Baseball runs in the family for Tigers’ Champagne

Brannon Champagne is the third generation to take to the baseball diamond in his family.

Sophomore Brannon Champagne throws from the outfield Wednesday against Gonzaga at Taylor Stadium. Both Champagne's father and grandfather played baseball for professional and semi-professional leagues.

25 years ago, the name Brannon Champagne could be found on the roster of the Eugene Emeralds, then the minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Decades before that, another Champagne – Brannon's father – was making noise within the Chicago Cubs organization.

For Missouri sophomore baseball standout Brannon Champagne, the call to America’s Pastime lies in the bloodline.

With a natural itch for the crack of a bat, the third generation of Champagne ballplayers – currently the Tigers’ leader in hits, runs and batting average – knew his calling at a very young age.

“My dad and my grandpa have been around me my whole life,” said Champagne, who holds 10 football records and four varsity basketball letters in addition to his baseball accolades at St. Charles West High School. “Even when I was in little league, they were always on me and telling me the right technique and the right fundamentals. That’s definitely been a big help to me, just being around the game.”

Champagne now finds this early dedication to the game paying off in this Missouri Tigers season. Raking in six runs on seven hits in last weekend’s four-game series with Le Moyne, Champagne has quickly established himself as a focal point of the Tiger offense.

“His on-base percentage goes up and up and up, and that’s what we have to have,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said of his young outfielder. “He’s been a good table-setter.”

Though a sophomore, Champagne is embracing his first opportunity to shine on the Missouri diamond. After a shoulder injury cut short his freshman year, he looks at 2011 as a challenge to keep his days spent injured in the past.

“My approach is just to get on that plate and look away,” Champagne said. “If they come inside, (I have to) react and not be afraid to wear one. (I’m) just trying to get on base and help the team.”

According to Jamieson, Champagne’s natural gifts make the climb a manageable one.

“He has good hand-eye coordination and he can run,” Jamieson said. “He has some attributes that can help him in the game.”

The raw talent, the family history and an undying desire to excel make Champagne the project a coach dreams of in a young player.

“His natural progression is to get on base and, as he gets a little stronger and a little more confident, start driving the ball to the gaps,” Jamieson said. “The thing about him is he’s a gamer. He likes to compete when the game is on the line.”

For the remainder of his Missouri career, when the game is on the line, Champagne plans to step up to the plate and deliver.

The Champagne family story couldn’t script it any other way.

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