A 2005 Greenbush-Middle River graduate and former Gator Softball player, Missy Bruggeman started on the Gator varsity team as an eighth grader— an opportunity she said that looks like a glorious one, providing one the honor of representing their community. It also provided something more.
“At the same time, it’s like you don’t know the story behind the scenes and just the life lessons,” Bruggeman said, “and the places and spaces we go through within our own families and the challenging times.”
During these times, the Gator Softball program was a special place for her— a place where she felt welcomed, a place she felt like family, a place she always felt accepted.
“I could show up, just however I was with whatever was going on in my personal life, my home life, my family life, and it was, you know, my second family,” Bruggeman said. “And Gator Softball gave me a space to really understand that anything is possible in life. And if you just show up day after day after day and, you know, commit to being excellent you never know where that will lead you in life, but it will definitely lead you in a really positive place.”
The game took her to that positive place— to the highest level— getting the opportunity to coach for a Division I college softball program and earlier this month being inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame.
Bruggeman talked about her softball background, her time within Gator Softball, the honor of being inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame, her love of the game and what she miss most about being part of it on a consistent basis, the ways she looks to stay involved in the game, her message to girls and young women looking to succeed in softball, and what she is up to these days. Gator Head Coach Kent Christian, having coached Bruggeman, also gave his thoughts on her and this latest honor.
Going back, the game began for Bruggeman at a young age when she started playing ball in the Middle River Summer-Rec program in about the second grade.
“It was just kind of the joy of my summer. It was a playground, a place to get together and to create relationships and have fun and, you know, learn skills,” Bruggeman said. “… I really equate it to, you know, a playground, like a life playground, which brought me all the way up until, you know, playing Gator Softball and starting varsity in eighth grade.”
She played for the Gator program on varsity from 2001 to 2005— what she called a “really cool opportunity.” She expressed gratefulness for her coaches, including Kent Christian and also Tom Neibauer, who used to spend homerooms working with Bruggeman on pitching, including learning how to throw the rise ball.
While playing for the Gators, Bruggeman helped lead the team to a 2004 section championship and state tournament berth. She earned All-Section every year during her softball career— five times between 2001 and 2005. She also earned All-Agassiz Conference in 2004 and 2005.
Coach Christian considered her an extremely competitive player, one who overcame much along the way.
“She has overcome a lot of adversity in her life, stuff that a lot people today would use as an excuse, but she did not,” Coach Christian said. “And just really got better each year that she played.”
During her Gator career, she collected numerous stats as both a hitter and pitcher. In program history, as far as career stats, she is second in hits (154), tied for eighth in batting average (.411), first in runs (175), third in doubles (34), tied for seventh in triples (9), seventh in walks (68), second in total bases (212), first in stolen bases (111), and tied for first in on base percentage (.565). As far career pitching, she is tied for ninth in career wins (20), tied for seventh in completed games (19), sixth in strikeouts (147), ninth in earned run average (2.62), and first in opponents batting average (.187).
After moving on from the Gator Softball program, Bruggeman played at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities, getting the opportunity to play in a national championship game and earning first team All-American honors. Going into graduate school, she got into coaching at St. Thomas, doing this for two years.
She then became the head coach at Southwest Minnesota State, a Division II program in Marshall, for two years. This eventually led her to becoming a hitting and outfield coach at Stony Brook University in New York— a Division I program— for two years.
She remained in the game for many reasons. She mentioned how it’s a game of failure, but she never viewed it that way.
“For me, it was a challenge that led to just a journey of fun, you know, self-expression,” Bruggeman said. “It’s like, you’re never going to be the same player one day as you will be the next day and the next day and the next day, and I think that’s what I loved about it was just who you could become every single day.”
She also enjoyed the training, the camaraderie between teammates, the individual and team aspect of the sport, and the love of being outside. She also loved something else.
“I love winning,” Bruggeman said. “… I was fortunate to be blessed with… athletic ability, so to be able to win and to show up and to be a leader.”
As far what Bruggeman did after her Gator years, Coach Christian said it’s special seeing former players decide to go into coaching. Bruggeman’s success after Gator Softball though didn’t come as a shock to him.
“For her to experience the success she did… it wasn’t surprising, you know, because she was that committed to doing things,” Coach Christian said. “So to see her, you know, really develop as a person and then, you know, she went through some tough times in coaching and overcame that and really landed on her feet.”
To see the complete story, read the June 29 issue of The Tribune in print or online.