It’s a big week for some Minor Leaguers who find themselves on the bubble. They didn’t make it onto their respective organizations’ 40-man rosters and so they will wait on Thursday morning to see if their names are called in the annual Rule 5 draft.
And there are some players with a pretty impressive string of accomplishments on that list, including Cleveland Indians first baseman/outfielder Jordan Brown.
How many players can boast that in their first two full seasons they walked away with the respective leagues’ Most Valuable Player honors? Brown did, winning in the Carolina League in 2006 and again in the Eastern League in 2007.
But despite all of that, Brown did not make it on to the Indians’ 40-man roster so he wait with hundreds of other eligibles and probably tunes into the live online broadcast online at MLB.com at 9 a m. Vegas time, to see if one of the other 29 organizations can use a first baseman who can play some outfield, hit for high average, play hard and bring a sense of humor to the clubhouse, an asset you’d be surprised to discover just how important it is.
You can get a taste of that wit by checking out the regular journal Brown kept for MLB.com during the 2008 season.
GotMiLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Brown: Off the field, I would have to say the birth of my son (born during the 2008 season), without a doubt. Being able to have a family is a whole different aspect of life. On the field, I would say winning my league’s MVP two years in a row. Not a lot of people have done that so I take it to heart. It shows how hard I work and try to make adjustments.
GotMiLB: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Brown: Last year I went to St. John’s and Hawaii and had two legit tropical vacations. My wife got these unbelievable deals through the hospitality network at her job. I know I’ve done a lot of cool stuff but that really sticks out.
GotMiLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
Brown: I’d be working doing something in communications that encompasses sports. I’d love to work for ESPN or Fox Sports or something.
GotMiLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
Brown: I love poker. I’m really competitive so most of my hobbies stem from competition. I love playing basketball but I can’t really do that much because if I hurt myself it would hurt my career. I don’t want anyone to think baseball isn’t my number one priority.
GotMiLB: What one item have you found you cannot live without on the road?
Brown: My iPod. When I’m feeling bad it makes me feel better, when I’m feeling good I feel that much better.
GotMiLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
Brown: For some reason, I’m really good with kids. I can make little kids laugh.
GotMiLB: Complete this sentence: It would surprise people to know …
Brown: That my upper body is twice as large as my lower body. … (Brown called GotMiLB back a few days later while driving to the airport to pick up his wife and son, after he was rocking out to Natasha Bedingfield on radio to change his answer to) “I love chick music!”
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
Brown: Dealing with it year in and year out. Getting up to play every day, knowing you’re in the minor leagues and understanding that. When you come in and look at the scorecard and you’re playing the same team over and over again and facing a pitcher who just isn’t that good, the most challenging thing is to constantly get motivated.
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors has surprised you the most, in comparison to what you might have imagined before you turned pro?
Brown: I figured there would be more prima donnas but there really aren’t. I thought there would be more people who thought they should be given the world.
GotMiLB: What is the biggest misperception that people outside of baseball have about life in the minors?
Brown: That we don’t view ourselves as professionals. Everyone who’s in the big leagues had to come through the minors at some point. It’s still a demanding job with a tough schedule and you’re getting paid for it.
GotMiLB: Who is the most unusual character you’ve met in your pro baseball career?
Brown: (Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman/outfielder) Steve Pearce. Every time I see him and every time we talk he has like a split personality. The thing I like most about him is he doesn’t take himself too seriously even though he could because he is very, very talented. He says the most outlandish stuff.
GotMiLB: Which coach/manager have you had that you think should be in the big leagues?
Brown: I think Mike Sarbaugh, Tim Bogar and Torey Lovullo all have big league characteristics. Torey and Mike are players’ managers who will be in the big leagues for sure. You know they have your backs. Bogar is already in the bigs (a coach with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, he was recently hired to serve as the 2009 first base coach for the Boston Red Sox).
GotMiLB: What is the one question you hope you never hear again?
