By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
As the most important day of his baseball career approached, Eric Brown Jr. had a simple, but eye-opening, request – especially for a 21-year-old.
“Can you call some other people, too?” Brown asked The Journal. “My story isn’t just me. Everyone in it has played a big role and I would like them to be a part (of the story), too.”
You see, Brown’s journey to the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft has been lathered in gaudy statistics and accolades, but the former Parkway star has weathered his fair share of gutting moments. And the people who helped make him a potential first-round pick Sunday are the same folks who offered unwavering support when things didn’t look so great.
“My Dad (Eric Sr.) was a military guy,” Brown said. “He’s responsible for my structure and the motivation to be the best every day. My Mom (Debbie) has been my rock throughout my life. Eddie Fitzpatrick has been my hitting/fielding coach since I was 10 years old. He changed my life. I’ve been dating my girlfriend (Lauren Kirkley) for a year. She’s the one I can vent to.”
As a precursor to 2022 MLB All-Star Game festivities, the Draft will begin at 6 p.m. (CDT) on Sunday in Los Angeles with the first two rounds (televised on MLB Network and ESPN). Monday will feature the next eight rounds (MLB.com); the final 10 rounds take place Tuesday (MLB.com).
Brown won’t be in LA Sunday — well, not that LA. Instead of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he chose to hang with Team Brown for a watch party at Frozen Pirogue in Bossier City.
“It’s going to make the moment 10 times more special to share it with them,” Brown said.
Brown is coming off another big season at Coastal Carolina. As a junior, Brown hit .330 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. He posted a 1.004 OPS and added 12 stolen bases for the Chanticleers.
In conference games only, the 2022 Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year led the way in doubles (14) and ranked in the top 10 in a multitude of categories, including: batting average (.360), hits (40) slugging (.667), on-base percentage (.450) and runs (33).
His glove isn’t bad, either.
“He was the best defensive player I’ve ever coached against,” said Glynn Maynor, the Haughton baseball coach and former District 1-5A foe.
ESPN MLB insider Kiley McDaniel projects Brown to be the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first pick. Brown’s father, Eric Sr., has heard his son could go anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round.
As for Eric Jr., he won’t make the mistake of listening to the draft noise again. Three years ago, Brown allowed himself to be convinced he was going to be drafted coming out of Parkway.
“I had really high hopes,” Brown said. “I told Mom when I was a kid that I was going to get drafted by the New York Yankees, just like my favorite player, Derek Jeter. When I didn’t get picked, it was a mental shock to me. I thought it was going to happen and it got ripped away.
“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with.”
It wasn’t the first surprise for Brown during his prep career. When Brown, who was offered by Louisiana Tech as a sophomore, made his decision to commit to the Bulldogs, he was told there was no longer room in Ruston.
Despite the fact his college offers now stood at zero, Brown didn’t panic. Instead, he traveled to Atlanta that week and raked in the World Wood Bat Tournament.
“It was the best tournament of my life. It was insane,” Brown said. “I walked away with 17 offers.”
This time, he wasn’t going to take his time.
Immediately after Brown’s team was bounced from the tournament, his family jumped in a car and drove to Conway, South Carolina to visit Coastal Carolina. The Browns arrived on campus about 9 p.m. and coach Gary Gilmore gave them a tour of campus until about 1 a.m.
The next day, the Browns drove another 17 hours to visit Dallas Baptist University.
DBU offered everything and was just three hours from home. However, Brown didn’t choose the easy route.
“I wanted to go somewhere I was different and could be different,” Brown said. “I also wanted to help people grow in their faith.
“Being 14 hours from home, I had to mature faster. Being at Coastal helped make me take ownership of every aspect of my life.”
Given how his son has responded to prior disappointments, Eric Sr. is confident the future is bright no matter what Sunday offers.
“I expect him to go where God wants him,” Eric Sr. said. “If he goes there, he can go the 25th round and I will be satisfied. In that case, there is no failure.”
Read more about Brown’s journey as a baseball player/young man and his draft fate in Monday’s editions of the Shreveport-Bossier Journal.
Eric Brown Jr. file
High school: Parkway
College: Coastal Carolina
Email Roy at Roylangiii@yahoo.com.
Photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina Athletics