Teaming up again

Sam Haggerty, who moved from GJ to Denver, enjoying playing with Bridges at N.M.

Sam Haggerty, who grew up in Grand Junction, has shined as a freshman at New Mexico, hitting .284 with 22 RBI in 37 games for the Lobos.

Sam Haggerty grew up playing basketball and baseball against Drew Bridges.

Now they’re teammates at the University of New Mexico, both starting on the baseball team as freshmen.

Haggerty’s family moved from Grand Junction to Denver the summer before his freshman year of high school, or they would have been fierce rivals then, too, with Bridges at Fruita Monument and Haggerty at Grand Junction.

Instead, Haggerty graduated from Mullen High School last spring and, like Bridges, signed with New Mexico.

Their high school teams never played one another, so when they both got to Albuquerque, it was time to catch up. They kid one another about their time in AAU basketball and Little League baseball.

The first time they were on the same team was when they were 13 and playing on the Gene Taylor’s 13-14 American Legion team.

“We hadn’t talked too much through high school and then to see him down here was great,” said Haggerty, the Lobos’ starting second baseman. “Me and Drew always jab back and forth, all in good humor. We’re always talking about the old times in Little League.”

Haggerty has started 36 of 37 games this season and is hitting .284, usually hitting second in the lineup. He has six doubles, four triples and 22 RBI. He’s drawn a team-high 29 walks and has 10 sacrifices, doing his job of getting on base and moving runners.

“Coach (Ray) Birmingham has a great approach at the plate,” he said. “He’s refined what I do at the plate. He talks to me about being a table-setter, get on base, steal bases.

“The biggest transition is the speed of the game on defense. They’re faster to first, the balls are hit harder. You have to stay focused.”

The Lobos have an all-turf field, including the infield “dirt” areas, and Haggerty loves it.

“I love fielding on turf. Every hop is the same,” he said. “From the green to the brown is the same, it’s not like from grass to dirt.”

He’s made nine errors in 101 chances, a fielding percentage of .949.

“He took some lumps early, was nervous and made some errors, but that’s OK,” Birmingham said of his young second baseman. “It’s not about early, it’s about late. He’s turning on 95, 98 (mph pitches) and hitting it hard.

“He’s still trying to feel out the transition from short to second. He’s going to be an All-American, no doubt.”

Haggerty said he wanted to compete for playing time this season and has overcome his early season jitters.

“I was real nervous and had to calm myself down,” he said. “I’ve been playing all my life, go out and do what you do in practice and what you’re taught to do. You’re not going to be as successful as in high school and you have to be prepared for that.”

After the college season, Bridges and Haggerty will travel to Wisconsin to play on a summer collegiate team.

“It was funny growing up and playing against each other and then being on the same team, then him moving and now back here,” Bridges said. “He’s changed a little bit. He’s gotten a little bigger. It’s fun to see how we’ve grown over the years.”


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