Rico Brogna: Former 1990's Italian / American Mets Player (1994-1996)

Rico Joseph Brogna was born on April 18, 1970, in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. 

The Italian / American Brogna, grew up in Watertown, Connecticut where he was an All-American star quarterback, getting offered a scholarship with Clemson University. He chose to play baseball & was the Detroit Tigers number one draft pick (the 26th pick overall) in 1988.

By 1990 he was an All Star first baseman at AA London, Ontario. He led the Eastern League in HRs (31) & was tied in RBIs (77). Although he didn’t match those same numbers again, he was brought up to the Tigers in September 1993. 

MLB Career: Brogna debuted with the Tigers on August 8th in an 8-6 win over the Blue Jays. In that game he got his first career hit. He appeared in just nine games going 5-26, thru August 18th before being sent back down.

Three days before the 1994 season began, he was traded to the New York Mets for Alan Zinter. He was a fine defensive player that turned some heads when he joined the Mets on the field.  

Mets Career: Brogna began the year at AAA Norfolk hitting 12 HRs with 37 RBIs but hit just .244. He was brought up to the Mets in late June as the team was in fifth place 14 games back under manager Dallas Green. 

On June 22nd, Brogna made his Mets debut replacing the injured David Segui at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. He then got his first hit coming at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the next home stand. At the end of June, entering July 1st, Brogna hit solo HRs in three straight games, giving him five HRs in his first 16 Mets games.

Five Hit Game: On July 25th, in a 7-1 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis, he became just the third Met rookie in team history to have a five-hit game. 

In the top of the 2nd & 4th innings, he singled off Omar Olivares. In the Mets five run 5th, he hit a two run double & scored a run. He would single again in the 6th inning & collected his 5th hit of the game with an 8th inning double off Gary Buckels.

Four RBI Game: The next night he had a four RBI game & was the hitting hero in a close game. In the top of the 11th inning, in an 8-8 tie with the Cardinals, Brogna hit a two run HR off Gary Buckels in what turned out to be the game winning runs in the 10-8 Mets win.

On August 2nd, Brogna had a three-hit night with a two-run 8th inning HR off the Braves Steve Bedrosian leading the Mets to the 4-1 win.

On August 3rd, the next night, the Mets were down 2-1 to the Braves in the bottom of the 9th inning at Shea Stadium. With two on & nobody out, Bogna singled off Greg McMichael to tie up the game. They would win it on Jose Vizcaino's walk off single.

In mid-August the baseball strike killed the season & it was over.  In only 38 games Brogna showed a lot of promise, batting .354 with 46 hits in 131 at bats. He had seven HRs with 11 doubles a .380 on base % & 20 RBIs.

1995: For 1995 he was penciled in as the Mets regular first baseman replacing David Segui who had played 92 games there leading the team the previous year.  Rico became popular with the Shea Faithful, as they would chant “Rico, Rico” whenever he came to bat.

First HR at Coors Field:  On Opening Day April 26th, 1995, he hit the first ever HR at Colorado’s Coors field. The HR came off the expansion Rockies Bill Swift in an 11-9 Mets loss in the first game of Rockies history.

Two days later, in the third game of the season, his solo HR off Rene Arocha, leading off the bottom of the 7th inning led to the Mets comeback win over the Cardinals. On May 6th he hit his third HR of the year, driving in two runs, giving him a total of seven RBIs through his first eight games. 

In the first two weeks of the season, he was also batting .400. On May 19th, with the Mets & Phillies locked up in a 1-1 tie, Brogna hit a three run HR off Paul Quantrill leading to a 5-1 win. He finished up the end of May still hitting .300 while driving in 14 runs in the month.

 On June 15th in a game against the Florida Marlins, he helped tie the game with a bottom of the 9th inning base hit off Yorkis Perez, capping off a Mets three run rally. They went on to win the game on Joe Orsulak's walk off RBI single in the 10th inning.

On June 30th, his 7th inning HR off the Reds Chuck McElroy broke a 5-5 tie in another game the Mets went on to win. From July 13th to July 25th, he drove in thirteen runs, driving at least one run in four straight games twice. Brogna hit over .300 that month & also hit safely in eleven of the twelve games. 

He remained consistent in August gathering up two different seven game hit streaks keeping his season average above .290. 

He had a productive September driving in 21 runs, while hitting six HRs & scoring twenty runs. 

From September 12th to September 15th, he hit five HRs driving in eleven runs while enjoying a powerful six game hit streak. 

On September 14th he helped Dave Mlicki to a 4-2 win over the Astros, with a two-run 5th inning HR off Shane Reynolds breaking the 2-2 tie. 

As the Phillies rolled into town during the Mets home stand, Brogna greeted them with his 20th HR of the season. He hit a two-run shot off Jeff Juden helping the Mets to a 10-8 win. 

