Major League Cougars
Twenty-five BYU baseball alumni have played Major League Baseball, from pitcher Jerry Nyman in 1968 to current Chicago Cubs pitcher Micheal Rucker. Hall of Famer Jack Morris joins a bevy of All-Stars and World Series champions on the list of former Cougars to reach The Show, all of whom are summarized below. Additionally, a list of big leaguers with BYU ties that includes Danny Ainge and Dale Murphy is included at the bottom of this page.
Seasons at BYU: 1981-83
Seasons in MLB: 16 (1985-00)
Teams: New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
After converting from an infielder to pitcher in his three seasons at BYU, Aguilera was chosen in the third round of the 1983 draft. The right-hander went on to become a two-time World Series champion, first with the Mets in 1986 and again with the Twins in 1991 in a career spanning 16 seasons. A three-time All-Star from 1991-93 who began his career as a starter before moving to a reliever, Aguilera earned 318 saves, good for eighth in MLB history at the time he retired. In 2008, Aguilera was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
Seasons at BYU: 1990, 93
Seasons in MLB: 6 (1996-99, 02-03)
Teams: Milwaukee Brewers, Florida Marlins
Banks made his major league debut three years after being chosen in the second round of the 1993 draft. He played six seasons, winning a World Series with the Marlins in 2003. Banks made appearances in the outfield, on the corners of the infield, at catcher and as a designated hitter in his career, finishing with a .246 career batting average.
Seasons at BYU: 1978-79
Seasons in MLB: 1 (1983)
Team: Oakland Athletics
Drafted by Oakland in the 27th round, Bradley played in six games during the A’s 1983 season, pitching a total of 8.1 innings with three strikeouts. The following season, Bradley was traded along with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson to the Yankees where he played in New York’s farm system.
Seasons at BYU: 2011-13
Seasons in MLB: 1 (2017)
Team: Oakland Athletics
Brugman was promoted to the major leagues in June 2017, going on to bat .266 with three home runs in 48 games. Drafted in the 17th round in 2013 by Oakland, Brugman also spent time with the Orioles, Mariners and White Sox organizations.
Seasons at BYU: 2000-02
Seasons in MLB: 4 (2009-10, 12-13)
Teams: Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians
Carson was drafted in the fifth round of the 2002 draft by Oakland before making his major league debut in 2009, playing in 10 games. He saw time in 36 more games with the A’s the following year, then resurfaced again in the majors with Minnesota in 2012, batting .227. He played 20 more games with the Cleveland Indians the following year, finishing his career as a .237 hitter with 42 hits, including six home runs.
Seasons at BYU: 2011
Seasons in MLB: 3 (2017-19)
Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels
After six years in the Toronto farm system, Cole debuted in 2017 against the Yankees, getting his first career strikeout against All-Star Aaron Judge but injured his toe in the game and didn’t play the rest of the year. However, Cole returned to the majors the following year, this time with the Los Angeles Angels, and has pitched 88 innings over the last two seasons with eight wins and 90 strikeouts. In July 2019, Cole combined with Felix Pena to pitch a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners in a game honoring teammate and fellow pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ recent death.
Seasons at BYU: 1983-86
Seasons in MLB: 1 (1991)
Position: Third baseman
Team: Houston Astros
Cooper broke through with the Astros in 1991, playing nine games at third base and as a pinch hitter. He totaled four hits, three walks and two RBI for Houston, who finished last in the NL West that season but featured future All-Stars Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Kenny Lofton and Ken Caminiti. Cooper would later play in several triple-A all-star games before retiring in 1995.
Seasons at BYU: 1967-69
Seasons in MLB: 2 (1975-76)
Team: Chicago Cubs
A Provo native, Crosby was drafted in the 10th round by the New York Yankees but made his big league debut six years later in 1975 with the Chicago Cubs. Crosby appeared in 16 games over two seasons, going 1-0 with an 8.41 ERA in 20 innings of work.
Seasons at BYU: 1987-89
Seasons in MLB: 2 (1993, 95)
Teams: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted by Detroit in the eighth round of the 1989 draft, DeSilva pitched one inning for the Tigers in 1993 before being traded to the Dodgers where he made three more appearances that season. DeSilva then moved on to Baltimore and earned his first win in 1995. DeSilva continued his career in the minors before retiring in 2001.
