Seth Brown fulfills big league dreams with Oakland A's
When he strolled to the plate for the first time as a major leaguer last August, Seth Brown made sure to let the moment sink in during the first part of his journey before using the last few steps to focus back in and go to work.
Even after receiving incredible recent news, he’s fostered that same approach within the last few days as he remains in limbo like so many of his baseball-playing cohorts.
It was only Thursday that Brown learned he had made the active roster to start the 2020 MLB season, whenever that may be, with the Oakland Athletics.
By Friday, that thankful and blessed feeling remained but was now being overwhelmed by another mindset for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder.
“Seeing that I was on the active roster was pretty awesome,” said the former North Medford High and Medford Mustangs standout, “now it’s just a matter of staying on it and earning my spot.”
The best part about it? Brown earned every bit of it.
“That sense of earning what you get was kind of the biggest feeling of accomplishment I got last year,” he said. “I worked for it and earned it, and I’ve got to continue to work for it every day.”
A 19th-round selection by the A’s in 2015, pick No. 578 overall out of Lewis-Clark State in Idaho, the only path laid out in front of him was that he at least had a shot to continue his dream.
And if there’s one thing about Brown, if you give him an opportunity, he will move heaven and earth to do whatever he can to capitalize on it when it comes to his beloved baseball pastime.
He proved it by taking his first shot at the Triple-A level last year and running with it, finishing as MVP for the Las Vegas Aviators and as the A’s Organizational Hitter of the Year after belting a career-high 37 home runs with a .297 batting average and 104 RBIs in 112 games before being called up Aug. 26 by Oakland to start in left field against the Kansas City Royals.
Brown’s home run total tied for the third-most in Oakland history by a minor leaguer and was two short of the record of 39, which also happened to be the total of the most homers hit last year in the minors by Kevin Cron in Arizona’s farm system.
“It was such an amazing year all in itself to kind of go from where I started, from being told in spring training I was probably going back to Double-A to debuting last year in August,” said Brown. “It was honestly just such a surreal moment and an amazing feeling of accomplishment to know that all the hours and all the extra time I’ve spent trying to get better and get to that spot was worth it.”
“The best way I can put it is that anything can happen and dreams that you’ve had since you were a kid can come true as long as you’re willing to put in the time and put in the effort to get there,” added the 27-year-old Brown “That’s kind of what last year was all about for me, understanding that you can get anywhere you want and you can accomplish any goal or any dream you have, it’s just all a matter of how bad are you willing to go after it and how much time are you willing to put into it.”
It was that time that came flowing into his mind when he moved into the on-deck box on that fateful August 2019 afternoon, one day removed from being caught by surprise from Aviators manager Fran Riordan telling him he would be starting for the A’s against the Royals.
From growing up in Klamath Falls to honing his skills as a high schooler in Medford, knowing he was never going to give up on his dream as he ventured from Linn-Benton Community College to even taking a year off school and then to Lewis-Clark State. Throw in the years of trying to make a name for himself through hard work and dedication in the A’s farm system and, well, it got a little emotional for Brown on that first day with several family members on hand.
“It was just so crazy to me and so surreal,” he said. “It’s hard to really put into words walking up there for your first big league at-bat. I knew going up there that I wanted to take in a moment so when I was on deck and walking up to the plate, I took a few steps of, ‘OK, let’s take this in and let’s realize where you’re at,’ but I only gave myself a few steps just because I knew I had an at-bat and I knew I needed to kind of get going and do what I was called up to do.”
On a 2-1 pitch from Jorge López in the second inning, he lifted a ball down the left field line that just fell in for a single in his major league debut. He finished 2-for-6 with two runs and an RBI that night against the Royals, then seemingly didn’t stop hitting as he got his career off to one of the hottest starts in A’s history.
Brown had 10 hits in his first five games against Kansas City and the New York Yankees, batting .417 with nine RBIs and a 1.073 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). He became the first Athletic with a four-hit game before his fifth career game since Doug Jennings in 1988, then went 3-for-3 with a career-high 3 RBIs the next day against the Yankees to give him a hit in seven consecutive at-bats.
