Baseball has always been an integral part of Will Brooks’ life. His dad was a high school baseball coach, and being from New Hampshire, there was no shortage of stellar athletes for Brooks to idolize. He considers himself fortunate to have grown up in the New England area.
“[I] was watching Tom Brady and [saw] how good of an athlete he was,” he explained. “I learned a lot about doing whatever it takes to win and trying to support your teammates… something that Tom Brady was just phenomenal at.” He also credits his start in baseball to his upbringing in New England. “I was a huge [Boston] Red Sox fan… that [got me] interested in the sport.”
His experience playing catcher with the Varsity Blues baseball team had a modest start. “When I was younger… I just loved tossing on the [catcher’s] gear… and it just kind of stuck.”
From New England to Toronto
Brooks played soccer and baseball throughout high school, but his love for baseball persisted as he elected to continue playing at the postsecondary level. As a dual US-Canada citizen, he knew early on that he would attend university in Canada. He contacted Mike Didier, U of T’s head coach at the time, and eventually earned a spot with the Blues.
Brooks excelled athletically and academically in his undergraduate years at U of T. Initially starting in life sciences with hopes of attending medical school, he switched gears to kinesiology after realizing the extent of his passion for athletics. Through his experience as an athlete, Brooks’ interests shifted to physiotherapy and strength and conditioning coaching. He found that the “off-season strength and conditioning program was instrumental to making [him] the player that [he] was.”
Brooks’ success is reflected in his lengthy list of achievements, which includes the George M. Biggs Trophy, Hill Powell Award, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Academic Achievement Award, and Dean’s Student Leadership Award. He also worked as a student athletic therapist for the Blues’ track and field and football teams.
Brooks is currently in the first year of his Masters in Professional Kinesiology, hoping to concentrate on high-performance strength and conditioning. He expressed a desire to give back to the community that shaped him into who he is today: “I wanted to find a way to impact young players the same way that the great strength and conditioning coaches here at U of T had affected my career.”
A Blues dynasty
Success didn’t always come easily for the Blues baseball team. During Brooks’ first year, they came close to winning the OUA Championship, only to fall against the Laurier Golden Hawks in the title game. The next year, they suffered an early elimination from the playoffs.
However, during the 2021 season, the team knew they had what it took to win. “Our goal from day one was just… to put our head[s] down and play up to our potential,” he said. The team went undefeated and brought home the title — a classic example of how resilience, determination, and hard work always pay off.
“That was just such an amazing memory,” Brooks said, reminiscing on that magnificent season. “Our goal was always to win a championship together.”
Entering the dugout
After taking on a high school coaching job last summer, Brooks decided that even though he could no longer participate as a Varsity Blues player, his baseball career wasn’t over yet. “Just being involved with the game of baseball… is something I want to do in the long term,” he said. “Coach [Andrew] Needles, who is the head coach now, gave me the opportunity to be a part of the team and work as [sort of] a graduate assistant coach… to learn from the coaching staff.”
In this role, Brooks continues to work closely with the program. “Coaching makes you think about the game in a different way than if you were a player. I love still being able to be a part of the game even though I’m not playing anymore.” His dream? To work in Major League Baseball in some capacity, whether as a strength and conditioning coach or as an on-field coach later on.
Working with the Blues team that won their second OUA Championship in three years on October 15, Brooks discussed aspects of student-athlete life that are not easy. “I remember some days, [I] would go to Goldring and have a 7:00 am lift, then class all day, and then practice after… Staying organized was something that was really important for me to be able to do. With U of T, school is no joke.”
His advice to current athletes: cherish your time here, and think about how you can positively impact the program that you’re involved with.
“I was always really proud to put on the University of Toronto uniform and don the T-leaf,” Brooks said. “It’s one of the best schools in Canada, one of the best schools in North America, and just to be here and be able to play a sport at a high level and get such a great education, it’s definitely not something I’ve taken for granted.”