Seasons at BYU: 1998
Seasons in MLB: 13 (2004-15, 17)
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals
Guthrie pitched one season for the Cougars in 1998 before serving a mission and then transferring to Stanford. He was drafted 22nd overall in the 2002 draft and debuted just two seasons later. He went on to win 91 games and collect 1,046 strikeouts with five different teams. He was the staff ace for Baltimore in 2008 before pitching for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In 2014, he played in his first postseason and made two starts in the World Series which he and the Royals lost in seven games. The next year Kansas City won the title with Guthrie contributing in 30 games on the year, earning the win in eight.
Seasons at BYU: 1991-93
Seasons in MLB: 1 (1996)
Team: California Angels
Hancock made 11 appearances for the Angels in 1996, pitching 27.2 innings with 19 strikeouts and a 4-1 record. In his second career appearance against the Indians, he not only earned the win pitching 2.2 scoreless innings, he also had a hit and scored a run of his own.
Seasons at BYU: 2013
Seasons in MLB: 1 (2017)
Team: Seattle Mariners
After one All-American season with the Cougars, Hannemann was selected in the third round of the draft by the Chicago Cubs. After being waived by the Cubs, he was picked up by the Mariners and subsequently made his major league debut with the team, playing in 11 games during the 2017 season.
Seasons at BYU: 1968-70
Seasons in MLB: 5 (1972-76)
Teams: California Angels, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians
In 1970, Howard was drafted in both the eighth round of the MLB Draft by the California Angels and in the 11th round of the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, choosing baseball. He became the first Cougar position player to play in the MLB when he made his debut in 1972 with the Angels. He competed in 97 games over the next five seasons with three different teams, batting .212 in his career.
Seasons at BYU: 1969-71
Seasons in MLB: 10 (1977-86)
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, Saint Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres
Iorg was a two-time World Series champion, once with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and again with the Kansas City Royals in 1985 when he had the game-winning hit in game seven. Iorg broke through to the majors in 1977 with Philadelphia before being traded that same year to St. Louis. He hit a career-best .327 in 1981 and finished with a career batting average of .276 in 10 years of major league play.
Seasons at BYU: 1999
Seasons in MLB: 1 (2003)
Team: Anaheim Angels
Four years after being drafted in the 19th round, Johnson was called up by the Anaheim Angels in 2003, the year after Anaheim won the World Series. He hit a double in front of a sold-out crowd against the Boston Red Sox in his first career at bat, then added a single and scored the first run of the game in the fifth inning in the Angels’ 3-1 victory. He played four more games before returning to the minors.
Seasons at BYU: 1981-83
Seasons in MLB: 16 (1986-01)
Position: First baseman
Teams: California/Anaheim Angels, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves
Following his All-American junior season, Joyner was picked in the third round by the California Angels. Three years later, the left-hander burst onto the Major League Baseball stage for the Angels, not only starting for the club but also for the American League in the 1986 All-Star Game where he tied for first in the Home Run Derby. He would also finish runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award.
Joyner would go on to play 16 seasons in the majors, reaching the postseason four times, including the 1998 World Series with the Padres after hitting .313 against his hometown Braves to win the NL pennant. He led the American League twice and the National League twice in fielding percentage at first base, finishing his career with a .994 fielding percentage. Joyner retired in 2001 after totaling a .289 batting average with 2,060 hits (including 409 doubles, 26 triples and 204 home runs), 973 runs, 1,106 RBI and 833 walks in 2,033 games played.
Following his playing days, Joyner was a coach for nine years, first as a hitting coach and instructor with the San Diego Padres, a hitting and first base coach with the Philadelphia Phillies and then as the Detroit Tigers hitting coach.
Seasons at BYU: 1975-78
Seasons in MLB: 11 (1980-89, 91)
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics
Despite not being drafted until the 39th round of the 1978 by Pittsburgh, Law went on to become an MLB All-Star and play 11 seasons with five teams. His best season came in 1988 when he hit .293 with 163 hits and 78 RBI, joining five of his Cubs teammates on the All-Star squad. Law holds an AL record for the longest errorless game by a third baseman when he played all 25 innings of the longest game in NL history. He also pitched in seven games in emergency relief with a 3.38 career ERA in eight innings.
Law later became the head coach at BYU from 2000-12 before coaching in the minors with the White Sox and Indians. His father is Cy Young Award winner, All-Star and former BYU assistant coach Vern Law.
