He is always to take the day’s assigned position and play ball. “Once the lights turn on it’s pretty easy. It comes natural to me.”
The Mississippi State senior certainly can make it all look natural. Wherever he happens to be looking-in from that is. So far Brown has started, let’s see: 15 games in leftfield, 14 at second base, nine more at first base and once at third.
If variety is the spice of baseball life, Cody Brown is having a habanero-type senior season. The spicier aspect to him though is just being in the lineup full-time and at-last. He just surpassed his previous high for starts, 38 in 2015; much more the 30 starts of last season.
“It’s awesome. My last season here, I wanted to be an every-day guy. Being able to be that for this ball club and for Coach Cannizaro has been awesome, playing every day wherever it is.”
Andy Cannizaro knows he can play Brown all over the yard. Lately it has been in leftfield with those 15-straight starts over to that side. Of course outfield, typically right-side, was his primary position the first three Mississippi State seasons.
Then for two months of ’17 Brown was settled as an infielder, mostly over on the right side again. Now here he is back in the back pasture of ballyards, and fitting just fine. “I joke with our coaches every now and then, it’s just like riding a bike. Just get back out there and doing it,” Brown said. “I feel I’ve settled in out there.”
Brown might not want to get too settled. Losing Hunter Stovall for at least a couple of weekends with a hand injury might shuffle Brown to second base again, Cannizaro said. Or not. Brown isn’t bothered by such uncertainty since he’s sure his name is on the lineup card. Somewhere.
“Wherever I’m at I feel comfortable. That starts at practice and getting comfortable whether it’s fielding ground ball or taking fly balls off the machine, anything like that.”
That ‘anything’ thrills his coach. “Cody has been phenomenal for us this year,” Cannizaro said. “He has played so many different positions, he’s hit in so many different spots in the batting order. He’s stayed aggressive and is using the field, he’s hitting home runs to dead-center, he’s pulled balls. He’s hit opposite field home runs. We love having him hit in the four-hole for us.”
Ahhh, yes. The fourth slot in the Bulldog batting order. It’s been written before (“Old Dog Brown Likes New Tricks”) here how the 5-11, 197-pound Brown doesn’t fit the image of a ‘cleanup’ hitter. Then again this is an order with the best slugger in the league and likely land swinging second.
So…why not? Besides, as the coach notes, Brown can put a charge in a pitch as his six homers this season (more than the five in his previous three years) proves. But Brown’s forte is contact and speed which contributes to the current .326 average. Yes, that’s another career-high as Brown clearly has saved his best for last.
He also changes the look as Cannizaro can alternate swing-sides now in the top-four of the order. “Switching the sides of the plate on a pitcher like that, it kind of messes with the gameplan a little bit,” lefty Brown said. “Especially going from left-right-right-left is kind of different on a pitcher.”
Yes. Jake Mangum leads off mostly, and especially since his left-hand injury, from the left box; then Brent Rooker and Ryan Gridley take big cuts on the right side before Brown steps in.
“From a psychological standpoint it can have an effect on the pitcher there. Especially being in the four-hole with one out all I’ve got to do is pull a ground ball into the four-hole and we could possibly score a run.” Notice, again, a clean-up batter talking about pulling a grounder and not going for a fence.
“So there’s an advantage there mentally and physically. I like hitting there and I get a lot of opportunities. So it’s really cool.”
What has been cool for the club is leading the league standings. But the hottest squad in the SEC took a big bucket of cold water over the weekend, dropping the Auburn series and falling back into a three-team tie for top spot.
The first lost weekend after winning five-straight series could shock some systems. Brown said he’s seen no such signs at practices. “Just pretty light-hearted, honestly. You know, we’ve been here before.” As in beginning SEC season by getting swept at Arkansas, he means.
“After that we kind of turned it around obviously.” So, Brown figures another setback shouldn’t sink the squad.
“Everyone has taken it to heart but not let it eat at them. I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind we can go out there and still win a series. We’re still going to be the same team we’ve been all year.”
That team has won on the SEC road as well. This week at Texas A&M is another such opportunity and a more interesting one than usual. Brown is among the few elder Dogs to have experienced Blue Bell Park and the passionate Aggie fans. That’s a good thing Brown advises all the younger and newer teammates.
“I told them it’s going to be a great atmosphere the entire weekend. Pretty much the fans are right on top of you and looking in your dugout, seeing everything you’re doing. They heckle the **** out of you and it gets pretty rowdy down there! But it’s pretty fun, it’s a really great place to play on the road.”
A great opportunity for the Bulldogs as well. Every May game takes on more perceived importance as seven, count ‘em, seven teams today are legitimate challengers for the SEC championship. Brown and other veteran Dogs know how this stretch run goes of course. They emerged as the 2016 champs after all.
So, Brown knows the script for late-season road trips. “Going there and getting two, three dubs is what we’re about. We’ve played in plenty of hostile environments so far and I think we’re ready for it.”