On his way to baseball’s rooftop, Seth Brown started on the ground floor and made a stop at about every level.
The Klamath Falls, Ore., native went from junior college — at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Ore. — to Lewis-Clark State, which he spearheaded to its 17th Avista NAIA World Series title, and first in seven years. His one season of masterful action for the Warriors as a junior led to Oakland taking him in the 19th round of the 2015 MLB draft.
“L-C State was the hardest I’ve ever worked,” said Brown from his temporary residence in Bend, Ore., where he’s training and awaiting direction amid uncertainty in the sports world caused by the spread of the coronavirus. “That was probably the most important step I’ve taken in my baseball and personal life, as a human being. I’d say L-C was the biggest grind, which I enjoyed.”
He spent a redshirt season prepping with the Warriors, and acquiring academic eligibility, then led the NAIA with 23 homers to reach the next level, knowing he still had a world of work ahead.
“I had to get used to playing a game almost every day for 140,” the 27-year-old said.
Brown’s four-year path to the pinnacle of baseball went like this, chronologically: The Rookie League Arizona League Athletics for six games; the Single-A Short-Season Vermont Lake Monsters for the rest of 2015; the High Single-A Stockton Ports for two seasons; the Double-A Midland RockHounds for a year; then, the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators for a power-hitting display of a season, during which he clubbed 37 home runs, at last earning promotion to the big leagues on Aug. 26, 2019.
“It was something you just have to get used to doing,” he said of the toil of the minors. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he played 573 minor-league games before getting called up. “Working in the offseasons (often in Lewiston public parks) ... and you just have to understand your body’s gonna hurt, but you have to put yourself in a position to move up the ladder.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way, honestly. It was exactly the way I wanted to do it, scratch and claw for everything you get — that’s the way I look at life.”
His mindset coincides with what LCSC players past and present term the “Warrior Way,” a mentality to “give your 100 percent in everything, with no fear of failure. Sacrifice everything to accomplish your dreams,” he noted.
From the bottom to the top, Brown embodied the attitude, grinding through the minors and into a hitter’s role with the Athletics, who also can play him in the outfield or at first base. His hard work was further affirmed when he earned a spot on Oakland’s postseason roster. The A’s lost 5-1 to Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card round.
“The whole Oakland team was very welcoming,” said Brown, who was helped through the process and given the constructive “rookie speech” by A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman. “Their focus was winning, because they were in the middle of the postseason race. I loved jumping into that. There wasn’t too much on my mind, other than, ‘Do my best to help the team win.’”
In 26 games, the left-handed batter hit .293 (22-for-75) with 13 RBI, eight doubles and two triples — both coming in his first home game Sept. 3 at RingCentral Coliseum, with former LCSC coach Jeremiah Robbins in attendance.
“It’s always been the same game. Now, you have to work even harder than you ever had before, just to stay,” Brown said. “Getting there is part of the journey, but staying in the big leagues is the biggest battle.”
Brown is keeping fit and focused in Bend. He spends his time fishing, and working out at BOSS Sports Performance, run by former six-year NFL tight end Kevin Boss. Brown’s wife, Brittaney (nee Niebergall) — a former LCSC basketball standout — teaches elementary school and coaches high school basketball in town. The bright lights of the majors have permitted him the funds to focus exclusively on baseball, but his disposition remains the same.
“I’m a pretty simple guy, so there hasn’t been too many changes in my life,” Brown said. “I try to stick with what got me there. I continue keeping to myself a little bit, living a simple lifestyle.”
Before the MLB canceled the remainder of spring training March 12, Brown was batting .343 (12-for-35), with eight RBI, five doubles, a grand slam and seven runs scored through 15 games in the Phoenix area. He said he felt “locked in,” and again welcomed the experience of competing against and learning from MLB veterans — “Watching those guys, trying to take pieces I can use for myself,” he said.
Although he’s on the current active roster as an outfielder, Brown said nothing is yet set in stone.
“Every day is a fight for your spot, you gotta take advantage of every at-bat you get,” he said. Oakland manager Bob Melvin recently told the Chronicle that Brown’s chances look good, considering his defensive versatility and hitting prowess. “You can’t look at it any other way, or you’re getting passed. ... Right now, I’m kinda just waiting on more info and a plan for the season.”
Brown’s most cherished rookie memories include: When Brittaney accompanied him to Yankee Stadium, his stellar first night at home, interacting with legends — like Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire — and simply making his living at historic places in a storied league.
“You can’t help but think of the thousands who played before. Sharing the field with some of the greatest who’ve ever played the game, that’s a cool experience,” he said.
One of many to come for the hyper-focused disciple of the “Warrior Way,” who grinded his way from bottom to top.
“It’s time to work harder than ever before.”
Clark may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.