Giants' Brown has leading-man skills, flair for comedy

Giants' Brown has leading-man skills, flair for comedy
March 6, 2012, 3:55 pm
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Center fielder Gary Brown stole 53 bases last year for Single-A San Jose. Hes known to score from first base on a single. Some scouts say he was the fastest right-handed collegiate hitter theyve ever clocked down the line.But yes, he can be caught from behind.We were 10 strokes down on the 10th hole, said Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. And we came all the way back.On a recent night this spring, Brown, Crawford and their significant others went to dinner. They took separate cars and agreed to meet up at a minigolf course. When Crawford arrived in the parking lot, he encountered quite a sight.
Brown was in full golf-dork outfit. He sported an ill-fitting polo with a red and black stripe motif across the stomach seemingly borrowed from a 1980s Atari video game. Brown matched it with unfashionably pleated black pants that were two inches too short. A bright blue visor completed the look.Browns girlfriend, Lindsay, had on plaid pants and a vest fit for a ladies luncheon at the country club.They went to a thrift store and picked out the worst golf clothes they could find, Crawford said, rolling his eyes. Didnt surprise me. Shes as goofy as he is.As for the choke job on the back nine?Well, Brown said, I really shouldnt blame my partnerRookies are supposed to be seen and not heard, and Brown is being as dutiful as possible as he enters his second big league camp. But his is a spirit that cant be bottled up.On a recent morning, Brown hustled through the clubhouse and walked past another speedy center fielder, Willie Mays. Most players are too intimidated to say anything to the Say Hey Kid, too awed by his regal presence and his status as the games greatest living player.Hey there Willie! Brown chirped, not slowing his pace.Brown is on a fast track, all right. The 23-year-old from Cal State Fullerton blitzed Cal League pitching for a .336 average in his first full pro season. He set a San Jose franchise record with 188 hits. Hes an easy call as the organizations top prospect. GM Brian Sabean steadfastly refused to deal him to the New York Mets last July for Carlos Beltran, sending top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, instead.RELATED: Gary Brown 2011 San Jose Giants stats
Brown is expected to patrol center field at AT&T Park for years to come. He might even make his major league debut at some point this season.Until then, hell continue to work seriously on the field and be not so serious off it.Once the game starts, its always about the next pitch, he said. The game is serious and so I get serious. But its too long a season not to have fun. So I like to laugh out there. I like to joke around out there with my outfielders or in the clubhouse. Im not the kind of guy who just likes to go out to dinner. Ive always got to be doing something.Or plotting something. Like the time last season when Brown caught San Jose teammate Craig Westcott taking pictures of guys while they were sleeping on a long bus ride.He thought it was funny, Brown said. I didnt find it too funny. I was cranky.So the next time Westcott fell asleep, Brown used athletic tape to wrap the pitcher to his seat.Oh, I was slick about it, Brown said, laughing. He woke up and it was, Unnnnhhhh! Ohhh, man, howd you guys do that? His feet got stuck and tangled up in the tape. We got him good.Im always an accomplice in one way or another, whether its giving the ideas or helping to pull the pranks. I get them pulled on me, too. Im kind of surprised, actually, that nobodys tried to get me yet here.He paused.Better not put that part in there.It was no laughing matter in October, though, when Brown went to the Arizona Fall League and started to feel sick after 11 games. Doctors took blood tests and diagnosed him with mononucleosis, but a second test ruled it out. Next they tested Brown for Valley Fever, a debilitating and long-lasting condition that can be contracted by the inhalation of mold spores. He was anxious for the results. Those came back negative, too.It was the flu, Brown said. By the time everyone figured it out, I had already missed a week and lost more weight. So they felt it was best to send me home for the offseason.Brown started last season at 190 pounds and ended it at 170.So yes, his first full pro season was a physical test. Its always a mental one, too, and Brown felt good about the way he handled it especially when he started to slump in June.It may not start in your head, but it ends in your head, Brown said. Thats what I was most proud of, that I was able to stay calm and beat those demons, those nightmares about hitting, to constantly be worried about your swing and fidgeting around all the time. I was happy I was able to stay calm, stay focused and get out of it.His manager at San Jose, Andy Skeels, remembered it this way:He came out like gangbusters, then the league started adjusting to him. It took him awhile to find his bearings, but when he did that, he killed the league the last two months.What impressed me was ability to work on a daily basis to get better and really attack things he was trying to work on. His work ethic is good and hes focused when he works. Hes a SoCal kid, you know? He can fool you because hes so easy going. But his approach and attitude are great. When he works he applies himself.And he competes. A lot of guys have talent, but you wonder, Will he show up every day? And he certainly did. That to me weighs very favorably and heavily on whether hell have what it takes to succeed at the major league level.Brown has an unusual setup in the batters box. His hands are pinned close to his body, giving the appearance that he wont be able to cover the outer part of the plate.But its about where you are at the point of contact, Brown said. Youll see guys do a lot of different stuff but they usually end up very similar when theyre about to hit the ball. So thats what works for me. Its a comfort thing.Brown hopes to get more comfortable against higher-level pitching, whether he starts at Double-A Richmond or Triple-A Fresno. He is willing to do anything to get on base he was hit by pitches a whopping 23 times last year but as a leadoff man, he knows hell have to take more walks.Its just trusting my strike zone and staying within myself, which is hard thing to do, he said. Ive got to trust that the umpire sees the pitch the same way I do. Thats tough for a player. Ive been taught to swing and its going to be something Ive got to work on, adjusting to the zone and these pitchers and not let them take me away from my game.There are bound to be times when the game gets away from you, though. Especially if the game includes windmills and giant gingerbread houses -- or Crawfords wife, Jalynne, making a clutch hole-in-one on No.18.Yes, he can be caught from behind in minigolf, Crawford said. Thats the only way, I think.

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