Mitch Brown isn't ready to give up his baseball playing career, but he is also starting to transition into the next stage of his life.
The hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher was a second-round draft choice out Century High School by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 draft. Brown spent seven years in the Indians' minor-league system, playing in Class AA in 2017 and '18.
He had a 1.99 ERA as a relief pitcher in 2018, but Brown started battling back and pelvic injuries and he was not signed following that season.
“Throwing a baseball violently is such a violent rotational thing that if you’re not able to rotate and separate around the lumbar and lower back, it makes it extremely difficult," Brown said.
When Brown was a starting pitcher in pro ball, his fastball was usually in the 95 mile-per-hour range. Later when he went to the bullpen, his fastball reached 98 on occasion. But as injuries took their toll, he lost some velocity.
“I’ve just had some really frustrating chronic pelvic pain that I’ve been trying to get worked on,” Brown said. “I went to Mayo (Clinic) and had an MRI and basically all they could tell me was that there was a lot of inflammation in my lower back.”
For the past two summers, Brown has played amateur baseball with the Rochester Royals. He still enjoys the game and hasn't given up the hope of getting another pro tryout.
“I’ve just been trying to have fun and get back to playing baseball for the love of the game," Brown said. "Town ball has been such an amazing experience because we’ve got guys who have played in the Big Leagues all the way to up to guys who never played college baseball.”
Brown's recent velocity has been about about 91 miles-an-hour. Last summer he was up to 94, but he had another setback with his back.
“I always thought that if I could get back to throwing mid-90s I’d have a chance because I have a plus-breaking ball, and a couple of plus-secondary pitches," he said.
BECOMING A TEACHER
But the 26-year-old realizes that his chances of playing pro ball again may be behind him. With that in mind, teaching and coaching are likely in his baseball future. He has been teaching at Rochester Batting Cages, owned by Jeff Milene, for several years and last fall Brown started a training program for players.
“I felt like I had something to offer,” Brown said. “Even though I wasn’t having a lot of success training myself, I knew I could train other players. He’s made it really easy on me and it’s such a blessing to have Jeff as a resource and a friend to help me out with it.”
Brown started the Savage Training Program for high school players ages 14-18 last September.
“The kids were having a blast and they were making a ton of gains and the progress was just unbelievable,” Brown said.
Soon some of the parents of younger players were also reaching out to be trained. A couple months later, a Junior Savage Program was added for youth ages 8-14.
“We have kids in there just working really hard learning basic human movement," Brown said. “Baseball is an extremely rotational sport and we really train the kids to reflect that.”
Suddenly Brown had so many players working out that he brought on former Mayo High and University of Illinois player Michael Michalak to run the Junior Program.
“It’s awesome what Mitch is doing and I really appreciate him asking me to help him,” Michalak said. “The program’s really great. We’ve seen every player that’s in the program make great strides.”
Brown tries to challenge the players during workouts to achieve to the best of their abilities, and to make the challenges so tough that they "fail forward." He also has a message.
“I’ve always told the kids, if all I can do is make you a better baseball player, that’s not really worth it,” Brown said. “Because at the end of the day, I know as well as anyone that no matter how good you are, someone’s going to tell you you’re not good enough to play anymore. And at that point you have to move on and be an active member of society and a contributor to things outside of baseball.”
COACHING IN HIS FUTURE?
Coaching, possibly at the pro level, also seems to be in Brown's future. He and Milene attended a pitching seminar last December and Brown had a bunch of contacts there who showed an interest in him.
“They just kind of let me know that if I ever wanted to get into coaching, they're looking for guys with the background that I have and the knowledge that I have with some of the data and being able to read the data and imply that into the practice setting," Brown said.
Brown is also employed by Drive Line Baseball out of Washington as a remote trainer. It is very data driven in regards to testing players, and then applying the methods to the athletes. And after a while they are tested again to see if modifications are needed.
“The database and the access to some of the information that I have has really opened my eyes to how we can better train our athletes,” Brown said. “It’s been really cool to watch that on a little bit smaller scale with some of the local athletes here.”
Brown is trying to become a better coach and he is using advanced technology to help train athletes. He said "the eyeball test just isn’t good enough anymore.”
Brown and his wife currently reside in Rochester. They bought their first house a year and a half ago and have a daughter who is 5 months old.
“She’s the best thing I have ever experienced,” Brown said. “It’s just been crazy to have life slow down and get back to living a somewhat stable life.
“It’s kind of getting where I’m enjoying what I’m doing enough so that I can see the other side of the game. I feel like I’m starting to trend to the other side of my playing career and I’m OK with that.”