Brown: What’s it like living in Trevor Crowe’s shadow? (Crowe, the Indians’ first-round pick in 2005, is Brown’s best friend, his roommate for most of college at Arizona and throughout the Minors when they’ve been teammates. In the picture below, that’s Brown on the lower right and Crowe on the top right).
GotMiLB: If you were commissioner for a day, which one rule would you change?
Brown: As a hitter I hate the checked swing, because the rule is so vague. I’d like it to be clarified as to whether or not your hands break.
GotMiLB: Where have you played in the Minors?
Brown: Mahoning Valley, Oh.; Kinston, N.C.; Akron, Oh.; Buffalo, N.Y.
GotMiLB: On your current or most recent club (Buffalo), what was your favorite thing about playing there? And is there anything you would change?
Brown: My favorite thing was being so close to Niagara Falls. If I could change something I’d put a dome up.
GotMiLB: Favorite restaurant there? If family or friends were coming in to visit, where would you take them on a day off? Prima Pizza Pasta, a little joint in downtown Buffalo. I’d take them to Niagara Falls and the casinos there.
GotMiLB: What is your favorite place to eat on the road?
Brown: If you can find Chipotle that’s right up my alley because I can always get a big burrito and eat half of it later instead of the spread.
GotMiLB: What has been your least favorite visiting act or promotion?
Brown: Bark in the Park because they bark too loud and it smells bad. If you’re a player and you’re trying to hit and you have a Chihuahua that won’t shut up when you’re batting it’s annoying.
Now that I have managed to conquer my techno-dinosaurism and not only go high-speed but also learn how to scan pictures (!), I have spent what little free time I’ve had in the last few days having a scanning party. The first box to get uploaded into my laptop was that of all my old baseball pictures.
So for the next several weeks, we’re going to have some occasional fun here (not like my blog isn’t ALWAYS fun, right?) and play “Name That Ballplayer.”
I’m going to post some old pix of teams or groups of players and let’s see who can ID any or all of them. We could call this a game, or we could call it “help Lisa figure out who some of these guys are, please!” Or a little of both.
Actually with this first picture we’ve managed to identify (we think) all but two players, and even those two I THINK I know who they are but am not 100 percent sure. But I also think it would be neat to see how many people out there can identify the most players in this picture.
The winner will get some sort of prize. I haven’t figured out what it will be yet.
This is a picture taken by the amazing Barbara Jean Germano, one of the greatest baseball photographers I’ve ever met (and one of my favorite people ever … and I know that this opinion is shared by just about everyone who knows her). It was shot in September 1997, in Buffalo, a few hours before Game 2 of what would be the final Triple-A American Association championship series (the next year the three leagues realigned into two).
Buffalo Bisons (Indians) manager Brian Graham (hint: he is in the picture) gathered several of the players on hand into a group shot with me (the crutches I was getting around on after a severe ankle sprain falling down a few stairs are NOT in the picture). The team would go on to sweep the series in three games from the Iowa Cubs.
This 1997 Buffalo team is one of my all-time favorite teams and this picture is one of my most cherished memories, ankle injury notwithstanding.
How many of the players can you name? HINT: five of them are currently in the Major Leagues as of June 12.
ETA: And along with the five current big league players, one other is a big league coach. BONUS POINTS if you can ID him.
REQUEST: The two players we’re not 100 percent sure of (and when I say “we” I’ve put my head together with BJ Germano and long-time Bisons beat writer Mike Harrington whose awesome Bisons blog you can read here)) are the player two to the right of me in the front (with a black glove) and the player whose head is directly to the right of HIM. I THINK I know who they are but am not positive so if you can ID either one you get additional bonus points.
ETA JUNE 18 (and by the way, happy Paul McCartney’s Birthday to you all! Why yes, it IS a national holiday!) … gotta officially cancel the “contest” aspect of this now since the IDs are up online but it’s still fun to take this walk down memory lane, isn’t it???)