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

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

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.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

https://twitter.com/baseballhall/status/821855144681897988


Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.