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ZEBULON — Shortstop Brice Turang likes to go bowling. But with plenty on his plate in the minor league, that time for hobbies had to be reallocated.
“I’m into bowling,” Turang said under the shade of a batting cage in Zebulon Friday. “But I don’t take it as serious anymore.”
Instead of games on the lanes, the Corona, California, native and No. 2 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, per MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, has focused his sights upon succeeding at the ballpark.
That, after all, is where he has been most successful.
On July 8, Turang was promoted to the Advanced-A Carolina Mudcats from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, just minutes after hitting a walk-off single to defeat the Beloit Snappers, 4-3. His final game in Class A came on Sunday, and per team tradition, that meant signing autographs for fans.
However, just before the Sharpie caps came off, manager Matt Erickson gathered the team for a meeting.
“He just told us in a team meeting that I was getting moved up,” Turang explained. “Everybody was excited, and it was fun. Obviously good news to hear, and the way they did it was pretty cool.”
After hitting .287 with 13 doubles and 31 RBIs over 82 games in Appleton, Wisconsin, Turang was being called up to assume the Mudcats’ shortstop position after infielder Nick Roscetti was released that same night.
But other than having his good news announced to the entire team, nothing about the transaction seemed out of the ordinary. On a daily basis, players are moved up and down, or cut. Yet Turang’s age made his promotion something baseball teams don’t do every day.
Turang is still a teenager, albeit one with a reported $3.41 million signing bonus to his name. In his first full season in the minors since being selected No. 21 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, he still has another full season before he can legally purchase the namesake beverage of his organization.
Although not in unprecedented territory, this puts his progress ahead of schedule compared to most.
“Usually, they have a year in rookie ball, and then you’d probably go to Low-A,” Mudcats manager Joe Ayrault said. “A guy like Brice Turang is very rare in that in his first full season out of high school, he’s in High-A. It just shows the type of player he is.”
When he joined the Mudcats on a road trip away from Five County Stadium, Turang became the youngest player on the Mudcats roster. He is a full year younger than Brewers’ No. 4 prospect Tristen Lutz and No. 2 catching prospect Mario Feliciano, who had been the youngest up to that point.
To Turang, that didn’t matter much.
“For me, age in baseball is just a number,” Turang said. “You’ve got 18, 19-year-old guys playing in the big leagues already.”
The son of former Mariners outfielder Brian Turang, who played for the team in 1993 and 1994, said the only difference between him and older teammates in their mid-20s is some maturity that comes with more experience in the minor leagues.
“We all have the same goal,” he said.
But in some ways, his inexperience at the pro level is a good thing.
“For me, it actually helps me to hang out with the older guys, get more mature, get my mind right,” he explained. “Some of these guys have been playing longer than I have, so I always ask questions, always try to figure out how to make myself better through what they’ve experienced.”
Turang said the biggest adjustment from high school to pro ball is getting your body used to playing every day, along with getting used to much better competition across the board. Ayrault agreed saying those two aspects are what most high school prospects have to learn to make the jump.
“It’s usually just that learning curve coming out of high school to just get used to the grind in rookie ball,” Ayrault said. “It helps prepare you for your first full season. Our guys have done a good job with Brice. He’s been here a week, glad to have a guy like him.”
A taste of the majors
At the age of 19, Turang has already gotten a taste of what life would be like playing in the MLB every day.
Ahead of a Feb. 25 matchup against the Los Angeles Angels in the spring training Cactus League, the Brewers, in need of an extra infielder, asked Turang to join the team.
In the seventh inning, Turang came in to play shortstop and saw action that same inning, making a nice defensive play and throwing the runner out at first. Then in the ninth inning, he singled in his only at bat to score a run in the eventual 4-3 loss.
Turang learned a lot out of that experience.
“It was awesome to get to talk to the big league guys, to kind of pick their brain about what they have. You’re playing baseball, man,” Turang said. “You get any job, there’s always somebody who’s up there. You try to pick their brain, ask questions and try to get better by asking them questions maybe you don’t know about. Even if you become a new actor and you see one of those guys starring in a movie, that’s kind of how it is. At first it’s like, ‘Oh wow, I’m up close talking to them,’ and after it’s just like, ‘They’re human beings.’”
But Turang still has a journey left until he can get back there. Having played less than 10 games with his new team in Advanced-A, he is still settling into life in North Carolina. The humidity is much higher in the Old North State than his home of California or where he came from in Wisconsin, but Turang is ready to prove his call-up was not only the right decision and continue progressing in his baseball career.
“I like it here,” Turang said. “I’ve been to Cary a couple times. I like North Carolina. The team is unbelievable.”