Friday, July 12, 2024

Rutter continues to defy adversity on road through stellar career

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Featured photo by Ryan Loftis

Story by Conner Smith

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn – Briggs Rutter has had an electric season for Middle Tennessee baseball up to this point. From his walk-off walk on opening weekend, to six home runs in six days in mid-March, to hitting for the cycle two weeks ago, it’s been a memorable season to say the least. Rutter has been the spark and the team leader throughout the year and has garnered high praise from everyone within the program.

“Briggs has been the rock for us all the way around this season,” MTSU head coach Jerry Meyers said. “He gives energy to everyone, he’s being involved in every pitch this season whether that be through his body language, him being able to calm pitchers down, and he’s been outstanding for us.”

Even with everything he’s done for the team and his baseball career, it’s not always been sunshine and rainbows for the Columbia, Tenn. native. Rutter was doubted in high school and was a completely unknown commodity at one point.

“I actually developed pretty late; I didn’t talk to really anyone until my sophomore year,” Rutter says. “I did, however, start getting some attention as a junior when I played in the Prep Baseball Report Future’s game. I played well and started getting looks from teams, a couple SEC. But ultimately, I signed with MTSU and I’ve never looked back since.”

As soon as the now six-feet-two-inch, 195-pound catcher stepped on the diamond at Reese Smith Jr. field, he was an instant impact player.

He began his freshman season mainly coming off the bench but did start in 11 games and played 16 overall. The following season, he began to get more opportunities to show what he could do. He started in 26 games while batting .311, with one home run, 17 RBIs, and 32 hits. That was just scratching the surface of his potential.

Even though his sophomore year was a great stepping stone for what was to come later in his baseball career, it was also tragic for his personal life. Rutter’s mother, Karen, lost her battle with cancer on March 11, 2022.

“Absolutely terrible event for my family and I,” Rutter said. “I used it as motivation obviously, but I also just tried to come to the field as much as possible. The day of the funeral I drove back for our game, and I was at practice the next day. Not one part of me wanted to be away from the game, because I knew that’s what she would want, and I knew I needed baseball to help me cope with it. She always told me to do my best and then let the chips fall, so I do that every day because I know she would want me to.”

Even though he had the game to help him try to cope, the backstop had his brothers on the team to help him out. He says they were big in helping him feel better and being by his side to help him out with whatever he needed.

“The team really embraced me and took care of me,” Rutter said. “They made sure I was having fun on the field and that’s one of the ways that I was able to get through it.”

He finished the season strong and then began to train for the next season. He focused on gaining some needed weight and ended up going from 205 pounds to 225 pounds in the offseason and put on a lot of muscle. The results showed when he clubbed more home runs (four), had nine more RBIs than the previous year and would start 50 of the team’s 52 games.

Even with the big impact that the weight had added, Rutter said it just didn’t feel right. He said he didn’t like being as big and thought that he needed to make another change to his body where he ultimately maintained a lot of the muscle but trimmed the fat and lost nearly 30 pounds in the summer.

“I just wasn’t feeling right man, I didn’t like being as heavy as I was,” Rutter said. “When I was a smaller catcher a few years back, I was more effective and I pride myself as an infielder who plays catcher. Now that I’ve lost the needed weight, I love the way I feel. I’m faster and can move better, and I think it’s also helped me become more mobile when I’m trying to block pitches and with my swing.”

Leading up to the 2024 campaign, Rutter was named one of the team’s six captains. He’s constantly leading by example and keeping everyone under control. Even with the power, speed and defense that he possesses, his head coach says that his leadership is his best quality.

“Briggs is an outstanding leader,” Meyers said. “He’s not a super vocal guy but his body language and how he talks to the pitchers is major. He always stays calm and encourages our guys and tries to make them stay calm too. He’s involved in every pitch because of that, just an outstanding player but also leader for us.”

Leadership is a very interesting skill. Some have it and some don’t, and that comes through experiences. For the MTSU senior, he says that upperclassmen of the program are the reason he learned how to be such an effective leader. For his first three years at MTSU, he was around several seniors and fifth-year guys. Players like Mason Speirs, Jake Hagenow and Jeremiah Boyd helped him learn how to be a leader and use the skills he already had.

With his weight loss, baseball training, and learning how to be a great leader to help his team, Rutter was pumped up to start his senior year.

He automatically showed that he was 10 times the player he was last year when he batted .500 with 8 RBIs, three extra-base hits and a walk-off walk all on opening weekend. That weekend was just the beginning of Rutter’s stellar last ride.

As a whole, he’s started all 43 games while hitting .333 with 12 home runs, 40 RBIs, 56 hits and a 138 wRC+.

With those numbers, combined with what he was able to do in his earlier college years, he’s been able to get attention from some MLB scouts across several teams.

Rutter grew up as a huge Philadelphia Phillies fan. Surely that would be a great destination for him. However, Rutter says he just wants to continue playing ball, so it doesn’t matter to him.

“I just want to play baseball man; I love this game,” Rutter said. “So, I plan on playing until they take it away from me.”

With the summer coming up, there are opportunities to play summer ball, or just stay home and train to be a better player. For Rutter, he’s unsure of his plans but says he’s going to let things shake out.

“We’ll see what happens,” Rutter said. “I’m going to see how everything shakes out at the end of the year and see what’s necessary for me. I’ll do whatever it takes, so I’m going to see what happens and listen to what’s told is best for me. Whether that’s to go play somewhere or go train. I love baseball and I don’t want to quit playing it. Hopefully everything works in my favor.”

It will be a very busy next few months for the catcher as he decides what his future holds but one thing is clear, right now he’s just focused on this season and finishing strong with the team.

Conner Smith is a sportswriter for MTSU Sidelines. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, and follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on X and Instagram at @mtsusidelines. Also, sign up for our weekly newsletter here.

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