Brendan Tinsman hit .355 with a school record-tying 24 homers, 15 doubles and 69 RBI for Wake Forest University this spring. He was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 20th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft in July. Scott Kinser photo/Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Brendan Tinsman has played one game so far as a professional baseball catcher.

He made the most of it, going 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI.

“It felt amazing,” Tinsman said on Wednesday. “It’s been a lot of practice since I’ve been here and I was ready to get some live at-bats, and once I got my first hit it was an unreal feeling.”

Brendan Tinsman

After being selected in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Angels on July 19 and agreeing to a $25,000 signing bonus, Tinsman, 22, reported to the Angels’ spring-training complex in Tempe, Arizona, on July 23.

It wasn’t until Aug. 5 that the former standout at Cape Elizabeth High and 2018 consensus high school player of the year in Maine got a chance to play in a game in the Arizona Complex League. In addition to his three straight singles, he scored a run and drew a walk. Even his out was productive. He drove in a run with a bases-loaded groundout in his first professional at-bat.

The Arizona Complex League and the similar Florida Complex League are short-season leagues held at the spring training sites of major league teams. The ACL and FCL replaced the old rookie leagues (think: Lowell Spinners) when Major League Baseball cut affiliation ties with over 40 minor league franchises following the 2020 season.


While his live action is limited, Tinsman is busy with four-hour practices six days a week. Much of his time is spent catching bullpen sessions for the 25 pitchers on the ACL Angels’ 49-player roster. There are no roster limits in the ACL.

“This is good for him, learning all the pitchers,” said Tim McIlvaine, the Angels’ director of amateur scouting. “That’s a big thing when you’re coming into an organization. The more pitchers he can familiarize himself with now will be beneficial for him moving forward.”

As a fourth-year junior at Wake Forest, Tinsman was the everyday catcher this spring. He hit .355 with a school record-tying 24 homers, 15 doubles and 69 RBI, earning third-team All-America honors.

McIlvaine said when looking at catchers, the Angels prioritize being able to handle a pitching staff and having the on-field leadership the position demands.

“First things first, do they have a good head on their shoulders? Everything we looked into, he checked out there. This guy’s a leader. Pitchers are going to love throwing to him,” McIlvaine said.

“I thought he was going to (be drafted) higher,” McIlvaine added. “We were thrilled to get him for sure. It’s hard to get a guy you like that late, and then on top of that, a guy who has performed and checks a lot of the boxes for a catcher that we think are important.”


Alan Nero is Tinsman’s agent. A 35-year veteran of player representation with a client list that includes Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Randy Johnson, Nero is the managing director of the baseball division at Octagon, a worldwide agency.

Nero said he expects Tinsman to “perform at a high level, and I’d put my money on him,” but added the caveat that only 3 percent of minor league players reach the majors. Making it as a catcher means joining an even more exclusive club.

“You have to understand he’s competing to be the best in the world,” Nero said. “He’s not competing to make his Little League team, or his high school team, or his college team. Now he’s competing to be a starting catcher for the (Los Angeles) Angels and one of 30 starting (major league) catchers in the world.”

That competition has already started.

Tinsman is one of seven catchers with the ACL Angels. Five are international free agents from Latin America countries, four of whom are teenagers. Cristian Garcia, 18, from the Dominican Republic, is getting the most at-bats. Evan Russell, a free-agent out of the University of Tennessee, has had one at-bat.

Tinsman said he “kind of knew what to expect,” in regards to how many catchers would be on the team. With 25 pitchers needing work, there has to be many catchers. “But I was surprised by how polished these guys are. Baseball has been their life now for quite awhile and they’re so polished and they’re very skilled.”


Rather than being daunted by the competition, Tinsman said it inspires him.

“You see these young guys, or guys that I used to play with in college, guys who were decent players, and they get into pro ball, and they become whole different players and it’s because they don’t have to focus on anything else but baseball,” Tinsman said. “I’m really excited to be able to do that myself and see where it can take me.”

Tinsman expects his playing time will continue to be quite limited until he is assigned to one of the Angels’ two affiliated Class A minor league teams, something Tinsman hopes will happen this summer.

Until then, Tinsman will keep showing up in the mid-day Arizona heat for practices that include conditioning and stretching (McIlvaine said flexibility is stressed for Angels catchers), batting practice, plenty of bullpen sessions, an emphasis on individual and team defensive drills, and a full-team 30-minute “ball talk,” session where coaches dissect the previous game or teach from video. Games are played five nights a week. Tinsman dresses for every game.

“I’m usually either catching bullpens or warming guys up between innings, so I’m staying active,” he said.

The club provides housing, three meals a day at the ballpark, and a modest daily food per diem. Sundays are an off-day where players are on their own.

“It’s pretty unbelievable still that playing baseball is my job. I guess that’s my biggest takeaway right now,” Tinsman said. “Just being able to focus on baseball all the time is quite the treat.”

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