From the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Shores of Lake Erie

If someone described a draft pick as 6’1” 195 lbs. out of Rochester, Minnesota, most sports enthusiasts would assume you are talking about a hockey player. In this case the player is Mitch Brown, the Cleveland Indians 2nd round selection in 2012.

Rated the 14th best prospect in the Indians farm system, the 21-year old right-hander grew up with a love for the outdoors, not uncommon for those raised in the Northstar State.

“I love to fish and hunt,” says Brown. “I really like to spend time out on the lakes and when I’m home just hang out with my family.”

Drafted out of Rochester Century High School, the 79th overall pick was just the second high school pitcher from Minnesota taken in the top two rounds in the past 30 years. He is also the highest pick of a Minnesota native since Joe Mauer in 2001. An unusual selection, but one the Cleveland organization is high on given his physical and mental makeup.

“As a kid I played a lot of different sports.” Brown said. “My parents encouraged me to stay active, try a lot of things. That’s basically what I did.”

Originally a wrestler in high school, it was an injury that brought him to focus exclusively on baseball.

“I hurt my left wrist, actually fractured it, wrestling my sophomore year.”

This prompted him to reconsider the challenges of wrestling. “It wasn’t worth cutting the weight for me,” he said about trying to make specific weights for wrestling matches.

“I didn’t want that to happen to my right arm. I had a lot of fun doing it, but it was time to move on.”

So his attention narrowed to baseball. Of course being a Minnesota native he had hopes of being drafted by the Twins.

“It was something I looked forward to, but it’s a business decision,” he says about getting selected by Cleveland. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be with the Indians.”

For much of his youth the Twins played in the infamous Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with its inflated white fiberglass fabric roof and the right field wall of a 16 foot high plastic extension called “the Baggie” for its resemblance to a Hefty trash bag.

Asked if he would be disappointed by not having the opportunity to pitch in the Metrodome Brown said, “Target Field (the Twins current ballpark) is a really nice place, but all my childhood memories about the Twins are at the Metrodome and it would have been cool.”

Though he won’t be able to pitch there in the future, as the Metrodome was demolished in 2014, he did get the opportunity while playing youth baseball.

“I did get to play there one time for a travel ball team. It was just a blast.” said Brown, remembering it as “One of the loudest places in professional sports.”

He was the Minnesota Baseball Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012 with a 7 -1 record, 0.91 ERA and 108 strikeouts. He chose the Cleveland organization over a commitment to the University of San Diego.

Since being drafted he has spent time in the Rookie-level Arizona league and at Low-A Lake County of the Midwest league honing his talents and making the adjustment from high school baseball to the professional level.

During this time he has focused on improving his command and consistency.

“It is definitely something you have to get used to, commanding your pitches, “Brown says, “your pitch sequence, throwing more than one pitch for a strike. I think the volume of throwing, workload’s, just baseball related exercises is one of the biggest adjustment’s I’ve made.”

His arsenal features two plus pitches in a fastball that reaches up to 96 mph, and a curveball that is rated the best in the Indians system.

Speaking about his pitch repertoire he says, “I’ve always had a decent fastball and a good breaking ball, but just to continue to develop the feel for my change-up.”

He has been working on his change-up, and a slider to go along with it, giving him four pitches similar to Hillcats rotation stalwart Adam Plutko, who also features a four pitch mix.

Brown is working more on the change-up this year, than in previous seasons. “The addition of that pitch will really help keep hitters off balance,” he says “and open up my arsenal a little bit.”

Pitching in a rotation that also features Plutko does not hurt. The experience he and other members of the Hillcats pitching staff bring with them is clearly of value to Brown as he develops his own mastery of the art of pitching.

“I think there are a lot of conversations that go on in the clubhouse, about how we can help each other. I’ve been blessed to have some guys with more experience than I do,” says Brown, “being able to tutor me, mentor me.”

He is bringing together the physical and mental aspects of the game more now as he gains consistency and works with pitching coach Tony Arnold, a 21 year veteran coach in the Indians minor league system, to improve his all-around game.

His season best performance was April 22nd against the division rival Frederick Keys. He went six innings, yielding only two hits, with four strikeouts and two double plays to gain his only win of the season to date. It is his strikeout to walk ratio is where he has the greatest room for improvement, with 23 K’s to 16 bases-on-ball so far this season.

“Doing whatever I can in my delivery to be consistent and repeat. If I can repeat my delivery I’m usually going to have pretty decent results.”

The baseball season is a marathon, as any experienced player, coach or fan will tell you. Brown has pitched 36 innings so far, likely not even a quarter of what he will total on the season. So as he continues to work with the Hillcats coaching staff and his teammates to develop his physical and mental acuity we can expect good things to come from the sturdy right-hander.

“Learning a bit more each day and just committed to getting better.” That is Mitch Brown’s approach to harnessing his talent and climbing to the Major Leagues one day.

Photo: Autumn Parry/The News Advance

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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