By Rob DeArmond, Livingston Parish News
It didn’t take long for former Walker High standout Bryce Brown to get his first hit as a professional baseball player. And even though it’s way early in the season, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
After three games, Brown is 4-for-13 with double a run scored for the Princeton Rays, an advanced rookie ball affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
But it took a bit of adjustment and study for Brown to get that first professional hit.
“My first at-bat, I didn’t even swing at a pitch,” Brown said.
Brown, however, got that first hit in his second at-bat as a professional after studying the Pulaski Yankees’ starting pitcher and calming himself down.
“It was a line drive through the five-hole,” Brown said. “And I just fed of that at-bat this whole time.”
The fact that Brown has gotten off to such a fast start in his first few games as a professional baseball player isn’t a surprise to his former coach.
“In high school, he was the same way,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “He’d bounce from one sport to the next and come in like he’d been out there the entire time. Probably the biggest compliment I can give him, he’s probably the best all-around athlete that I’ve coached. Once he got to the college level and was focusing just on baseball, I think the athletic ability started to show up more in baseball terms, than maybe in high school where he was trying to play three different sports. That sounds exactly like Bryce — getting off to a fast start.”
Brown’s pro career, however, didn’t get started quite as quickly as he might have liked it to. After batting.374 with 47 runs, 61 hits (seven doubles, one triple, and one home run) and 33 RBIs as a junior at Jackson State, Brown said he got calls from the Royals and Astros saying he’d be drafted in the fourth or fifth round and later the eighth round of the Major League Baseball draft.
But those rounds passed, and Brown’s name stayed on the board.
“Of course I was disappointed, but you still have to keep your head (up) and believe that you’re going to get the opportunity, believe in yourself,” Brown said. “You can’t can’t put to much stress on it …”
Brown’s opportunity came when Tampa Bay swooped in and grabbed him in the 15th round.
“It surprised me honestly, that Tampa Bay got me,” Brown said. “But I’m blessed to have the opportunity. Everything happens for a reason. I feel like God put me in the right place.”
While Sandifer praised Brown’s athletic ability, he said playing college baseball also played a role in helping his former player adjust to professional pitching.
“He’s seen better pitching through the college level, and as you mature at that level, I think the pitching gets better, so he’s probably got a little head start on that end,” Sandifer said. “Now, I’m sure at the pro level, it’s going to be even better, but to me, the biggest part of adjusting as a hitter is understanding pitchers now all have three pitches, and for the most part can throw all three of them for strikes.”
It’s an aspect of the game Brown said he’s already taken note of.
“The way pro ball is, you have to learn how guys are trying to get you out,” Brown said. “Guys are just not throwing away, away, away any more because they throw so hard. And wood bats — they’re trying to break you bat — you know what I mean? So you just have to be ready for everything.”
Brown said he’s also gotten help adjusting to the pro game from adviser Jordan Reid, Kolton Kendrick of the Minnesota Twins organization and Nick Longhi, a farmhand in the Boston Red Sox organization.
“To me, that is where Bryce has matured,” Sandifer said. “Probably back in high school, he probably would have tried to figure it out himself, and I think that’s a maturity level there of knowing that I don’t have all the answers and talking more to other guys and then formulating his own plan is going to be the best thing for him.”
Brown said he’ll continue the same approach that’s helped him find early success.
“My focus is there,” he said. “I’m not taking a pitch off. I’m not giving away at-bats. I’m keeping the same plan every time I go up there, and I’m sticking to it.”
And he’s hoping that helps lead to a promotion in the future.
“They just say all you have to do is really just stay consistent, stay within yourself and put up the numbers and you’ll move up pretty well,” Brown said. “Like I said, a lot of people get moved up within a year or even a month. I’m just trying to stay as consistent as I can.”
“Nothing happens for people who stop working,” Brown said. “You’ve just got to stick with it and trust the process, really. Because that’s all it is it’s a process now.”