Gary Brown

Playing days done, Gary Brown now hitting textbooks with a new goal in mind

brown-gary-ap1.jpg
AP

Playing days done, Gary Brown now hitting textbooks with a new goal in mind

It's common for first-round draft picks to move to Arizona. But Gary Brown's relocation to the desert in 2015 came at a unique time, coinciding with his release by the team that drafted him 24th overall five years earlier. 

[PART 1: Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’]

Now, just a few miles from where new prospects flock to chase their major league dreams, Brown is working to put his in the past.

"I wanna stay in baseball in some fashion, I’m just not exactly sure in what,” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive phone interview. 

The former top Giants prospect began classes at Arizona State University's Masters of Sports Law and Business program last month. He's not exactly set on a post-playing career, but the fire for baseball still burns.

“Part of the reason why I'm pursuing this program is that it gives me an opportunity to see where I want to go,” Brown said. “I would like to pursue the opportunity of working in a front office, whether it be professionally or the athletic department of a college. I think those really appeal to me because I feel like I could maintain — this might be me being naive — but maintain some family life, being home every night and being able to raise a family.”

Brown's wife is pregnant with twins, which should give the future father a chance to coach in the coming years. Based on his time in independent ball, it’s an experience he’d likely cherish. Indeed, Brown took advantage of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs' coaching overhaul this year and served as the team's interim hitting coach -- while he was still listed as a player. 

"That was awesome," Brown said, beaming. "I wanted to potentially coach when I was done and I think that was about the time I was thinking about retiring so I kind of approached the manager and asked — since we didn't have a hitting coach — if I could be the hitting coach and kind of just help out the guys because I kind of already did."

Time will tell if Brown's path leads to a front office, a coaching position, or something else entirely. But as Brown heads to class to carve out his future, he's filled with gratitude. 

"I want to give someone an opportunity like I had -- many players and many kids," Brown said. "Everything that I've had is because of baseball and I'm so thankful for that."

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

brown-gary-ap2.jpg
AP

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

There was a time when Gary Brown was considered the Giants’ top prospect – their center fielder of the future. Hype was never higher than in 2011, when the fleet-footed 22-year-old set a franchise record with 188 hits in 131 games, earning California League Rookie of the Year honors with the San Jose Giants in his first full minor league campaign.

But six seasons and seven major league at-bats later, Brown’s professional baseball career ended at 28 years old.

“I feel like I let my emotions get the best of me in the years after that (2011 season),” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive phone interview. “I think I started to believe the hype that everyone started to give to me.”

Brown never matched his magical .336-season in High-A ball with 14 home runs plus 53 stolen bases, and then struggled finding a routine with the rigors of the Pacific Coast League’s travel schedule once he reached Triple-A. Despite three hits in his seven at-bats as a September call-up with the Giants in 2014, Brown was designated for assignment on March 31, 2015.

Brown’s career spiraled playing the draining waiver game. Unsuccessful stints with the Cardinals and Angels sent Brown to the land of the last chance: Independent ball in the Atlantic League.

“It was not fun for me for quite a few years. I wasn’t a very happy person,” Brown said. “After I got DFA'd by the Giants, that really took a toll on me. I never really recovered from that, so I was kind of stuck in the past and things kind of just got away from me. 

“I was kind of heartbroken to be honest. I mean, it hurt me to my core.”

Through tumultuous career turns, the Southern California native never turned on the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2010.

“I'm thankful for the opportunity the Giants gave me. No matter how big or small mine was, I am very thankful” Brown said emphatically. “I definitely wish I could have shown what I feel like my true potential was, but it didn't work out that way. 

“I still root for the Giants. All my friends with the Giants, I'm still pulling for them. They run that organization so well. I have no ill intentions or anything bad to say about the Giants organization.” 

Far removed from his days with the Giants, Brown found new life with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2016. Brown batted .249 and returned to the team in 2017. He started strong with a .298 batting average in 31 games while having fun for the first time in years, but injuries struck at an inopportune time.

Chronic aches in his hip joints and intense back spasms, in addition to a frustrating lack of interest from MLB teams and the fact he and his wife had twins on the way, spurred Brown to retirement in the middle of the season on July 5.

“Retirement has nothing to do with the lack of competitiveness (of the Atlantic League). It was the distance and the time away, matching the minor league salary,” Brown said. “Going back to that makes it really hard on the family and when you get older it really becomes about what you value more.”

The player he once was is gone, but the person he is has only grown. There’s one piece of advice which goes beyond the diamond that Brown was sure to pass on to the next wave of future top Giants prospects.

“Never stop making adjustments,” Brown said ruefully.

Days away from turning 29 on Sept. 28 and out of baseball for the first time in his life, Brown is certainly making his own.

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Part 2 of our interview with Gary Brown focusing on where he is now in his life will be released Monday on NBCSportsBayArea.com.