OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arizona’s Andy Lopez says that as long as he coaches, he’ll use designated hitter Bobby Brown as an example of perseverance.
“There’ll be someone somewhere that I’ll be coaching, and he’ll be down, hasn’t played, hasn’t made a road trip, and his body language will say, ‘I’m in the tank,'” Lopez said Friday.
And then Lopez will tell that player the story of Brown, the kid from San Diego who didn’t become a key contributor in the Wildcats’ program until his fifth year.
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After appearing in just 17 games last season, Brown has emerged to hit a career-best .353 and make the All-Pac 12 team. He hit his fifth home run of the season in Thursday’s 10-3 win over Florida State that moved Arizona to the best-of-three College World Series finals. He’s batting .300 in three CWS games and .400 in eight NCAA tournament games.
“I’ve sat most of my career on the bench, and there were times it was really difficult to watch other guys play in front of me,” Brown said. “There have been times I thought I should move on to other things. I’m glad I stayed, and we’re here in the College World Series.”
Brown was expected to be an everyday player last season, but he lost the DH job to Josh Garcia, who is now an undergraduate assistant.
“He’s always shown the ability to hit,” Lopez said. “The biggest difference between Bobby Brown this year and last year and previous years is his ability to slow the game down. He has done a marvelous job of slowing the game down and taking big at-bats. Some guys walk in and can slow the game down. Other guys, it takes a year or two. Some, it takes three.”
Brown started slowly this year. He was hitless in his first 14 at-bats and was benched against Auburn when he was 2 for 21. But he became the regular DH on March 24 for the second game of a series at Oregon State, and he hit his first career homer that day for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.
Brown was selected to the Tucson All-Regional team and had the tying single in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Super Regional opener against St. John’s.
He got off to a rough start at the CWS. He went 0 for 5, striking out three times, in a 12-inning win over Florida State. Two nights later, he hit a two-run double in a 4-0 win over UCLA, and Thursday he drove a ball into the right-field bullpen for a 10-1 lead over Florida State.
“I’ve always known I’m a good player,” Brown said. “I needed the opportunity, and I knew eventually I would get it. I got it this year and I’ve run away with it.”
WHAT’S MY NAME?
Arizona coach Andy Lopez reminisced recently about the under-the-radar Pepperdine team he brought to the CWS in 1992 that went on to win the national championship.
He laughed about the pre-CWS banquet, where all the coaches gathered to give a talk about their teams.
The master of ceremonies called Pepperdine “Pepperdeen” and addressed the coach as “Al Lopez” rather than Andy Lopez.
“Two weeks later, they knew who we were,” Lopez said.