For any high school athlete to make it to the next level, they must embrace practice time as much as the time spent playing the game.
It is not the easiest thing to do as practice can become mundane and repetitive. Those that have it, find a way to make practice fun.
For California High senior baseball player Nic Bronzini, it was comparing basketball and baseball practices when it came time to decide which sport, he was going to pursue.
“My freshman year I realized I didn’t love basketball as much as I thought I did,” said Bronzini. “I was like, ugh, I have to go to practice. But baseball - I love baseball practice. I was better at baseball as well.”
Not just better, but the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Bronzini is exceptional at baseball. Good enough that during his sophomore year, Bronzini committed to the University of Arizona.
At the time, Jay Johnson was the coach at Arizona, but then left the school to coach at Louisiana State University. Bronzini made the choice to follow the coach to LSU and the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
“I want to be a professional baseball player and when I committed to Arizona, that was the best fit for me to get there,” said Bronzini of making it to the pro ranks. “Then I got a chance to go and visit LSU and, at this time, it was the place to go if I want to make it to the pros.”
And being in the SEC was certainly an added perk.
“It’s really cool to think about going to LSU,” said Bronzini. “It’s a different place – somewhere I have never lived. It’s time for me to grow and get new experiences.”
Maybe check out some other SEC sports?
“I’m really excited to see some football games,” said Bronzini.
But before he becomes a college athlete, Bronzini is dialed in on his senior season at Cal, with the Grizzlies a legitimate threat to win both the East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section titles.
“I love high school baseball,” said Bronzini, who also plays travel baseball for NorCal Baseball. “Travel and high school baseball are two different games.”
One thing I really appreciated about Bronzini’s attitude toward his high school career is embracing the memories from when he was a kid to where he is now.
“I remember when I was little going to watch the Cal games,” said Bronzini. “Now I get to put on the Cal jersey and play. It’s cool to see the little kids coming up to us now. I look at them and think, that was me nine years ago.”
The last couple years has been interesting as Bronzini was among the legions of athletes forced to confront the COVID pandemic.
“It was hard when COVID hit,” said Bronzini. “What do you do to stay in shape?”
Bronzini got some sage advice close to home.
“I was sitting around playing a lot of video games,” said Bronzini. “Then my dad called me out. He sat me down and told me I had to do something if I want to play college baseball.”
Bronzini worked with a trainer in his garage and threw bullpen sessions. The time away from games also was a chance to improve his mental side of the game.
“It really helped me with my motivation,” said Bronzini. “I worked on developing secondary pitches.”
The Grizzlies finally got back to playing last spring with a shortened season because of COVID.
“It felt great to be back on the field,” said Bronzini. “It showed that we have a great culture here at Cal. But there was no NCS (North Coast Section), and it bothered us that we couldn’t beat De La Salle.”
Cal went 7-4 in EBAL play, second behind DLS, who finished 9-3. The Spartans beat the Grizzlies 9-8 and 6-1 in the last two games of the season.
Bronzini finished the season 7-2, striking out 84 batters in just 48.1 innings pitched.
Great numbers, but no NCS and losing to De La Salle twice is all the motivation Bronzini needed headed into this season.
“My mindset is that I am fired up for this season,” said Bronzini. “This is my last high school season and I have never played in NCS. I feel that if we stay focused, we can get to NCS, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
Everything looks great through the first two games of the season. Cal is 2-0 out of the gate, beating Liberty 4-3, then taking down Oakland Tech 16-0 a week later.
Bronzini got the win in both games. In only nine innings pitched, he has struck out 21 and has yet to allow a hit. All systems look ready to roll for the big left-hander and his Cal teammates.
“We want to show that we are one of the best teams,” said Bronzini.