Minor league baseball player Seth Brown let the game come to him last year, and the rest is history.
Brown, a 2010 North Medford High graduate, erupted for 30 home runs and 109 RBIs for the Stockton Ports, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, in 2017.
His RBI mark was a single-season franchise record. That August, Brown hit a grand slam off of rehabbing San Francisco Giants starter Johnny Cueto. The homer was his sixth during an eight-game stretch, and was just one snapshot in a season of highlights.
The 25-year-old Brown, now with the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, Texas, is hoping to use the same recipe for success that he discovered in Stockton, California, with the RockHounds of the Texas League.
“Not forcing things,” says the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Brown, who was selected in the 19th round, No. 578 overall, by Oakland in 2015. “It was just a chance for me to let go of trying so hard. I’ve always wanted to play so well. Last year I let go of thinking, ‘I’ve got to do this, I need to do this.’ I started going back to playing the game that I know I can play. Last year was me doing what I know I can do well. That was something I’ve been searching for since I got into pro ball. It was eye opening for me to understand that you can’t force things in baseball.”
The right fielder batted .270 with 140 hits with the Ports last season, a year after tallying 109 hits, 53 RBIs and eight homers with Stockton.
The RockHounds are off to a 5-1 start and next visit the Springfield, Missouri, Cardinals on Thursday. Midland manager Scott Steinmann says Brown — a left-handed power hitter — adds balance as a threat in the middle of the lineup.
“He had a bunch of home runs last year and that set him on the path as a mainstay and power guy,” Steinmann says. “Hopefully he can continue that trend and become a guy relied upon at the major league level one day.”
Brown, now playing at first base with some outfield duties also expected, already hit a pair of two-run homers in a 10-1 win over Springfield on Saturday.
“I just wanted to get out on the right foot this year and continue what I started last year,” he says. “Honestly, it was a big moment for me to get that first one out of the way. It’s a stepping stone to build more confidence.”
Brown’s pro career began in 2015 with the Arizona League Athletics (a rookie level team) and the Vermont Lake Monsters (a short-season Class A team in the New York-Penn League).
Before his breakout 2017 campaign, Brown said he worked with his dad, John Brown, to help him re-establish the batting form he used during his standout career at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.
“I put my hands a little lower and changed my stride (with) no big leg kick,” Brown says. “I got back to a little easier motion. Along with that, it was just having my mind right and doing what I know I can do.”
His bomb against Cueto was grand confirmation of his improvement.
“It was awesome,” Brown recalls. “Something like that doesn’t happen very often where you see a guy on TV and watch him and always wonder what it would be like for something like that to happen.”
The grind of a minor league season can be taxing, says Brown, who is approaching 1,300 professional plate appearances. The RockHounds will travel by bus to Texas League games around the Lone Star State, also making stops in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
“After a long season in the middle of August, you’ve played 18 games in a row, two series in a row, it can be tough,” he says. “You’re hotel to hotel. You learn to get around it and build a routine.”
Steinmann appreciates Brown’s attitude.
“He’s a fun-loving guy who brings a lot of energy and life,” he says.
Paying the bills as a minor league player means working in the offseason, too. Brown, who recently completed his degree requirements in criminal justice at Lewis-Clark State College, has been employed by Lewiston Parks and Recreation and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
He’d like to serve as a substitute teacher in Portland once this season wraps. Brown is set to marry Brittaney Niebergall, head coach of the girls basketball team at St. Helens High in Scappoose, in December.
Brown’s younger brother Micah Brown, also a North Medford graduate, is playing for the Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers (a farm team of the Miami Marlins). The 21-year-old Micah was a freshman teammate of his brother’s during Seth’s junior, and final, year at Lewis-Clark State College. The Miami Marlins drafted Micah in the 19th round (569th overall) in 2017.
“He’s always been a grinder with a great work ethic,” Seth says of Micah. “I couldn’t be more proud of the man he is.”
And maybe someday, Seth says, the two will meet again.
“It would be cool down the road to play with (Micah) again,” he says.
Reach freelancer Dan Jones at email@example.com.