Sitting down with the M-Braves all-time home run leader, Drew Lugbauer

Lugbauer hit his 50th AA home run earlier this season
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:24 PM CDT
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PEARL, Miss. (WLBT) - Last season, Drew Lugbauer hit his 33rd home run as a member of the Mississippi Braves, setting the all-time career record for the club. Since then, Lugbauer has added 23 more, hitting his 56th long ball in AA on Thursday.

You can always find mentions of Lugbauer on the M-Braves Twitter page referring to him as ‘Slugbauer.’

“It’s a nickname I’ve had for a little bit now. I’ll go on Twitter or get tagged in something, see that, it’s cool,” Lugbauer said. “It’s an honor, it’s been a cool journey.”

The 26-year-old from Pleasant Valley, NY played college ball at the University of Michigan. Since being drafted by the Braves in the 11th round of the 2017 draft, Lugbauer has spent most of his time in the South, between the Rome and Mississippi Braves.

“It’s definitely different down here than it is [up north], but I’ve loved my time and love everything about it,” he said. “There’s a great group of fans that know who I am, I see them all the time, they show love, I really appreciate that. I appreciate the support, I appreciate the fans here, they’re great people.”

Growing up just north of New York City, Lugbauer was a fan of the New York Mets, a division rival of the Atlanta Braves, and his favorite player was third baseman David Wright.

“When I got drafted by the Braves, I was like wow,” he said. “I grew up a huge Mets fan, watching the Braves demolish the Mets all the time, but it’s cool they gave me an opportunity, so I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Lugbauer’s friends and family switched their allegiance pretty quickly after he was drafted.

“They kind of converted early on,” he said. “When I go back home and I mention to somebody I play for the Braves, they’re like, ‘oh the Braves, not the Mets or the Yankees?’ [I get it] here and there, but nothing too crazy.”

Earlier this year, Lugbauer spent some time in Spring Training with the MLB team, he called it a memorable experience.

“Everyday we were with those guys, that team up there in the big leagues is unbelievable, they have stars up and down the lineup,” he said “Getting to be with them every day was special, watching how they go about their work. They’re all very, very good baseball players, and I was honored to be able to watch them and how they go about the game.”

This is the third season Lugbauer has spent time with the M-Braves. The most memorable time so far in Mississippi was when the M-Braves won the South League championship in 2021.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was a great group of guys, we had a lot of fun, a really good clubhouse, and we won, so that was a lot of fun.”

Earlier this week, Lugbauer hit a home run 117.4 miles per hour, which would rank as the fifth-hardest hit ball in MLB this season. The ball traveled 415 feet into the night at Trustmark Park.

“When you hit balls hard, you don’t really feel it, on that one, there was no feeling whatsoever” he said. “It’s just instantaneously off the bat, you knew it was a home run, and I didn’t really know how hard it went. It was a two-oh count, so I was a hitters count, I got a good pitch to hit and put a pretty good swing on it, and I’m just kind of in shock about how hard it was hit, but it was cool.”

Being a good power hitter is more than just ‘big man hits ball far,’ and Lugbauer puts a lot of time into working on his swing. He said good power comes from a mix of natural strength and approach at the plate.

“Just getting in the weight room as much as I can, working on my swing, refining my swing, finding launch angle, the right path, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s just a combination of pitch selection, being in the weight room, getting strong in the weight room, and then refining the swing. So, there’s a lot that goes into it.”

If the M-Braves ever find themselves in a pinch on the mound, Lugbauer has shown he’s an option. In a 10-0 loss to the Montgomery Biscuits last week, Lugbauer came in in a relief appearance in the 8th inning. He pitched two-thirds of an inning, and struck out one of the batters he faced.

“I told the pitchers, when I got down to the bullpen, I couldn’t even think straight. I was like, ‘wow, this is actually happening,’” he said. “But yeah, it brought me back to when I pitched him Little League, I just got on the mound, and I was like, ‘all right, just throw strikes. That’s all I’ve got to do, throw strikes.’ I kind of blacked out, I kind of don’t really remember much of it. I just remember getting a strike out, getting a ground out, but that feeling is unmatched. I haven’t had that feeling in a while, so that was good.”

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