For most of the players in Tuesday’s Detroit Public School League boys’ baseball championship game at Comerica Park, the chance to compete in a major league ballpark will be the experience of a lifetime. For Martin Luther King High senior Mark Brown, it could be the precursor to his way of life.
Brown, the Crusaders’ 5-foot-8, 164-pound center fielder, will be a player to watch as his team takes on two-time defending league champion Western International Academy in the 7 p.m. title game after Renaissance and Cass Tech square off in the 5 p.m. consolation game. Tickets are just $5 and can be purchased at the Comerica Park box office.
Brown has already distinguished himself by becoming the first player from the PSL to sign to play baseball at a Big 12 Conference school, Kansas University. And judging by the interest he’s attracting from major league organizations in preparation for the June draft, Brown likely will be able to choose between college and turning pro, depending on what’s deemed best for his future.
“The opportunity to play in the Big 12 was too much to pass up,” Brown’s father, Mark Sr., told the Detroit News. “Will he get drafted? Yes. If it works out, he’ll sign a pro contract. If the numbers don’t add up, he’ll play for Kansas.”
In baseball parlance, Brown is what scouts describe as a five-tool player, with the skill set to run, field, throw, hit for average and hit for power.
So far this season, Brown has led King with a .444 batting average (16-for-36) with 10 extra-base hits, including two home runs, and 10 runs batted in. His remarkable .680 on-base percentage includes 10 walks as teams routinely pitched around him in critical situations rather than risk feeling his wrath.
Brown’s defensive talents stole the show last Thursday in the Crusaders’ 4-3 PSL semifinal victory against Renaissance.
With the game on the line and two runners on base in the fifth inning, Brown used his speed to cover about 60 yards of turf and snared a deep fly ball to left center that squelched a Renaissance rally. Then in the sixth inning, after Renaissance led off with a base hit to right center, Brown rifled a one-bounce throw on a rope to second base, mowing down the base runner who was trying to stretch a single into a double.
“That was the game-breaking play right there because it took all the wind out their sails,” King head coach Norman Taylor said. “But he’s been doing stuff like that all year. Everybody expects him to hit the ball well, but he’s just as good defensively, if not better, than he is offensively. His biggest strengths are his defense and base running.”
Brown, 18, also plays basketball, but decided early on that baseball was the sport in which he could excel.
“In basketball, 5-8 guards are a dime a dozen, but there’s not a lot of guys like me who have speed and power,” Brown said. “I was about 13 or 14 when I decided professional baseball was my No. 1 goal.”
During the summer, Brown plays in the Detroit RBI League for his Dad’s team and that program, sponsored by MLB, has afforded him the opportunity to play in several major league parks around the country.
His high school coach has no doubt that Brown will one day be making a living in the majors.
“He’s currently the No. 1-rated high school player in the state and he’s going to make millions,” Taylor said. “He’s going to be drafted. I don’t know how high. But hopefully the figures will add up to a decision that he can make to pursue his professional career while attending college in the offseason. He comes from a college-educated family, so he’s definitely going to get his degree. But his dream and aspirations are to be a professional baseball player. That’s what I expect will happen.”