After wrapping up his college baseball career in the place every athlete dreams of competing – the College World Series in Omaha – Oakland’s seventh-round draft choice Branden Cogswell is battling some early adversity early in his pro career.
The junior signee from Virginia got off to a slow start in his first 23 games with the Low-A Beloit Snappers, and getting hit in the hand during a game on August 4th only complicated things further. Cogswell was slashing just .165/.280/.215 as Beloit’s starting shortstop, but felt he was starting to come out of his funk thanks to a changing offensive approach.
“Before I got hurt, I was starting to see the ball well,” Cogswell said. “It’s a minor bump in the road. I don’t expect to be out much longer. I just need to pick up a bat and get some swings. I was feeling comfortable at the plate and felt like things were coming around, but its baseball.
"I’ve faced my struggles and this is my first season competing at the pro level. You’re going to get faced with challenges and it’s a matter of working through them. I’ve put in the time and effort. Even though you do fix things and make adjustments, you’re going to have to struggle through more until it clicks."
"I was given an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I was going to take advantage of it," - Branden Cogswell on his decision to sign.
The Snappers' coaching staff has worked with Cogswell on changing his mindset from one that works in college to another that will allow him to succeed as a pro.
“[Beloit hitting coach Lloyd Turner has] been working with him on his physical approach to hitting,” Beloit manager Rick Magnante said. “He’s getting a little bit more aggressive, getting some separation and more into attack mode. He was an off-field type of hitter in college. He was enhanced by the metal bat. Now we’re getting him into a position where he can get to pitches on the inner half and drive them.
“There are some areas he needs to work on, but has been making adjustments. It’s unfortunate that he got hit the other night and that set him back a little bit. He’s played solid defense for us and shows actions that he has a nose for the ball.”
Opposing pitchers are also dealing with Cogswell differently at the next level, and have the control to throw strikes in several locations.
“I was the leadoff guy for three years and I got pitched the same way, so I’ve adjusted to that,” he said. “Now, pitchers are going to have more command and will go in and out. In college, I was pitched mostly away so I crowded the plate and tried to drive balls over the shortstop’s head. Anybody who knows how to play baseball – you can’t do that with an inside pitch. I’m trying to be more selective and looking for something you can drive is something I’ve tried to do.”
Although his Virginia Cavaliers squad lost to Vanderbilt in an exciting best-of-three CWS championship series, it was quite a ride for Cogswell nonetheless, as he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
The 6'2'' infielder batted .326 and scored nine runs in the NCAA tournament, which included Regionals, Super Regionals and the CWS. In Omaha, Cogswell went 9-for-23 and recorded the most hits of any player in Virginia history in Omaha.
Once the dust settled from that experience, Cogswell knew it was time to move on and he signed with the A’s.
“Coming off the College World Series, I took about a week-and-a-half which seemed like a while,” he said. “I was given an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I was going to take advantage of it. We had a very talented junior class at Virginia and all of us were ready to move on and chase that dream that we’ve had since we were kids. We’re excited to meet again down the road, but on different teams.”
The crowds have been much different in the Midwest League, versus what Cogswell experienced down the stretch with Virginia, but he said the competition is pretty similar.
“It’s very comparable to the college level,” he said. “In Omaha we saw some great arms. We saw [Brandon] Finnegan from TCU. You kind of get in that zone and that’s what I was in the College World Series. I was fortunate to be in that zone on a big stage.
“It’s a different type of game here. You’re playing every day. In the College World Series we went on a winning streak and were playing every third day. It’s a step up here to professional baseball. These guys on the mound are here for a reason.”