Seasons at BYU: 1975-76
Seasons in MLB: 18 (1977-94)
Teams: Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians
A National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 2018, Morris was a four-time World Series winner, a five-time All-Star, a World Series MVP and the author of what is possibly the greatest Game 7 World Series pitching performance of all-time.
A fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1976, Morris was in the majors a year later. In his 18-year career, Morris posted a 254-186 record, including a big league best 162 wins in the 1980s and 515 consecutive starts – an AL record at the time of his retirement.
In 1981 he led the American League with 14 wins, finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting. Then in 1983, Morris won 20 games and again finished third in the Cy Young vote, setting the stage for the Tigers’ championship season in 1984. Morris pitched a no-hitter on April 7 of that year, and the Tigers bolted to a 35-5 start – the best in baseball history. Morris finished the season with a record of 19-11, and the Tigers lost only one game in the postseason – Morris won three – to roll to the World Series title.
Morris remained with the Tigers for six more seasons, winning 21 games in 1986 and leading Detroit to the AL East title in 1987. Following the 1990 season, he signed a free agent deal with the Minnesota Twins – who had finished in last place in the AL West in 1990.
In 1991, Morris went 18-12 with an AL-best 35 starts to help the Twins win the division title. In the playoffs, he won two games against Toronto in the ALCS, then took the ball in Games 1 and 4 of the World Series against the Braves, earning a win and a no-decision.
When Kirby Puckett’s 11th-inning home run in Game 6 forced Game 7, Morris was in line for his third start of the Fall Classic. Morris and Braves starter John Smoltz each allowed no runs to score through seven innings. Smoltz, then 24, was relieved during the eighth inning. But Morris, 36, refused to come out of the game – even when the Braves put runners on second and third with no outs in the eighth.
Morris pitched out of that jam, then faced the minimum six batters in the ninth and 10th before Gene Larkin’s single scored Dan Gladden to win the game. In an announcement that virtually made itself, Morris was named the World Series Most Valuable Player. Morris’ final line for Game 7: 10 innings pitched, seven hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
Morris left the Twins after the World Series, signing a free agent contract with the Blue Jays. The next season, 1992, saw Morris post a career-best record of 21-6 while helping the Blue Jays win their first World Series.
Arm troubles slowed him down in 1993 (a year the Blue Jays won the World Series again) and 1994, and he retired in 1995. His 18 seasons in the big leagues are the most of any BYU player.
Seasons at BYU: 1977-78, 81-83
Seasons in MLB: 4 (1986-89)
Teams: New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox
Nielsen went 9-11 with 38 appearances and 18 starts in his MLB career, collecting 47 strikeouts. He began his career with the Yankees in 1986, posting a 4.02 ERA and winning four games in 10 appearances. He pitched a career-high 66.1 innings in 1987 with the White Sox before finishing his career with two more seasons in New York.
Seasons at BYU: 1963-64
Seasons in MLB: 3 (1968-70)
Teams: Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres
After signing a free agent deal in 1965, Nyman made the big leagues in 1968 with the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first former Cougar player to reach the majors. Nyman pitched with the club for two seasons before playing with the San Diego Padres in 1970. In his first career start and second appearance he pitched a complete game shutout against Mickey Mantle and the Yankees. In 1969, Nyman one-hit the Washington Senators and hit a three-run double in Chicago’s 6-0 victory. Nyman went on to coach many years in the minor leagues after his playing career.
Seasons at BYU: 1978-80
Seasons in MLB: 1 (1983)
Team: Kansas City Royals
Pastornicky played in 10 games for Kansas City in 1983, three years after being selected by the Royals in the eighth round. He hit two homers, including a three-run game-winner in the seventh inning in a contest against Seattle. Pastornicky then spent three more years in the minors before ending his career in 1986.
Seasons at BYU: 1984
Seasons in MLB: 4 (1987-88, 91-92)
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Ritchie totaled 147 games as a relief pitcher for Philadelphia, posting a career 3.14 ERA, 98 strikeouts and a 6-5 record with four saves. Ritchie made his debut in 1987 and pitched the next two seasons, then spent two years in the minors before being called up again to play for the Phillies in 1991 and 1992.
Seasons at BYU: 12013-16
Seasons in MLB: 1 (2021-)
Team: Chicago Cubs
Rucker made his MLB debut on July 30 against the Washington Nationals, recording a strikeout and giving up two hits in two innings for the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in 20 games during the 2021 season, collecting a save and striking out 20 batters in 28.1 innings pitched.
