borgogno's time at Fullerton also got him the opportunity he had hoped for: to play in front of scouts. He recalled there being 15 to 20 scouts at each game watching Fullerton players and opposing players.

It paid off with Borgogno being drafted after his junior year. He soon signed and turned pro. (Part 2)

Part 1: The Rest | Part 2: Limited Time

Go to Part 2: Matè Borgogno, Limited Time

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