Trusting his swing
Former Sleepy Eye slugger Carter Brinkman now formidable hitter with Winona State
a drive to play baseball has led
outfielder Carter Brinkman to becoming
one of the Winona State
University baseball team’s most
Brinkman, a two-time All-Journal
baseball player and 2018 Sleepy Eye High School
graduate, came into his own during his senior year for
the Division 2 Warriors. WSU’s season finished up last
week with a 17-23 overall record and a 14-12 conference
After the Warriors’ final game this season in the
Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament,
a 7-1 loss to the University of Minnesota Duluth,
Brinkman ended as the team’s leading hitter with a
.301 batting average.
He also finished second on the team in RBIs (28)
and slugging percentage (.485), while hitting four
homers and nine doubles.
Despite all of Brinkman’s successes in high school,
which included a second-place finish in the Class A
state tournament in 2018, his production and leadership
in college didn’t come overnight.
Brinkman redshirted his 2019 season of college
While he wasn’t taking the field in games, he used
the spring of 2019 to learn all he could at the college
“Especially for hitting, what I took away (from
2019) was hitting off-speed or even just hitting the
pitch that I know I can,” Brinkman said. “I experienced
a lot of failures trying to do too much too early,
and that kind of just dug me a hole, and that’s hard to
get out of. But I would say definitely focusing on my
strengths and being able to build off of what I know I
can do definitely helped me.”
In 2020, Brinkman had hopes and goals of getting
on the field and making his impact known. But the
COVID-19 pandemic shut down those hopes and
goals early on in the season, forcing Brinkman to turn
his attention back to learning and developing in other
“The beginning of 2020 I was really expecting to
have a breakout season after my redshirt year and use
what I’ve gotten better with,” Brinkman said. “Then
that all kind of got shut down … so I had to deal with
that. I wasn’t getting the playing time at the beginning
of the year that I was expecting, but with as many
games that we do play, I was hoping to get my chance
and eventually use that to my advantage — getting
those opportunities that I want after using a whole
year as a redshirt.
“Getting shut down was very frustrating. Again, I
just had to use the time to get better — lift weights,
stay in cages, keep playing, and once amateur ball
could get going again, getting live at-bats is also crucial
to getting better and not letting the rust overtake
Brinkman’s patience and commitment paid off in
2021 as he became a first-year starter as a junior.
During that 2021 campaign, Brinkman started all
36 games he played in and hit .283 with five home
runs, four triples, four doubles and 17 RBIs.
“I knew after watching so many games, I knew
that I could play at that level,” Brinkman said. “That
was definitely key for me. I always had confidence
and confidence is something that has only grown with
me as a baseball player. It’s tough to be successful in
the field — especially at this level — if you have no
confidence. Focusing on failure was a big setback, and
I realized just to let it go and to just trust my swing.
That’s the best mindset to the approaches in the batter’s
box. My swing is what got me here and figuring
out the mental side is the rest of the game.”
The Warriors finished the 2021 season with a 22-20
record overall and a 19-16 conference mark.
This past season, Brinkman took a a big leap as one
of the Warriors’ top players and leaders. In addition to
his team-best batting average, Brinkman earned a little
recognition around the conference this season.
He was named one of the NSIC’s top baseball
performers of the week on April 18 after hitting .400
across five games with a double and three RBIs.
His 2019 and 2020 “learning seasons” are in the
past, but Brinkman said he’s continuing to learn about
the game at the college level.
“I’ve learned so much at this level, and I’m still
learning every day,” Brinkman said. “Failure is such
a large part in the game that I’ve realized to make it
easier on myself just by forgetting about it. I’ve spent
way too much time being frustrated and realizing that
this is what’s actually holding me back. By hitting the
delete button and focusing on the next at-bat is what
helps me get back on track.”
In addition to his offense this past season, Brinkman
was also steady in the field with a .962 fielding
Brinkman only just finished his second full year of
playing, but he was already looked at to be a leader on
a young team that had 12 freshman on it.
“We’re a really young team right now, so some of
the freshman are getting experience, and that’s something
I’ve never had,” Brinkman said. “So I’ve always
told them that if they’re seeing some failure that that’s
going to happen, especially at their age. They haven’t
had much experience at all … and (I’ve told them) to
keep your head up, stay focused, stay concentrated.
I’ve been there for quite some time, and it’s very frustrating,
but look past it and not lose confidence.”
While he missed out on finishing as an All-Conference
player this year, Brinkman was still very productive
and has his sights set even higher next season.
“One of my major goals for every year is to help the
team win,” Brinkman said. “I think by doing that by having
an above .300 or .300 average gives the team a lot of
opportunities for me to get on base and drive in runs and
score runs to help my team win as a hitter.
“I think for next year, doing the same thing. … It’s
very tough to be that consistent throughout the whole
year, but to be a .300-plus, .350-plus hitter throughout
the year is a big goal of mine. And if I were to
get All-Conference, that’s a great award, and I would
shoot for that, too, but I would definitely like to be an
above .300 hitter and help my team win games.”
While Brinkman is eligible for two more years of
college baseball due to redshirting in 2019 and 2020
season shutdown, he plans to return for just one more
year of college baseball in 2023. Finishing up with his
schooling in 2022 will allow Brinkman to put even
more into his game next year.
“I’m going to be staying here a fifth year, so next
year, and then just using my third year of eligibility
and then as of right now, just being done after next
year,” Brinkman said.
Before that, though, Brinkman will turn his attention
to the amateur baseball season this spring and
summer, where he will certainly be one of the Sleepy
Eye Indians’ biggest threats.