Seasons at BYU: 1982-84
Seasons in MLB: 9 (1986-94)
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers
Snyder racked up 902 hits, including 149 home runs, and 488 RBI in a nine-year career. He played at every position but pitcher and catcher with the majority of time in right field. He finished top 10 in the league in home runs twice, including 33 homers in 1987, his second season in the majors. Snyder also had one of the best arms in the league, finishing among the top outfielders in assists multiple years.
Seasons at BYU: 1983-86
Seasons in MLB: 1 (1990)
Team: Cleveland Indians
Ward joined Cleveland in 1989 after being taken in the 11th round of the 1986 MLB Draft by the California Angels. He threw 36 innings in 22 games in relief for the Indians in his lone MLB season in 1990, posting a 4.25 ERA and 1-3 record with one save. His win came over the Texas Rangers in a game where teammate Cory Snyder, a former BYU teammate, went 3-for-3 for Cleveland.
Other Major Leaguers with BYU ties:
- Danny Ainge: Played three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1979-81 while also playing basketball at BYU from 1977-81. Ainge played in 211 games and was a .220 hitter after being selected in the 15th round of the 1977 draft. However, he was named the consensus National Player of the Year in basketball and left baseball after being drafted 31st by the Boston Celtics in 1981. He has since won three NBA championships as a player and executive.
- McKay Christensen: Played four seasons with three teams. Christensen was committed to BYU on a football scholarship and possibly to play baseball while on a church mission but was drafted sixth in the 1994 draft. Fought through injuries and trades to bat .250 and play in the outfield before retiring in 2004.
- Jim Gott: Played 14 seasons with four teams from 1982-95. Gott committed to play football and baseball at BYU but chose to go pro after being selected in the fourth round of the 1977 draft. His brother Erich played golf at BYU from 1975-79. He won 56 games and collected 91 saves in his career. In the offseason, he often came to Provo and trained with BYU pitching coach Bob Noel. Gott also taught Dennis Quaid to pitch for his portrayal of Jim Morris in the 2002 film The Rookie and is currently the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen coach.
- Ken Hubbs: Played three seasons from 1961-63 with the Chicago Cubs before tragically dying in a plane crash. Hubbs was the NL Rookie of the Year and won a Gold Glove. He was likely going to play at BYU before being offered a pro contract and afterwards came to Provo to take classes. He passed away when the plane he was flying crashed in Utah Lake in a snowstorm.
- Ken Hunt: Played one season in 1961 with the Cincinnati Reds. Hunt spent a year at BYU on scholarship with the basketball and baseball programs but never played. He later earned a degree in 1983. Hunt won the National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year as the Reds claimed the 1961 NL pennant and lost to the Yankees in the World Series. He made one appearance in the series, pitching the ninth inning in the fifth and final game, getting three outs and giving up a walk to Roger Maris. Hunt had a 9-10 record and 3.96 ERA in his career.
- Bart Johnson: Played eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Johnson played freshman basketball at BYU during the 1967-68 season before choosing baseball. He played with fellow Cougar Jerry Nyman in 1969. Johnson won 43 games with 17 saves and 520 strikeouts in his career.
- Mike Lum: Played 15 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. Lum attended BYU, allegedly with the football team, in 1963 after his first season in the minors earlier that spring, then focused on baseball from then on. He broke into the majors in 1967, becoming Atlanta's starting center fielder. Lum hit three home runs in a game in 1970 and played in the game Hank Aaron became the league home run leader. The first Japanese-American in MLB history, Lum won a World Series in 1976 with the Reds. He batted .247 with 877 hits, including 90 home runs, in his career. He has since worked with numerous MLB organizations as a hitting coach, including helping Michael Jordan during his stint in the White Sox farm system.
- Dale Murphy: Played 18 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies. Murphy was drafted fifth in the 1974 draft straight out of high school but attended BYU over multiple offseasons. He is a two-time NL MVP, seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner and twice led the National League in home runs and RBI. His jersey number 3 was retired by the Braves in 1994 and he is a member of both the Oregon Sports and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame. He has also won numerous sportsmanship and character awards, including an induction in the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He finished his career with 398 home runs, 2,111 hits, 1,197 runs and 1,266 RBI with a .265 batting average.