PGAA Brown lives to learn

Photo: Michael Brown (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The way Vacaville, Calif., elite first baseman prospect Michael Brown sees things, he’s living in a pretty darn good place right now.

No, it wasn’t necessarily because he was at the Kansas City Royals’ and Texas Rangers’ spring training complex located here in the far northwest Phoenix suburbs on a breezy and comfortable late-July Tuesday morning, although that certainly didn’t hurt.

But the smile that spread easily across his face had more to do with the fact that he had just been asked to recall the emotions he felt when he first received the invitation to be a West team member at next month’s Perfect Game All-American Classic.

“When I got the call for that, I remember that I just couldn’t stop smiling,” Brown said from the Royals’ side of the Surprise Stadium complex after playing a game at the PG WWBA 17u West National Championship for the Show Cali 17u squad.

“I just yelled; I was screaming, I was so excited,” he continued. “It’s been a lifelong dream ever since I started watching it when I was in middle-school. I was just excited knowing that all the  hard work and the sweat, blood and tears I’ve put into it has paid off up until this point.”

Brown (who is actually Michael Brown III) certainly looks the part of a PG All-American. He carries 230 pounds on his athletic 6-foot-5 frame and has wowed scouts with his power potential while hitting from the left side.

The scouting report from his performance at the PG National Showcase held at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix in mid-June noted his “extra big and strong, well-proportioned build” and added that he “has a chance to become an exceptionally strong man.” He might already be there.

Brown is here this week with his father, Michael Brown II, who is the third base coach for Show Cali 17u and has been coaching his son all throughout his boyhood.

Brown II, also a first baseman and left-handed relief pitcher, was a fifth-round selection of the Pirates in the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Vacaville High School – the same school his son attends – and played parts of nine seasons in the minors, advancing as far as Double-A. He’s worked with Michael III for as long as both can recall.

“I just started off teaching him a little bit at a time and each year just adding on to it, adding on to it,” Brown II told PG Tuesday morning. “It got to the point where things started clicking … but yeah, I’ve been there since day-one.”

Brown III has also worked closely with former professional players and family friends Kirk Forbes and Dee Brown since he was a youngster. Forbes’ son, Jackson Forbes, is a teammate of Brown’s on the Show Cali 17u team playing at the WWBA 17u West National Championship here this week.

“He’s had a big impact on my baseball career,” Brown III said of his dad. “Ever since I was 6 years old we’ve been working together in the cage, on the field, at first base; he’s taught me everything he knows. He reached the (professional) level where I’m trying to get to so it wouldn’t be smart to not to listen to what he has to say.”

The younger Brown has certainly had quite a memorable and, really, remarkable summer. It started at the PG National Showcase where he impressed not only the PG scout who wrote the report cited above, but the hundreds of other scouts in attendance. Brown III is now ranked as the No. 24 overall prospect in the class of 2020 and the No. 1 first baseman.

“The National Showcase, that was unbelievable,” he said. “I met a lot of great people I still talk to; it was amazing. It was ran perfectly and the competition was top-notch with all the best kids in the country. They say if you want to be the best you’ve got to play against the best and that’s exactly what that was.”

After competing at the PG National, Brown took part in the MLB and USA Baseball-sponsored Prospect Development Pipeline League (PDPL), which was held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for three weeks in June; he treated it just like another big classroom.

“I carried around a little notebook so that if I overheard a coach talking to another player I could write it down, or if I had a question I could ask, I would write it down,” he told PG on Tuesday. “All these events I go to, you can never stop learning. … I just try to learn something new every day.”

Learning is everything to this 17½-year-old. Brown’s dad feels like his son having been given the opportunity to experience baseball being played by his peers at such a high level on these prominent national stages this summer has increased Michael’s awareness of just how difficult this journey can be.

He’s faced pitchers who are going to be MLB first-round draft picks next June, he’s answered the bell and kept an open mind, and is soaking in and processing all the information provided by the people surrounding him.

“Just as long as he goes out and learns, that’s what I like to see,” Brown II said. “You’ve got to know how to do what you’ve got to do and how to go about it, so as long as he’s learning that stuff I’m happy and he’s happy, too.”

Brown uses his rise in the rankings – as do most of the other highly regarded prospects – as motivation because, as he said, everyone is working with the goal in mind of becoming No. 1. But at the same time, he added, it’s important to not pay too much attention to the numbers. No one can afford to become big-headed because everyone has to stay hungry.

When asked if he’s been pleased with the way his game has progressed to this point in his career, he kind of rode the fence, answering both yes and no. “Yes” because he’s already achieved at least a couple of his early baseball goals, such as getting invited to the PG All-American Classic, and “no” because he’s never satisfied. He always wants to get better which is really just another way of saying “stay hungry.”

It’s telling that on Brown’s personal PG Prospect Profile Page to the question “Best Tools” Brown wrote” “I Play Very Hard, Not Afraid To Get Dirty And Play With A Chip On My Shoulder.” Well said …

With the college recruiting process starting earlier and earlier and young prospects committing to their schools of choice earlier and earlier, Brown is a rarity among his fellow 2019 PG All-Americans in that he is uncommitted.

And, it seems, he’s in no real hurry, content to work through the process with his dad and his mom, Florence; it’s worth noting that Brown carries a 3.6 GPA at Vacaville High (Vacaville is a city in Northern California located about 35 miles from Sacramento and 55 miles from San Francisco).

“College is a once in a lifetime opportunity; you only get one chance to go,” he said. “Me and my family, we’re really trying to make sure we find the right fit.”

Baseball has certainly been the right fit overall for the Brown family. Brown II said he never pushed his son toward baseball – Michael was on the Vacaville HS football team his first three years in high school but will not go out this year – but instead was content to help his son excel at whatever athletic endeavor he decided to pursue. It so happened he chose baseball, and that decision seems to be working out just fine.

And Brown III certainly seemed to be enjoying himself playing in the PG WWBA 17u West National Championship Tuesday morning, helping Show Cali 17u improve to 5-1-0 in pool-play and reach Wednesday morning’s playoffs. He hasn’t hit particularly well, but he did deliver a two-run single in a 10-0 win Tuesday morning.

“There’s a lot of good teams here from around the country, especially from the West Coast,” Brown III said of the event. “I like how they put this in Arizona this year … because I think the West Coast is the best coast. This is a great event and I love coming  out here and competing.”

Brown was in San Diego last August for the PG Underclass All-American Games where he earned Top Prospect List recognition but was unable to attend the Classic because of an Underclass Area Codes Games commitment.

So, from last year’s Underclass A-A Games to the PG National and now onto the PG All-American Classic, the PG circle is nearly complete (he will also be playing with the MLB Breakthrough Series at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October). He simply enjoys the company.

“Especially at PG events … these are the guys that I’m going to be playing with for the rest of my career,” Brown III said. “We’re all considered the best guys in the country and I know we’re going to go far in the game.”

The PGAAC experience involves more than just the nationally televised game to be played Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Padres’ Petco Park in downtown San Diego. There are all kinds of activities for the All-Americans to enjoy over their four-day stay, highlighted by the annual visit to San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital.

“I can’t wait to get out to Rady’s; I know that’s going to be unbelievable,” Brown III said. “I have friends who played in the game and they’ve all said that without a doubt that was their favorite part (of the experience).”

And mom and dad are coming along for the ride, too. They’re just as much a part of this as their son.

“(PG) treats the boys really good and they get to do a lot of great things like going to the hospital and all that stuff,” Brown II said. “And playing under those lights with all those other kids that were blessed to be in the same position, I can’t do anything but be happy for him.”

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