When Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Reid Brignac stepped in against Atlanta Braves blue-chip southpaw Jo-Jo Reyes on Aug. 6, he'd already collected a hit in his first at-bat in the Durham Bulls' game at Richmond -- a matchup of two Triple-A International League South Division rivals.
But within moments, the horizon changed drastically for Brignac.
"It was lefty on lefty and he came at me with a fastball which came in on me and hit my wrist," recalled Brignac. "I've been hit plenty of times, but this was different. I just had that sick feeling in my stomach that something was really wrong."
After the game, Brignac's wrist was placed in a soft cast and he was told to just wait a week and see how it felt.
That week came and went, and the wrist was worse rather than better, diagnosed as a bone chip. And with that, Brignac knew his 2008 season was over. No chance to help his Bulls in the International League playoffs, where they would lose in the Finals to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
And no chance to put on the uniform for the Rays in September in their unlikely chase for the World Series title.
Brignac had already gotten a brief chance to wear that uniform earlier that summer, when he was called up from Durham on July 4 to make his Major League debut when shortstop Jason Bartlett went on the DL.
The Louisiana native was the Rays' second-round pick in 2004 out of high school and spent a few days with the big league club before returning to Durham, where he finished with a .250 average with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 97 games.
Brignac still projects prominently in the Rays' plans. In 2006 he won California League MVP honors after hitting .326 with 21 homers and 83 RBIs at advanced Class A Visalia. He went on to hit .260 with 17 homers, 81 RBIs and 15 steals at Double-A Montgomery in '07, helping lead that team to the Southern League championship at just 21 years old.
Injury notwithstanding, Brignac was still invited to rejoin the Rays in September and for the postseason, though he didn't get to play. And it was a tough new experience for him.
"It was harder emotionally for me than physically, because it was the first time I'd ever been injured and had to sit out and not compete, while the rest of my teammates were doing well," Brignac said. "I'd been looking forward to going to the playoffs with Tampa Bay all year, so it was a tough pill to swallow."
Now with 2009 on the horizon, things are looking markedly better for Brignac who, now healthy, is already down in Florida working out with his teammates at Tropicana Field in anticipation of the move down the Gulf Coast to the new spring training digs in Port Charlotte.
He's philosophical about what happened in 2008 and hopeful for a brighter '09.
"It's part of the game, and it might not have been my time," Brignac said. "But we've got a new year now, and I'm really looking forward to competing for a job."
MLB.com: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Brignac: I've always been baseball, baseball, baseball. I've always wanted to make it to the Major Leagues. That was always my dream. So right now I'd have to say that was the biggest accomplishment for me personally. As far as teams go, we've won a couple of Double-A championships [with Montgomery] and that was exciting, celebrating and having a good time with my teammates, but I also won a state championship in high school with over half a team I'd known and played with my whole life.
MLB.com: What do you think you'd be doing now if you weren't playing baseball?
Brignac: I'd probably be coaching baseball. I like to help young kids get better at the game, and I think I'll always be teaching the game when I'm done with my career. I've learned so much through great coaches that I'd like to pass on what I've learned.
MLB.com: What is the worst job you've had?
Brignac: I was a stock boy at a grocery store working in the cooler where it was freezing cold, stocking beer and drinks. But an even worse job was being an umpire when I was 13 or 14, with kids who were 9 and 10. I could tell right away it wasn't for me. I respect umpires and it's not an easy job. It's a reaction and once you make a call you have to stand by it, right or wrong.
MLB.com: Who was your childhood crush?
Brignac: I grew up with three beautiful neighbors as a child. The oldest was named Paisley Broussard, and I had the biggest crush on her. My parents would always say, 'Whenever Paisley walks into the room, Reid gets so red." Now she's married and about to have a child.
MLB.com: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
Brignac: It would have to be something fun and exciting if it's only for one day. Being LeBron James would be a great day.
MLB.com: Which aspect of life in the Minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
Brignac: That first full season was an eye-opener for me, being the first time I've ever had to play that many games and run out there every day. In high school you play 50 games max. I learned, going into the next offseason, how to better prepare myself for what I was going to go through. No one in my family, none of my friends, had ever been drafted so it was all new to me. And after that first full season I learned how to take care of my body, when to go out and when to stay home, certain things you learn as you get older.
MLB.com: Who is the most unusual character you've met in your pro baseball career?
Brignac: [Rays outfielder] Fernando Perez, who is one of my best friends. He's such an intelligent person who could do anything he wants in life, he doesn't have to play baseball to be successful. I admire him for all the things he's accomplished in his life. There's nobody like Fernando and nobody will ever be like him.
MLB.com: What is the best Minor League promotion or visiting act you've seen?
Brignac: Myron Noodleman is my favorite. One of the first games my mom and dad came to watch me play was in Charleston, S.C., and he was the act for the night. We'd never seen him and we just loved him. He was hilarious and got the crowd really involved.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.