Hopkinton grad’s baseball life has taken him around the world

  • Hopkinton baseball alumni David Brandt, who recently played pro ball in Austria for the last two years, practices with the Hawks’ baseball team in the Hopkinton High gym on Thursday, March 22, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton baseball alumnus David Brandt, who recently played professionally overseas in Austria for two years, plays catch with one of the Hawks on Thursday during a practice at Hopkinton High School gymnasium. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton baseball alumni David Brandt, who recently played pro ball in Austria for the last two years, practices with the current baseball team in the Hopkinton High gym on Thursday, March 22, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sylvia Libiseller / Courtesy

  • David Brandt looks out across the field Attnang-Puchheim, Austria, the home of the Athletics in Baseball League Austria.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/25/2018 12:21:17 AM

David Brandt found himself in unfamiliar territory when he arrived in Attnang-Puchheim, Austria, in 2016. He had never been to the country and he didn’t know anyone there.

But there was one familiar thing – baseball. The game brought Brandt to Austria and the game made him feel welcome.

“Right when I got there I felt at home,” he said.

The 2008 Hopkinton High grad made it his home for two years, playing ball with the Attnang-Puchheim Athletics in Baseball League Austria, the country’s top league that was known as the Austrian Baseball Federation until this year.

Brandt, 27, helped the Athletics win a pair of championships. He also grabbed a couple of impressive accolades along the way, winning Coach of the Year and MVP in 2016.

Now, Brandt is home in New Hampshire helping his high school team prepare for the season. He’ll also coach Hopkinton’s middle school team this spring before heading to New York to coach in a collegiate baseball league this summer.

“It just feels right because it’s where I came from,” Brandt said of supporting Hopkinton baseball. “There’s definitely kids in the program with aspirations to play beyond (high school) and I think I can help with that.”

Brandt knows all about making the move from Hopkinton to the next level. As a high school senior, he hit .518, stole 26 bases without being caught once and posted a 2.80 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 49 innings of work from the mound. Those numbers helped land him a spot at Division III Castleton University in Vermont, where he won two conference championships.

When the Spartans won the North Eastern Athletic Conference in 2012, Brandt was third on the team in hits (53), second in RBI (35) and first in steals by mile, swiping 47 bags, more than twice as much as the second-highest total on the team (22).

Brandt’s speed has always been at the core of his game. He capitalized on that strength by working as a trainer at Parisi Speed School in Bristol, Conn. That experience, combined with his own quick feet, a sharp baseball mind, two years of pro ball in the independent Pecos League and a resume he posted on an international baseball network attracted the attention from Austria. The Athletics were looking for someone who could play the game and help their team develop, and Brandt checked all the boxes.

“The team in Austria liked that I had been a speed trainer. That really caught their eye,” he said. “Not only could I play and coach, but I’ll help them run a little faster. That’s what really sealed the job for me. … A lot of European clubs really like the idea of people with coaching experience as they want them to be like ambassadors of the game. They’re not just looking for the best players but also guys who can teach a little bit.”

The Athletics had been through a slew of down years before Brandt and two other Americans arrived in 2016.

“They were excited about the pool of players that was coming in,” Brandt said. “They were really looking forward to a possible turnaround year.”

They ended up getting two turnaround years as the Athletics won back-to-back titles during Brandt’s two seasons in Attnang-Puchheim. After winning the MVP and Coach of the Year in 2016, Brandt hit .479 with 24 RBI in the repeat campaign. From there, he spent the winter playing in Australia before returning home to New Hampshire.

“I miss it now. Austria is a beautiful country and the guys are on my mind,” Brandt said. “At the same time, it was understandable that it was time for us to move on and for them to get some new faces there. But we’ll forever have ties there.”

Brandt takes his forever baseball ties seriously. He’s stayed in touch with Hopkinton baseball coach Dave Chase since graduating in 2008. Not only is Brandt part of the Hopkinton program this spring, he also helped out during the preseason last year and focused on his specialty – base running.

Chase believes that preseason work was instrumental to the Hawks’ run to the 2017 Division IV title.

“One of the reasons we won the state championship last year was David Brandt,” said Chase, who mailed Brandt a champions T-shirt after Hopkinton won it all. “We jumped on board working on our speed, teaching kids how to run better. We forced people to throw the ball away because we were getting down the line so fast.”

Ask Chase for a memory of Brandt playing in high school and it’s hard for the coach to pick just one.

“Dave always had talent,” Chase said. “I can remember … when we went to Cooperstown (in 2007 to face Sunapee) and we gave him the start on the mound and he struck out 13 of the 15 batters he faced. The others tried to bunt and he fielded the ball and got those guys out.”

When Brandt finishes coaching the Hopkinton Middle School team this spring, he’ll spend the summer working with the Glens Falls Dragons of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, where his former Castleton teammate, Cameron Curler, is the head coach.

Brandt enjoys coaching, but he still has an appetite to play and he isn’t counting out a return to Austria.

“Next year is a long way away but the itch (to play) is still there,” he said. “Down the road, you never know. Could be there again.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter

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