We’re counting down the 25 best former Texas athletes still competing in their sport. Each day we’ll reveal a new athlete.
No. 12 Brandon Belt, baseball
Brandon Belt could have very easily never been a Texas Longhorn. The 6-foot-4-inch Belt, a standout at Hudson High School in East Texas, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2006 MLB Draft as a pitcher. Belt opted to go to college, but not Texas. He enrolled at San Jacinto College, reportedly as a way to negotiate with the Red Sox for a signing bonus that never happened, so he played for San Jacinto in 2007. He was drafted again, this time by the Atlanta Braves, but again, didn’t sign. He chose to transfer to Texas for his sophomore season in 2008. He batted .319 with a team-high 65 RBI and six home runs and only pitched in 16 games. Shoulder issues forced him to make the switch to first base full-time, and he continued to mash for the Longhorns. As a junior he hit .323 with eight home runs, 43 RBI and 15 stolen bases. His fielding was terrific, posting a .989 percentage. Belt helped the Longhorns reach the College World Series in 2009, as Texas finished as the national runners-up.
Pro career: After being selected in the fifth round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, Belt couldn’t say no to pro baseball. He reached Triple-A in 2010 and after being listed as the third-best first base prospects before the 2011 season, he made his MLB debut less than two years after being selected when he made the Giants’ 2011 opening day roster. Mid-way through 2012 Belt had essentially become the everyday first baseman for the Giants. Nicknamed “The Baby Giraffe” by the Giants’ radio crew, Belt hit .304 in six game in the 2012 NLCS, but his most famous hit of his career thus far is the run-scoring triple in the second inning of the World Series-clinching game as the Giants beat the Detroit Tigers for the title. Since then Belt has become a staple of the Giants’ lineup, batting a career .269 with 104 home runs and 386 RBI while being named a 2016 National League All-Star. He made news in 2018 when he saw 21 pitches in a single at-bat, a MLB record.
Why he’s here: It’s not surprising, because of the nature of how Major League Baseball and college baseball work, that there’s only two UT baseball players on this list despite all the success of the program and all the Texas-Exes pursuing baseball careers. Baseball is arguably the most difficult sport to reach a pinnacle. It’s very hard to become an everyday big leaguer because every club has a half-a-dozen players in the minors playing the same position ready to supplant the starter. Belt has not only reached the point where he’s a veteran in the league, but he signed a 5-year, $72.8 million contract extension before the 2016 season — he’ll make more than $17 million a year until 2021. An All-Star, a two-time World Series Champion, Belt belongs on the list.
News on Bevo Beat is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of Hookem.com is included with an Austin American-Statesman subscription in addition to Statesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribe.