Brown battles the worst to make it big at Simpson

Brown battles the worst to make it big at Simpson

by David Morain

Plenty of athletes take time off from sports and then come back. Michael Jordan twice retired from the NBA. Luke Recker gave college basketball a rest for a year between Indiana and Iowa. Jose Rijo took five years off between stints with the Cincinnati Reds. Of course, all of these athletes were either getting paid or were on scholarship.

Not many athletes come back purely for the sport. Not many athletes are like Scott Brown.

“Being apart from athletics made me realize how much I love it,” said Brown, a senior pitcher on the Storm baseball team. “The time off gave me a greater appreciation of the level of work ethic in general it takes to be successful.”

In the spring of his freshman year of high school, Brown fractured the fourth vertebrae of the lumbar region. He was told it would never truly heal.

“I had to sit out of baseball that summer,” said Brown. “The doctors also told me that I’d have to sit out of my sophomore year of basketball. I went to other doctors until I found one that would tell me what I wanted to hear.”

Brown played both baseball and basketball for the next three years without a healthy back. He performed so well that he was recruited in both sports by several colleges in Iowa. Brown eventually chose to play basketball for Head Coach Bruce Wilson at Simpson.

Things went fine for a year. At the start of his sophomore season, however, things took a turn for the worse.

“It was the first day of conditioning for basketball that fall,” said Brown. “We were running outside when I hurt my back again stepping off a curb.” Brown had refractured his back and was told he would have to give up basketball.

“It wasn’t necessarily hard to give up basketball because I didn’t have a choice,” said Brown. “But I had 80 percent of my friends on the team. I thought about transferring if I couldn’t be involved in athletics. I thought about attending a bigger school. My dad told me that my chances of being successful wouldn’t be enhanced a larger school.”

Brown decided to stick it out at Simpson, despite not being able to participate in athletics.

“It was hard not to be on a team for the first time,” said Brown.

Baseball didn’t avail itself to him again until a meeting with Head Coach John Sirianni prior to his junior year. Brown had originally gone in to talk with Sirianni about pursuing a career as a college athletic director.

Again, Brown went to several doctors until he found one that gave him the answer he was looking for. He joined the team in the fall of his junior year.

“The strangest thing about taking time off was having to work on fundamentals again,” said Brown. “My body was in good shape from recently playing basketball, and the rehab got my back in shape. Flexibility, ab work and leg workouts are things I do at my pitching position anyway.”

Brown jokes, “If anything, it just gave my shoulder a nice long rest.”

Getting back into playing shape didn’t prove to be the toughest thing Brown had to overcome. The worry of finding a place on the team was much harder.

“I was a little nervous stepping into a situation with new guys,” said Brown. “During fall ball I didn’t exactly shine. But the team and the coaches really supported me.”

Once the season was underway, Brown was an instant success, posting an ERA of 3.98 while tying for third on the team in strikeouts. At the start of this season, Brown was elected to be a co-captain. He is currently the only senior on the pitching staff.

“It took a while to make that adjustment,” said Brown. “I feel like a sophomore, but there’s a certain expectation of being the only senior pitcher.”

Through Monday, Brown was 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He is leading the Storm with three complete games, one of those being a shutout against Illinois Wesleyan.

Brown has logged the most innings of any pitcher on the Storm staff. The staff has responded to Brown’s leadership by posting the third lowest collective ERA in the Iowa Conference at 4.85.

“The pitching staff is like a support group,” said Brown. “It’s a team within a team. Everybody comes here to pitch, but you have to have a certain level of toughness to stick it out. We help each other develop that toughness mentally more than physically.

Brown added, “You can talk about the pitching staff, but the catchers call the games. The pitchers are only as good as the catchers make them look. We have the two smartest catchers in the conference.”

Though the team is playing well right now, tied for second place with Wartburg and Buena Vista at 6-3 in the conference, Brown said that placing second won’t be enough.

“We set more long term than short term goals,” said Brown. “Coach [Sirianni] said we would need to win 12 conference games to put us in a nice position entering the conference tournament. Some of us have higher goals. If we win more than 12, it will definitely put us in a better position.”

It would seem only fitting that Brown wouldn’t take anything less than a championship. Not after all the time off, not after all the rehab. Call it a tribute to his persistence, to his determination.

“When you have to leave something you love,” said Brown, “you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can work your ass off to get back.”