“Those first few days of first getting called up were just so emotional for me, talking with my family and my wife (Brittaney),” said Brown. “It was just such a long road and to get there and have all of it come together the way it did was such an amazing experience. There’s so many people to thank for it and so many people have always kind of had my back on things so it was just an amazing, amazing experience for me.”
The historic feats just kept coming for Brown, who was accomplishing marks that hadn’t been done in A’s history since the 1950s. Heck, his 10 hits over his first five games were the most in Oakland history, period, and the most by an Athletic since Spook Jacobs had the same total for the 1954 Philadelphia A’s.
Brown’s two triples against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 3, 2019, tied the Oakland single-game record and marked the first time it had been accomplished in the Oakland Coliseum since 2007 and first by an Athletic since 2002.
Somehow through it all, Brown was able to keep a level head.
“The way I looked at it was I’m doing my job and I just need to keep doing it and keep doing it,” said Brown. “I didn’t look at it any other way than that. I was called up to help the team win after they had all worked hard to put themselves in meaningful games and if I can keep doing it to help, I’m going to keep doing it.”
It was exactly the production Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin had in mind when he summoned Brown from Las Vegas.
“We try to time it that way, where guys are playing well when they come here,” Melvin said of Brown to MLB.com on March 11, “and he was and took advantage of the opportunity. That’s the other variable in all that is when you get an opportunity at the big league level, you might not get an everyday role, but when you get an opportunity and you’re in there a day or a couple days, you need to be able to take advantage of it. That would mean keeping yourself ready in development and taking advantage of your opportunity when you get here, and he definitely did.”
Brown wound up starting 16 games in left field and one at first base, playing error-free defense with two outfield assists, and pinch-hit in the American League Wild Card game against Tampa Bay.
Despite a late-season lull, he wound up batting .293 with eight doubles, two triples and 13 RBIs. He scored 11 runs and stole one base.
And all that did was fuel his desire for even more.
“Getting that first taste of the big leagues last year, I’ve been wanting to come back ever since the season ended,” he said Friday night, awaiting his call to duty while training in Bend. “It’s just going to be one of those things where we wait out the storm and hopefully everybody can stay healthy and we can get ready to go as soon as possible.”
Brown forced his way into the picture, with a little help from a 26th roster spot for MLB teams this year, with another strong showing during spring training. He was batting .343 in 15 games with five doubles, one triple, a grand slam home run and eight RBIs as one of Oakland’s most productive players before camp was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was definitely an awesome experience for me being around those guys,” Brown said of his first big league camp experience. “For me, I just try to learn more every day and pick up on things that I didn’t the day before. I’ve always been that way so it was cool being around those guys, watching them do their thing and picking up as many pointers as I could.”
The question of whether he belongs has never really entered Brown’s mind, it was all just a matter of timing and opportunity.
“I’ve always felt that I could compete at the big league level and do well at the big league level,” he said. “This is a game I’ve loved and played forever. Being up here, you’re playing against the best in the world and knowing that you can compete with those guys is just a confirmation of all the work you’ve put in and it gives you confidence every day knowing that you can compete with these guys.”
To make sure he’s ready to roll once that call comes in, Brown is diligently maintaining his usual offseason regimen of lifting weights and hitting off machine pitching every day in Bend while also making sure to follow CDC guidelines and put his health first.
“You’ve got to get swings in any way you can,” he said. “It’s a bad situation for everybody but you’ve just gotta do what you can to keep yourself in shape. I know most everybody is chomping at the bit and ready to get back to playing but we have to be smart about doing what we can to stay healthy, too.”
And while he awaits with great anticipation the news he can finally don his No. 15 A’s jersey again (he switched from last year’s No. 65), Brown said he mostly remains thankful and blessed to have the support that he’s had along his journey.
“I’ve had so many calls and messages, it’s been pretty cool to hear from people about how excited they are for me,” he said. “Just the support from everyone has been overwhelming. This has just been an amazing, amazing experience.”