A Rocky Start for Brown Only Leaves Room for Improvement

Mitch Brown has not had an easy season in Lake County. The starting pitcher has struggled through a number of appearances for the Captains, though, as of late, has found himself falling closer to his desired level of performance. Described as having a “power arm,” the young pitcher is using his improved fastball command to work through a number of other pitches this season which will, hopefully, lead him through a strong finish to the season.

Brown is currently 2-7 with a 4.16 ERA. He has thrown 72 strikeouts for the Captains and issued 43 walks on the season, though he says that the frequency at which that is happening has slowed down as the season progresses.

Brown picked up his first two wins of the season in late June and early July, allowing no runs on three hits on June 27 and giving up 2R/1ER on three hits on July 2. He took a step back in his progress on July 8, however, when he gave up a grand slam against the Lansing Lugnuts. However, Brown is not one to get easily discouraged and, despite the setback, continues to look at future games as his chance to redeem himself.

He is already vastly improved over last season, when he went 1-1 with an 11.49 ERA in Lake County in five games before going not he DL, then spending the rest of the season with the Arizona League Indians, where he went 2-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games.

Brown said that one of the biggest things he has had to adjust to playing professional baseball was the need to play in front of larger crowds. Brown attended Century High School in Minnesota, outside the metropolis of Rochester. Brown is not the only Minnesota native on the Captains roster, and said that he lived a bit away from teammate and fellow starter Jordan Milbrath. Brown knew of Milbrath before meeting him in the Indians system, as Milbrath attended Augustana College in South Dakota with one of Brown’s close high school friends.

Though the Captains don’t always draw the largest attendance numbers during the week, Brown said that he has noticed the larger number of fans in attendance, but has become more used to their presence as he has settled in to playing at this level.

“A few weeks back, we had a fireworks show night and we had a sell-out crowd and I was pitching — I was kind of nervous,” Brown admitted. “Once you get locked into the game, you really don’t notice it at all. I don’t I’m as affected by it as I was last year. I’ve adjusted to it, I do a better job managing it.”

Not only is Brown able to effectively manage his nerves in front of a crowd, he is also adept at managing his emotions following a less-than-perfect start. Earlier in the season, when games were not always falling in Brown’s favor, he did not show signs of giving up or disappointment.

“Just being process-oriented has really helped out in that facet,” Brown said. “I’m not worried about the results.”

Manager Mark Budzinski has a similar approach to Brown’s performance as of late, saying that the results of things such as the win-loss record are not as important to the team as Brown’s progress.

“We don’t look at the win-loss record, we look at the way he’s come out and progressed along the season and got a lot better control of his fastball,” Budzinski said. “Everything has improved off of that. His breaking ball, his change up has improved, as well.”

“Even early in the season, I wasn’t having great results and I was still working to get better at the process,” Brown said. “Since then, things have fallen into place. I’m following the process and being patient and it’s all falling into place for me right now.”

“This game will build some resiliency,” Budzinski said. “You’ve got to have some mental toughness. He definitely has that.”

Brown’s ability to bounce back after tough outings can be attributed to his wide-ranging repertoire of sports he played while in high school. At just 20 years old, Brown is still close to his high school career, thus making the lessons he learned on the field while a student hit closer to home than they would for an older player.

Brown wrestled through his sophomore year, which he said required a great deal of mental discipline, discipline that Brown credits as having used throughout his baseball career.

“It will definitely challenge you, physically and mentally,” Brown said of wrestling. “It’s helped me out in my walk through baseball through this point.” Brown also played football as a quarterback through high school, though he gave the sport up to focus on baseball when he found it difficult to balance two competing schedules throughout the year.

Brown said it was not a difficult decision at all to choose to focus on baseball over football, as it was glaringly obvious which sport he preferred.

It’s that obvious preference that seems to keep Brown in the game. He knows he loves baseball, and his dedication is obvious as he approaches each game with the same determination as the one before, regardless of the outcome. It’s an asset that will serve him well throughout his baseball career.

“I just want to go out there and have better outings, throw quality pitches,” Brown said of his aim for the rest of the season. “I want to get my chance to win.”

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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