The stats from Michael Briggs first year of baseball at Missouri State are a bit … well … underwhelming.
Four games. Three at-bats. Three strikeouts. An assist.
A very, very small sample size, to be sure, and one that is more reflective of the time he spent away from baseball rather the time he spent in it. Briggs, after all, had been a quarterback on Missouri State’s football team the previous two years.
Briggs, a catcher and 2015 Bishop O’Hara graduate, just needed some playing time, and he’s getting that this summer with the Midwest Athletics in the Mid-Plains League. That’s given him a chance to put up some more impressive numbers – not that he felt the need to impress anybody.
“Missouri State, they know what I am,” said Briggs, who grew up in Lee’s Summit. “It’s just what it is. I’m not going to try to be somebody that I’m not. I’m just going to be myself and go from there.”
Briggs has put his second summer with the A’s to good use. His eight home runs led the league going into this week’s All-Star break. He has a third-best 28 RBIs while batting .302 with a team-high .930 slugging percentage. And he’s one of six players from the 17-4 A’s selected to play in the Mid-Plains All-Star Game July 5.
“He’s not trying to prove anything,” A’s manager Will Rogers said. “He’s just getting reps right now. He hadn’t played baseball for two or three years until last summer, so he wasn’t quite ready (Missouri State) didn’t think. But I think they’re looking for some big things next year.”
Briggs was a two-sport star at the now-closed O’Hara. A three-year starter in football, he threw for 2,212 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 356 yards and 13 more TDs during a 10-2 senior year. He was a starting catcher for four years on the Celtics’ baseball team and batted .441 with 12 homers and 31 RBIs as a senior.
Briggs signed to play football at Missouri State and red-shirted as a true freshman. In 2016 he played in seven games backing up fifth-year senior Brodie Lambert. That was also the season Bears sophomore QB Breck Ruddick was suspended and later dismissed from the team over animal cruelty allegations.
Riggs enjoyed playing football for Missouri State, but he said baseball had always been his first love.
“It came down to what I enjoyed more and what sport I wanted to be a part of,” Briggs said. “Football was good. It taught me a lot about myself, a lot of life lessons and all that stuff. But I really enjoyed baseball a whole lot more.”
“I just had more opportunities out of high school to do (play football). It’s hard to turn down a full scholarship to play football with a bunch of friends that are there, too.”
Briggs joined Missouri State’s baseball team in 2017 but didn’t see any action until those three games last spring. His first season with the A’s last summer accounts for almost all the game experience he’s had the last two years. He knew he had some catching up to as a catcher.
“It helps to take (batting practice) and go hit on your own and get some drill work in,” Briggs said. “But playing really helps get into the swing of things especially after you’ve been sitting out. Just being able to see live pitching and catching and hitting helps a lot. It’s nice to get back.”
Briggs has put a premium on improving his defense this summer, and Rogers believes that’s where Briggs has made the biggest strides since his last season with the A’s.
“Where he’s really improved is his game calling,” Rogers said. “He’s more fluid and attuned to watching hitters and look for weaknesses matched with pitchers. He’s really improved on his defense more than his offense.”
While Briggs has made strides at the plate, Rogers still sees room for improvement.
“Actually, I expect a lot more out of him, to be honest,” Rogers said. “He’s got like (eight) home runs he should end up with 12 or so for this league. His on-base percentage is good; I just like to see him put the bat on the ball more frequently for base hits.”
Briggs knows he has more work to do before reporting back to Missouri State this fall. He’s trying to find his place on a team that went 40-17 last season en route to the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
That team also had three other underclassmen catchers, including sophomore starter and Lee’s Summit West graduate Logan Geha.
Still, Briggs is confident his numbers will be up next year. It’s the only direction they have to go.
“Obviously the pitching’s going to be little bit different when I get back, but defensively I should be a lot better and my discipline at the plate should be a lot better,” Briggs said. “I hope I can transition a little bit better than I did last year from summer ball to fall ball when I get back.”