A successful baseball move
Kelson Brown is hoping his achievements in college will continue in pros
La Canada High graduate Kelson Brown earned All-American honors playing for Linfield College. He was drafted last week by the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Courtesy of Kelly J. Bird)
In 2006, Brown left his hometown of La Cañada after graduating from La Cañada High to play baseball for Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. Brown returned home this spring after graduating, but wasn't there long.
He departed for Pennsylvania on Sunday, four days after being taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft.
Brown was carefully following the MLB draft at his house alone June 9, when he saw his name appear as the Pirates' 1,017 overall pick in the 34th round. He called his family and friends with the news, even before the Pirates' organization could call to congratulate him.
This summer, Brown will be playing Short-Season A-Ball for the State College Spikes of Pennsylvania, a minor league affiliate with the Pirates.
"Being drafted is the first step," Brown said. "I want to be a professional baseball player, and I still have a lot to prove and a lot to get better at. I think I've been given a good situation at Pittsburgh."
This first step he's taken is a gigantic one, which has been years in the making.
Ever since he can remember, Brown has dreamed of being a professional baseball player. He said it wasn't until his junior year of college that the goal became a real possibility.
That dream was still in its infancy in high school. Playing for La Cañada, Brown's team won the Rio Hondo League championship his junior year. As a senior, his Spartans squad ended up taking second in league. Both years the Spartans made the CIF Southern Section playoffs but were eliminated in the second round.
Brown earned second-team All-Rio Hondo League accolades in 2005 as a shortstop.
"My senior year I started at shortstop, but we needed pitching, so I stepped on the mound, and that was actually where I was most successful," Brown said.
He was a first-team all-league selection his senior year, playing shortstop and pitching.
"Obviously, the experience of playing in playoff games and being a leader of a team for the first time as a senior was good going into college," Brown said. "I feel like most of my growth as a player came in college though."
The Linfield College coaches probably didn't realize what a talent they were getting in Brown. He ended up making a huge impact on the program, and is only the second Wildcat to be drafted since Brian Barnett was picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997.
Brown said he pitched his entire freshman year because his arm strength was his only real strength at the time. Now, Brown has found his niche at shortstop — as well as at the plate.
A dedication to the weight room and his physical development changed Brown into a more complete player, he said.
As a senior, Brown was named an American Baseball Coaches Assn. first-team All-American at shortstop. In addition, he was named West Region and Northwest Conference Player of the Year.
He helped Linfield attain a third-place finish in the NCAA Division III Championships and notch a school-record 37 wins.
A number of other Linfield records were shattered by Brown during his senior campaign. He boasted a team-best — and third-best-all-time — .443 batting average (89 for 201) and set records for hits (89), doubles (27), runs batted in (72) and total bases (147).