The IronPigs clubhouse knows the drill when a young, budding superstar hits town. As a group of reporters huddled patiently around Domonic Brown's locker after his first exposure to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' home fans, Brian Mazone noted the importance of Brown's arrival. "He could have gone 0-for-6 with six Ks and you guys would still be huddled there, wouldn't you?"
The fact is though that Brown - the Phillies number one prospect - had an impressive Lehigh Valley debut, going a combined 3-for-6 with three runs scored and two RBI through a restarted game that was suspended back in April and a regularly scheduled game against Rochester. Brown also made a couple of good defensive plays in the field, threw out one runner at third base and almost had a second runner gunned down at the plate. Mazone is right, good or bad, Brown was going to be a focus for the gathered media, but this wasn't just good, it was very good.
So, with Brown nowhere in sight, our little gathering waited. Clubhouse leader Andy Tracy took matters into his own hands and let Brown know that his presence was being requested. "Yo, D, they're waiting for you," yelled Tracy into a crowded players' lounge to get Brown's attention away from his current conversation and headed to the list of questions that awaited him. Brown sheepishly walked toward his locker, looking somewhat surprised that anybody - let alone a group - had questions to ask him. But for the humble Brown, he was a definite target.
"It was my first game here, just trying to go out and have some fun and we're trying to get some wins. I'm not really thinking about myself right now, I'm just going out there to do what we can do to help the team win" was how Brown summarized his night and the appreciative Lehigh Valley fans who were impressed with his first game at Coca-Cola Park. Fans in the Lehigh Valley are very much like those in Philadelphia and appreciate a player who plays hard and simply goes about his business. They like it even better when the player has a lot of tools to draw from to help their club win.
Brown dazzled the crowd with a display of his power, hitting a long home run to right field on a hanging curve thrown by Rochester starter Matt Fox. The ball easily cleared the fence and landed deep onto the concourse as Brown delivered what is likely to be the first of many souvenirs for Lehigh Valley fans. While fans came to see Brown's power and get a glimpse of his offensive potential, they found that the 22 year-old is more than just a one-dimensional player. One glimpse came when he singled and then quickly proceeded to swipe second base, with the throw landing in short center field, allowing Brown to again use his speed as he gathered himself and headed for third from where he eventually scored his first run of the night.
|Domonic Brown made a big impact on the home fans Tuesday night in his first game at Coca-Cola Park. His debut included his first stolen base at the AAA level and later, his first AAA home run as well.|
(Photo: Philly Baseball News)
So with his ability to hit, hit for power and run already displayed, Brown made a couple of good catches in right field and then showed off his power arm, gunning down a runner trying to advance from second on a fly ball to Brown's territory. The one-hop laser hit Andy Tracy squarely in his outstretched glove as the runner slid feet-first into the second out of the inning. In game two of the night, Brown would come very close to nailing a second runner - this time at the plate - on a play where the runner should have been able to score easily from second on a base hit, which Brown wound up making very interesting. After the game, Brown preferred to talk about those two throws than the long home run that he hit.
"That's what I like to do; throw guys out," explained Brown. "I've been doing that all my life. The power stuff is starting to come now, but I've always been able to throw and throw guys out." When one of our crowd joked that runners will eventually stop trying to test Brown's arm, the humble young outfielder just laughed and said "that's a good thing."
For Brown, he's taking everything in stride. He didn't get too high over his numbers at Reading and he accepts that deciding when he should move along, is not his job. Instead, he's content to just make things happen and let everything else just play out as it will. "I try not to think about it [moving up], but I knew that if I was going to get moved up, it was going to be around this time," said Brown. When he got the call, Brown knew that ultimately, it was just another challenge for him and one that he was willing to take head-on. Brown also can't change whether or not he reaches the majors as a Phillie or is sent packing in a trade, just like the last top five prospects were over the past year. When it was pointed out that he might be a marked man, Brown laughed. "It might happen. You guys know how it is, you just never know, so we'll see. With the situation that went on last year [the Phillies refusing to include him in a trade for Cliff Lee], you guys know that you can never know for sure what will happen."
Ironically, numbers weren't the only thing that the Phillies were looking for in deciding when to move Brown. Assistant GM Chuck LaMar believed in Brown's abilities all along, but has been more impressed with his personality and the fact that he is actually a very laid back sort of guy who knows that he's being given a great privilege in getting to play baseball. LaMar was impressed with Brown when he got to spend time with him in a prospect development seminar that helps to fill young players in on what they should expect as they move closer to the big leagues and he was especially impressed with how Brown handled his exit from the major league camp back in spring training. If you recall, Brown had a monster day on the field late in camp and after the game was given his marching orders to head for minor league camp. Instead of sulking or wondering why he wasn't going north with the club even with big spring numbers, Brown made his way to the other side of the spring training complex and picked up right where he left off. To start the year, Brown was assigned to Double-A rather than an anticipated start at the Triple-A level and again, Brown took the move in stride and didn't get down on himself or the organization. That kind of make-up convinced LaMar that Brown wouldn't need a full season at Double-A.
The past few days have been a whirlwind for Brown. Moving up from Reading to Lehigh Valley meant catching up with the club on the road and getting to know a bunch of new players and coaches. Now, the team headed for home and Brown was facing a new challenge of impressing Lehigh Valley fans. While Brown admits that it's been a wild experience, he's just trying to look ahead to when things will slow down a little. Right now though, there is no slowing down as Brown continues his drive toward Philly. He's got the Futures Game in Anaheim to look forward to in just under two weeks and a second-half of the season that is going to see his name thrown around in trade rumors and after that, speculation about when he'll be making his major league debut. If he does survive the trade deadline, there will be the lingering talk about the future of the Phillies outfield, especially with Jayson Werth headed for free agency. Talk about whether Brown fits into the outfield plans for the 2011 Phillies and how that affects other moves like re-signing Werth or potentially finding a new home for Raul Ibanez is going to be flying around fast and furious. Brown may be taking it one day at a time, but those days are going to be flying at him very quickly.
Domonic Brown's career stats