Brown on Track for Big Success

This is a new grind for Hunter Brown. It isn't the six months of pine tar and bus rides that came with playing in the Texas League, rather an entirely different commitment to professionalism.

Brown, you see, is spending the offseason as an intern for a finance company in Houston.

"It's 8:30-3:30 every day, and it's the opposite extreme of what I do (on the baseball field)," said the infielder.

It's hardly the same as putting on the baseball cleats and the eye black, and it hasn't taken Brown long to realize how much he misses the game.

He's reminded every time his alarm sounds in the morning hours.

"It's made me want to be a baseball player even more," he said. "I don't want to be in an office all day long."

By the looks of it, Brown won't have to hold down the typical "day job" for a long while. A 22nd round selection by Seattle in 2002, the Rice University product has skipped through the minor leagues on a fast track. That's exactly what he hoped for when he left college at age 22, already an advanced age by baseball's standards for a minor league prospect.

After splitting 2002 between Everett and Wisconsin, Brown moved up to High-A Inland Empire in 2003 and advanced to Double-A San Antonio this past season. He's improved considerably in a short amount of time, shown tremendous defensive versatility in the infield, and seen his stock rise.

Brown is by no means complaining.

"The way I've been moved (through the minors) is absolutely the way I hoped it would go," said Brown. "Playing wise I could have hoped for some better numbers early on - you're never fully satisfied - but I'm very happy with the way the Mariners have treated me. They have treated me more like a top five draft pick."

In 2004, Brown starred at third base, second base and first base, and heightened his batting average from .248 in 2003 to .286 with the Missions. He added 13 home runs, 19 doubles, four triples and 52 RBI. And thanks to San Antonio skipper Dave Brundage's aggressive style, the recently turned 25-year-old also swiped 20 bases.

Having been asked to play at three different positions, it's hard to know exactly what role Brown will have in 2005.

Will he go back to his natural position and play third base? If he's promoted to Tacoma to start the season, there could already be a log-jam there with Greg Dobbs and Justin Leone not guaranteed spots on the Mariners' roster.

Will he play at first base, a position he adapted to in a swift fashion while with the Missions?

Or will he end up at second, a place he says is the easiest of the three?

That's for the Mariners to decide, and Brown says he doesn't get caught up trying to guess. What he does admit is that he still has the same answer when someone asks what position he plays.

"I still say third base," he said. "I do however say I did play 20 games at first and second."

What's the best spot for him? He has his ideas.

"If my power numbers came up a little bit, I would say third," said Brown. "I need to hit 20 home runs as opposed to the 13-15 range. "As far as second base, I feel like I could be pretty ideal there. If I could continue to build on hitting for average and stay the same power wise, it would be a plus for a second baseman. That would be something that I feel like I could add to the position.

"Third base is the hardest out of all. The angles are so much more extreme. The ball is hit a lot harder at you and you don't have as much time to react. You have a pretty long throw to make. All those factors combined make it the hardest.

"First is the second hardest. Footwork around the bag, you have to learn that. All of a sudden catching the ball is something you have to worry about.

And second?

"The double play does come pretty naturally to me. It's something I need to work on and improve, but I played it a lot growing up. The throws aren't as long. Balls where you have to range left or right you still have time to throw."

What matters most to Brown, though, is simply earning the opportunity to play at Tacoma in 2005.

"I'm hoping to start out in Triple-A and continue to put up better numbers and continue to improve and see where it ends up," he said. "I'd love to be at third at Triple-A this year, but I'd be happy at Triple-A regardless where I play.

For now, though, the end of November, the season remains off in the distance. The grind hasn't stopped, only changed. And Brown finds himself longing for a hitter's count with runners on.

After his internship, he gives baseball lessons to kids then works out. The focus this winter in the weight room is to a) get stronger, and b) improve his running form in order to become more affective on the base paths.

The grind continues… and Brown longs for the days when it again becomes a walk in the park.

Cheney Stadium, perhaps?

Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories