Raised To Play Ball

He played before he walked, now freshman recruit Gary Brown has college national championship hopes

Nineteen-year-old Gary Brown isn't the average high school player the Cal State Fullerton baseball team recruited this season.

Gary headlined this year's class when he turned down professional contracts in the major leagues to join the Titans.

From Diamond Bar High School, Gary was taken in the twelfth round by the Oakland A's, but opted to play college ball first.

"It was my best and worst memory of my baseball career," Gary said. "Getting drafted was really exciting. I dropped out of Cal State Fullerton, bought my plane ticket and was ready to go to Arizona. It was a very hectic week."

Daily TitanHowever, Gary decided that college was the best route in pursuing a baseball career and Cal State Fullerton was always his first choice.

Gary starting playing baseball when he was four-years-old in T-ball. He also played football and soccer throughout his life but as he entered high school, Gary started playing travel baseball with teams like the Walnut Yankees, San Diego Cobras and Orange County Renegades.

Rich Gonzalez was his coach at Diamond Bar High School. Gonzales is a former Titan baseball player and graduated in 1990. He describes Gary's athletic ability as "outstanding" and not a typical athlete.

"He has an inner drive that very few people have," Gonzalez said. "He always strives to be better than the person next to him and the person he's playing. He's a good kid, very respectful and respects the game."

Gary's jersey was retired after his senior year. He received numerous MVP of the Week Awards and played on CIF all-star teams.

"In my 11 years of coaching, I've never seen a batting average of .612," Gonzalez said. "We had to do the math twice to make sure we were right."

Gary can also thank genetics for being a great athlete.

"Both my parents played ball," Gary said. "My mom played softball and my dad played baseball. It's in my blood and meant to be."

Troy Brown, Gary's father, played a big role in Gary's baseball career as a coach and as a "drill sergeant."

"Before he could even walk and and lift himself up, I would roll him a ball and he would roll it back," Troy said. "I raised him to be a ball player and he was years ahead of himself, even in T-ball ... I taught him everything I could teach him."

Troy also adds that Gary could not get enough of the sport.

"We worked out every day and took it to another level," Troy said. " I used to throw him golf balls and he would have to hit it with a broomstick handle. It was great for his hand and eye coordination."

Gary is very energetic on the field and his teammates say that he has only one speed, and that's full. But both on and off the field, he likes to laugh and have a good time while being serious and motivated.

"I came to win a national championship," Gary said. "I set my goals really high. I want to bat over .400, steal over 40 bags, and play for the national team and all American [team]."

But according to his father, Gary doesn't keep track of his own numbers.

"He's not interested in himself," Troy said. "He cares about the win more than anything."

Head Coach Dave Serrano is excited to have Gary on his team. He said Gary's intensity is always "pedal to the medal."

"Gary is a very exciting player ... his ability is going to bring a lot to this team," Serrano said. "He is very energetic and brings an energy and upbeat tempo [to the team]. Our job [as coaches] is to slow him down to the speed of the game."

Gary agrees that college is different than high school, and said it's "a bigger stage."

"Competition is a lot better and there is a lot more pressure. Instead of having a couple of guys being good on a team, the whole team is good [in college]," Gary said.

Serrano defiantly sees Gary as a "true freshmen."

"His future [on the team] is to become more of a catalytic player," Serrano said. "I see him at the top of the batting order and either second base or outfield; But overall, his future is in the infield."

During the summer, Gary will be playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL). It is an amateur baseball league located in Massachusetts, in which many college baseball players play and improve during the summer. Because it draws top-tier college players, the level of play is often considered the equivalent of high-A Minor League Baseball. Baseball America also named Gary along with teammate Christian Colon "high-impact athletes" and the Titans' top two recruits.

Gary is a big fan of the Anaheim Angels and his favorite players include Jose Reyes of the New York Mets, Eric Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.

As far as his career goals after college, Gary said he wouldn't mind playing for his favorite team but would love the opportunity to play for the New York Yankees.

Gary can't see himself doing anything else other than baseball. If Major League Baseball is not a career choice, he will take on a job as a coach or recruiter. Either way, baseball is his life.

"I love the game, and I play hard," Gary said.