Brown's Production Comes with Playing Time

Consistency is the key to everyday play. Are you the player the team can depend on day-in and day-out to perform well and help your club win? Consistency is what Tacoma Rainiers' third baseman Hunter Brown is searching for.

In his first month-and-a-half at Triple-A, Brown has not hit as well as expected for the Rainiers, but for some within the organization – including Brown – it's a problem that should resolve itself with extra work.

"My swing's starting to come around a little bit," said Brown, who started the season in a miserable slump that saw his batting average plummet into the mid .100s.

Through 28 games, Brown is hitting .207 with two home runs and 10 RBI. This comes after a terrific 2004 season at Double-A San Antonio, where the Rice University graduate hit a career-high .284.

On June 17 of last season, 3B Greg Dobbs was called-up to Tacoma, giving Brown the every-day job at the hot corner. Prior to that day, Brown played sporadically, filling in for whichever Mission needed a day off. Once he received the opportunity to play every day, his consistency at the plate began to improve.

The same type of scenario has played out twice this year already. First, Brown stepped in as the starter at third base when Justin Leone was called up to the majors on the second day of the season. Then, after Leone had returned to the team, Brown did it again when Leone was placed on the disabled list with an injured hand on May 3.

Rainiers manager Dan Rohn feels the added playing time has given Brown the chance to make his case for being the Rainiers' starting third baseman even when Leone returns.

"He's going to have to make the adjustments," Rohn said. "He's starting to come around and I see some positive things. He's starting to swing the bat a little bit better and playing solid defense right now."

Brown's not letting the pressure of playing everyday get to him.

"I try not to think about stuff like that," Brown said. "The way I look at it is I go out and play as hard as I can every day and do my best and if that's not good enough at the time, then it's not good enough."

Brown has slowly started to break out of hi shitting funk, hammering his first two home runs of the season last week during the Rainiers 12-5 loss at Round Rock.

During Brown's July 29, 2004 visit with the Missions to Round Rock (the Astros Double-A affiliate before moving to the Pacific Coast League this season), he also hit two blasts at the Dell Diamond.

When talking about his current plate woes, Brown mentions a big difference between batting in the Texas League and where he is now, in the Pacific Coast League.

"This league's a lot different from Double-A because a lot of guys are throwing hard with a lot more fastballs," Brown said. "In this league, guys throw a lot more sinkers and slow stuff and they pitch more than they do in Double-A, so I just have to stay back more."

Noticeably present at last Thursday's batting practice was Missions coach and scout Buzzy Keller. Keller primarily works in San Antonio with players before the game and scouts both teams while the game is in progress.

Keller wasn't specifically in Round Rock to work with Brown, but he did talk with him and give him advice about his plate approach – apparently advice the 25-year-old Brown heard from Keller before.

"He's trying to hit the ball hard," Keller said. "I told him, ‘don't hit the ball hard, hit the ball quick.' It's the same thing I told him last year."

Brown briefly expanded on that.

"Most of it is that I'm not standing back as well," Brown said.

With the return of infielder Jose Lopez last week and the impending return of Leone, Brown's opportunities to prove himself may again become limited in the coming weeks, but the always upbeat Houston native knows he can't let that bother him right now.

"I know right now I'm getting to play everyday with Leone out but all you can do is do your best and hope things work out well for you."

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