The spectators grew quiet in anticipation when the player number 22, Brooks Lee, approached home plate for the first time in the series against Long Beach State. The Cal Poly player closed his eyes as he took a deep breath before securing his gloved fingers around the grip of a black metal baseball bat. According to Brookes, the most important pair of eyes watched him from the coach’s box to his left, inches away from third base.
Brooks fixed his gaze on the opponent at the mound and swung on the first pitch delivered. Hoots and hollers erupted from the stands as the ball soared past the right-center field wall.
This is the kind of moment he had been dreaming of since he was five years old, Brooks said. As he took his home-run lap, he exchanged a high five with his head coach, who he also calls dad, Larry Lee. This is the man Brooks says is responsible for who he is today –– which is a top prospect for the 2022 Major League Baseball draft.
“The game of baseball developed me as a person, and he’s the one who really helped me understand this game,” Brooks said. “Every single thing that I have done in sports has been coached up by him, and he is the one that has taught me everything I know.”
Having his father at the helm of a Division-I baseball program all his life came with its perks. Larry has led the Cal Poly Mustangs since 2003, and his 21-year-old son has been by his side since he was old enough to hold a baseball.
“There’s a connection, a bond between us,” Larry said.
Brooks spent many days on the field during the Mustangs’ batting practices, hitting with the college athletes and taking ground balls. He would also tag along on the weekends during recruitment season. Young Brooks was tasked with using the stopwatch to see how fast the recruits could make it to first base. Together, the father and son would analyze the recruits’ mechanics with the film Brooks would capture using a video camera.
However, having the head coaching position meant that sometimes Larry could not be there when it was time for Brooks to play when he was younger. Instead, his mother, Liz Lee, was typically the one that would take him to tournaments.
“She taught me a lot about the game also and probably more of the ‘being tough’ side about it,” Brooks said.
With the lessons he learned alongside his father and the competition opportunities brought on by his mother, Brooks developed into a strong player. When his senior year of high school came around, he faced one of the most difficult decisions of his life. Brooks had earned a late spot in the first round of the 2019 MLB draft and had a couple million dollars on the table. However, as a sophomore in high school, he had committed to playing for his dad.
And he chose family first.
“I wanted to play for him because I thought he deserved to get the player he made,” Brooks said.
Playing for Cal Poly would be the first time in Brooks’ baseball career where his father would officially be his coach, and he would be on his father’s official roster.
“I’ve coached him since he was a young kid but not in the dugout,” Larry said. “It was basically watching from the stands and then talking to him after the game, but this is much different.”
By different, Larry means now he stands in the coach’s box or dugout and makes those teaching moments in real-time every day on the field during practices and games.
To Brooks’ surprise, it has gone smoother than he initially thought. He anticipated there would be tension between the two of them because of their contrasting personalities. Of course, like any relationship, they snap at each other every once in a while. Brooks said that he is usually the one that feels bad in the end and needs to say sorry.
“He is pretty unique,” Brooks said about his father. “He’ll never hold a grudge. He gets over things real quick. It’s what we like to call flipping the switch.”
They both have realized that those moments in Baggett Stadium when Brooks was a young kid helped their dynamic as coach and player today.
“I always saw him as a player; I never saw him like all other parents do,” Larry said. “They see them as their son, and they always see those good things out of their son, or they are disappointed when their son doesn’t do well. It was never like that. It was about having him go through experiences.”
Even though he is just another one of Larry’s athletes on the field, it doesn’t mean there are no proud dad moments. During his freshman collegiate season, Brooks was a little late in starting due to him hyperextending his knee in the offseason. Both Larry and Brooks labeled his recovery process as one of the most challenging times.
When Brooks was ready to pick up the bat again for a game against Baylor one Sunday afternoon, he recorded his first hit. He launched the baseball into the air for a double. As he came into the dugout, Brooks recalls giving his father knuckles. He especially remembers his expression.
“It’s not the normal plain face that he usually has because he’s very stoic,” Brooks said.
As this father and son relish their last season together, Brooks talks about what it has meant to him playing for his dad.
“For me, it’s like pure joy because regardless of how bad I am doing or how good I am doing, I get to see the same guy every single day that I’ve been seeing my whole life and nothing’s changed,” Brooks said. “It’s probably the best feeling I will ever have in the game of baseball.”