Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SPORTS >> Brown’s road finally leads home

Leader sports editor

A homecoming of sorts, Jeremy Brown took a long and winding road through college baseball, professional baseball and college basketball, and has ended up back at home as the new head baseball coach at North Pulaski High School.

Brown, a Sylvan Hills graduate, where he was a highly touted basketball prospect, as well as a late-blooming baseball star who was drafted by the New York Mets at the end of his senior season, now has the opportunity to put to good use the things he learned in his unusual career.

“I learned a great deal from playing professional ball,” Brown said. “I also learned a lot from coach Tipton and the coaches at Pratt. But from hitting to fielding, everything is on another level in pro ball, not just from high school but even from college. It’s very intense.”

Oddly, Brown did not even apply for the position. After graduating from Missouri-St. Louis in December, Brown began searching for openings near home. He heard about an opening at Mills, but was too late. He found out that former NP coach Raymond Cooper had been hired for the job, so he applied for the opening left by Cooper.

With no official coaching experience, he didn’t get the job, but was asked to come in as the head ninth-grade boys basketball coach.

“I said I’ll take that any day of the week,” Brown said. “I had no complaints, that was really a true blessing.”

There was also an opening as assistant baseball coach to Jay Darr, which Brown also readily accepted. A little more than a week later, Darr resigned to fill an opening at Hot Springs Lakeside, and Brown was offered the job as head baseball coach.

“I thought that’s even better,” Brown said.

Now, as a head high school coach at one of the higher classifications, Brown is confident, and he partly has his players to thank for that.

“When I met with the players, I had them fill out a questionnaire,” Brown said. “Some of the responses I got were very exciting for me. Some of the things they said tells me that the kids are ready to go to work.”

Brown talked about one answer in particular. That of returning shortstop and pitcher Alex Broadwell. Brown pulled out the questionnaire and quoted Broadwell.

“I want to come in next year not feeling the losing atmosphere. The past two years have been pretty bad. I want to come in ready to play.”

Brown explained what that comment meant to him.

“When I see stuff like that it’s exciting,” Brown said. “He said he wants to ‘come in’ ready to play. I had other comments like that. That tells me a lot of these are going to be willing to work. They’re ready to change things at North Pulaski.”

Brown has already been at the ball park this year watching Gwatney Chevrolet’s junior American Legion team, where several of his players are playing. He wants to send the message that he cares about it as much as their answers on the forms showed him they care.

“That’s as important as anything,” Brown said. “Showing those guys you care. As long as those guys are out there playing, I’ll be there. I don’t care if they’re 2-50, or 50-1, if you show me you want to play and want to improve, I’ll show you that you can depend on me to help you.”