Grand Slam & Five RBI Game: On September 17th, the next day he had a career day, hitting his first career grand slam & driving in five runs in an 8-2 Mets win over the Phillies. In the 3rd inning he hit the grand slam off Mike Williams & added another solo shot in the 5th off Jeff Juden. Brogna would hit two career grand slams.

He finished out the year with six more RBIs in his last five games. He had a fine season leading the club in most offensive categories; HRs (22) RBIs (76) doubles (27) & runs scored (72). He hit .289 (third on the club) with 146 hits (2nd on the club) a .342 on base % & a .827 OPS while playing in 134 games.

At first base he led all N.L. first basemen in fielding with a .998% and was fifth in the NL in putouts with 1112. His biggest draw back on the year was striking out 111 times, fifth most in the league.

1996: Rico began the year by driving in the winning run-on Opening Day with a double play sac fly capping off a four run Mets home 7th inning rally. He had another good start to the season batting .364 with six RBIs through the first nine games. 

Walk Off HR: On May 11th, in a 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, Brogna had a big multi-HR game. In the bottom of the 1st inning, his two-run single tied up the game at two. 

In the bottom of the 3rd, Brogna led off with a solo HR off Kevin Foster, his first of the game with his third RBI. The Mets took a 6-4 lead, but Doug Henry gave up a two-run single to the Cubs' Jose Hernandez tying up the game in the 9th inning. In the bottom of the 9th Rico hit a walk off HR off Doug Jones giving the Mets an exciting win.

On a mid-May West Coast Road trip, he hit a HR while driving in three runs in 1 14-5 win at San Francisco. 

Four RBI Game: On May 20th, in a 7-1 win at Dodger Stadium, Rico hit a 7th inning two run HR off Tom Candiotti, after having hit a two-run single off Candiotti in the 5th inning.

Injury: On June 19th, a back injury ended his season after playing in just 55 games where he hit .255 with ten doubles, seven HRs & 30 RBIs.

By this time arthritis in his back was also becoming more of an issue. The injuries concerned the Mets, as he had been diagnosed with a form of spinal arthritis as far back as 1991. 

The disease is known as spondylitis, a disease that causes pain and discomfort in the joints. Brogna had been taking medication for his condition on a daily basis since then.

In the winter, the organization gave up on him & he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Ricardo Jordan & Toby Borland who never even saw Shea Stadium’s clubhouse. Jordan made 22 appearances going 1-2 for the 1997 Mets.

Post Mets Career: In Philadelphia Brogna proved the Mets wrong; he went on to have three 20 plus HR seasons. He also drove in over 100 runs twice & had two thirty plus doubles seasons. 

In 1998 he also led the N.L. with ten sac flies & then followed up 1999 with career highs in runs scored (90) & hits (172). In those years he did strike out over 115 times each year as well.

The Mets went out and got John Olerud to replace him at first base & although he worked out well, it didn’t make up for the bad decision to trading Brogna. Brogna's bat would have been a big help to the 1999 Mets wild card team.
Brogna would suffer from arthritis again & it eventually would finish his career by the age 31. 

Brogna went on to have quick stops with the 2000 Boston Red Sox playing in 43 games. In 2001 he played in 72 games with the Atlanta Braves batting .248 with 3 HRs & 21 RBIs before retiring at the end of the season.

Career Stats: He ended his nine-season career batting .269 with 795 hits 106 HRs 176 doubles 13 triples 379 runs scored & 458 RBIs. He struck out 655 times, walked 227 times with a .320 on base % & .764 OPS playing in 848 games.

He played .817 games at first base making 33 errors in 6924 chances & 609 attempts with a .995 fielding %.

Retirement: After baseball he coached football as well as basketball in both Connecticut & Massachusetts. 

He was then a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In 2010 Rico became a minor league manager in the D-backs system. 

In 2011 he became the full-time head football coach at Notre Dame Fairfield high school in Connecticut.

In 2013 he was hired as special assistant to Jerry Dipoto in the Anaheim Angels organization. He & Dipoto were Mets teammates in 1995 & 1996. The next year he was named the Angels player-information coach for the Angels.

Cancer Survivor:  That same year he was diagnosed with testicular cancer & immediately underwent surgery which was successful. 

Quotes Rico Brogna: " When I found out-you have a strong faith, I'm a Christian. It brings me closer to my faith & I trust. But an hour later you're crying because you think of your kids. You think, all right am I going to die? Is it going to be one of those?".

He returned to the Angels organization again in 2016. In 2017 he moved on to the Phillies organization where he coached for the AA Reading Fighting Phils for two years.

Brogna then earned a master's degree & went into a career in cyber security.

Family: In 1992 Rico married Melissa Shuhart, whom he had met in high school. They have two children together, Alexa Grace and Hunter.

2022 Mets Old Timers Day: Brogna attended the Mets Old Timers Day at Citi Field playing in the game. A big fan of Mets PR legend Jay Horowitz & Keith Hernandez, Rico was thrilled to reunite with the two.


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