Brown Another Basketball Convert

It probably won't ever occur but should the Dodgers ever receive a basketball challenge they could field a pretty classy squad in response. You can start on the L.A. roster with Kenny Lofton, a star in the hoops sport at the University of Arizona. In the minors, there's Eric Stults and Casey Hoorelbeke, both having played the game in college before switching to baseball. Matt Kemp, as has often been recorded, was a high school standout back home in Oklahoma.

You can add Jeremy Brown to that list. He was more than good, making McDonalds All-American in high school. He played Division I hoops at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But it was there things started to sour for him. "I was having success on the court but, off- well, the coach and I just didn't get along at all."

It was generally quite a troubling time for Brown. His mother raised him in a single parent home although, "My dad didn't live too far away so I saw him a lot." But she died in his senior year of high school in Sylvan Hills, Ark. so Jeremy was very much a kid in search of home and guidance.

He couldn't play basketball for a year if he transferred so he searched for his answers in baseball, dropping out at Pine Bluff to play the diamond sport at tiny Pratt Community College in Kansas. It was there he found solace and it was soon that Dodger scout Mitch Webster found him.

He was still very much a raw essence at the game but Mitch saw something there he liked. Even though Brown suffered an injury to his right hand, Mitch turned his name in as a possible draft-and-follow which is how the Dodgers selected him in the 37th round of the 2004 draft.

Jeremy had an operation on the hand to repair ligament damage and often suffered from the results. "It hurt at times," he admits. "Especially on cold days." Of which, there tends to be quite a few when you play baseball through a Kansas spring.

In the meantime, Webster aided the cause of the game at Pratt, which doesn't have a large budget for the sport- or any other, for that matter. Hearing that they were trying to raise money for needed equipment, Mitch arranged for Tommy Lasorda to come in as the main speaker at a fund-raiser. Tommy responded as only he can, the turn-out was large and the money came in.

The injury held Brown down a bit but he still flashed promise so was signed and sent to the Gulf Coast Dodgers. There he started so well, that, when injuries caused Columbus to be short on outfielders, he was promoted there. That was brief, though, only five games- enough to show that he wasn't ready for that type of competition.

So, it was back the Gulf Coast team again, this time to move in and out of the lineup, winding up with a .248-2-12 mark in 29 games.

He's now in the extended spring camp, showing the athleticism that got him into pro ball while he learns the rudiments of the game he didn't treat seriously while concentrating on basketball. He's 6-1, 195, one of the fastest kids in camp and shows some power promise. And he's shown every sign of being a steady hitter.

As for that other sport, "Sure, I miss it some. I might still play it if this doesn't work out." The Dodgers hope he doesn't have to make that decision.