The Woodland baseball program has been victim to instability in recent years, going through four coaches in 10 years.
But with the hiring of former independent leagues coach Joseph Brown last week, Woodland Athletic Director Paul Huddleston hopes, and believes, that Brown will be in woodland long-term and finally bring some of that stability to the Beavers.
“I really feel like this will be a long-term fit,” Huddleston said. “He and I really hit it off well.”
Brown comes to Woodland from Kalama, where he was an assistant after working as a hitting coach at various independent leagues around the country.
Starting in 2010, he coached in Palm Springs, Calif. in a winter league, then moved to San Angelo as a player-coach for the Colts, which folded in 2014.
In 2013, he was the hitting coach for the Laredo Lemurs, popped over to the Amarillo Thunderheads the next year, and had a very short stint with a team out of Oregon City before the league folded after just over a week’s worth of games.
He spent time in Joplin, Mo., Traverse City, Mich. and Lincoln, Neb. serving mostly as a hitting coach but doing other various things, as well.
“I was fortunate to have someone really invest some time in me in my first year of pro ball,” Brown said. “I was always a good hitter as a player and that was a natural gravitation for me.”
Eventually, Brown made his way to Vancouver where he coached the Vancouver Cardinals, a AAA American League team down there.
From there, he joined the staff at Kalama under Brandon Walker, where the coaching differences were obvious.
“It was probably the best thing for me to do (in high school) to start out as an assistant,” Brown said. “It’s completely different. I think I probably would’ve ruin the program if I went right into coaching high school baseball.”
While working for the Cardinals, he ran into Camas coach Stephen Short, who used to hold the same position at Woodland. Short told Brown about the opening, of which Brown was unaware, and not long later Brown was the new Beavers baseball coach.
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“He not only brings experience, but he brings a real passion for the game,” Huddleston said. “That kind of thing’s contagious.”
In professional ball, every player is good, even at the indy league level. They’re also fluent in the language of baseball and have the work ethic to back it up.
It means that Brown wasn’t coaching how to swing a bat. He was giving tips or suggestions to players who’ve been making adjustments for years.
In high school ball, and Legion ball, too, Brown had to pare down what he was teaching, how he approached the game.
Brown talked about how sometimes teams in amateur ball try to induce mistakes from the other team in a pickoff or forcing a throw. That works a lot of times with high school players. But those throws are automatic at the professional level so you’d essentially be wasting an out.
And then there’s simply learning how to coach again.
“A lot of that actually has been fun,” Brown said. “Having to go way back to your roots and become a student of the game again yourself in order to teach it. Huge learning curve that first year. So luckily Brandon Walker at Kalama was great for me. Just patient.”
Brown takes over a program that went 9-12 last year, including its three games in the District 4 playoffs.
Brown will bring the idea of embracing failure, a concept important in a game as hard as baseball.
He talked about a guy named Trevor Ragan, a traveling speaker who has coined a term Brown has bought into.
“He has a saying. It’s ‘train ugly,’” Brown said. “And what that means is: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re gonna have to make mistakes in order to get better.
“So I want to instill that in my players that I want you to go out and just work hard. Don’t worry if you make an error. Just got out there and do your very best. And if you make an error, make a mistake just pick yourself up and get ready to go. I think if we learn to play that way as a team, we’ll probably win more games than we lose.”