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.
So I am taking a break from my “all chronological all the time” rule and checking in live and in person from the upper levels of the pressbox at Wrigley Field (or as the awesome Peoria Charter bus drivers called it “heaven” because we are SO high up) as the Chiefs “host” the Kane County Cougars at the first-ever Minor League game played here at Wrigley.
It’s also my first-ever trip to Wrigley. (And this extraordinarily cool picture is courtesy of Craig Watson Photography).
Not sure which is more historic a moment (I keed).
We had heard they pre-sold about 30,000 tickets and maybe a half-hour before gametime the stands were only about a quarter full, but by the time the game started the place was absolutely packed (though the famous rooftop seats across the street are all empty). Not sure how much the fact that the Peoria manager is Ryne Sandberg had to do with the turnout but as he said, Cubs fans are amazing and they are showing that here tonight.
Though I will admit the biggest cheer from the crowd came when they put up the “1” on the scoreboard in center field to let the fans know the Cubbies had taken a 1-0 lead over Milwaukee in the fourth inning of their game on the road.
Anyway, the stadium is very cool though it kind of smells like mothballs and reminds me of my grandmother’s apartment. The ivy is gorgeous (did you know that it was planted in 1937 by Bill Veeck?). I know it is supposed to hurt like hell when an outfielder runs into the wall but it looks so soft and bouncy!
Speaking of bouncy, keep an eye on Cubs second base prospect Josh Harrison, a sixth-round draft pick this past spring out of Cincinnati. What a great personality! We chatted with him for a bit for the video feature we did on the event (which will be up on the MLB site by tomorrow and I’ll come back and link it when it’s up) … he had JUST been called up to Peoria and hasn’t even played a game there yet, and now here he is at Wrigley Field! He said he felt like a kid on Christmas and his smile backed that up.
I also did a pre-game interview with Kane County/Oakland second base prospect Jemile Weeks, their first-round pick this past spring out of Miami (and Rickie’s younger brother). He was an excellent interview, thoughtful and insightful, but I feel like a total jinx now because as the leadoff hitter in the game he injured his leg (I think, maybe ankle?) and had to leave. I am really hoping it looked a lot worse than it was but I fear he may be out for awhile.
We also got to watch two guys who will undoubtedly show up in our 2009 Moniker Madness tournament of 64: Rebel Ridling and Petey Paramore.
So my trip to Chicago is short and sweet … flew in last night and fly back home tomorrow, at which point I will be on call like an ER intern ready to step up to the plate if more prospects get traded before the Thursday night deadline.
My next trip isn’t until August 18 when I head, along with most of the MiLB.com staff, to Troy, N.Y., for the New York-Penn League All-Star Game (and no, I don’t know why they have a short-season All-Star Game three weeks before the season ends so please don’t ask me).
That break in the travel action should give me enough time to catch up on my New York and Louisville retrospective and muse about other topics as well …
In the meantime, may I send out my very best wishes to Buffalo Bisons first baseman Jordan Brown and his lovely wife Mendy who will be momentarily, if they are not already, the proud parents of a bundle of joy named Damon Jamison Brown. I already sent them a tiny little GotMilb onesie. Mazel Tov, you three!!!