Baseball has a long and grand history in the Detroit Public Schools, albeit in recent years the sports has suffered. However, there is a man, not the only one, but one who has dedicated his life to keeping baseball alive in the inner city.
“I’ve been coaching the Eagles for 25 years,” said Mark Brown Sr. “I’ve been fighting the recent trend where the best Black athletes these days see their parents encourage them to play basketball or football. Plus the way football and basketball coaches take the kids in the spring and summer for camps and special drills shuts baseball out of the mix. Add in the fact baseball is the kind of game that you cannot play by yourself, and it is easy to see how things have changed.”
One thing that has not changed is that fruit does not fall far from the tree.
Bucking a trend that has seen fewer and fewer PSL athletes get scholarships in baseball, Mark Brown Jr. is a shining light. The Martin Luther King High player recently inked his signature on the dotted line with the University of Kansas.
“They have a great program and the conference is baseball crazy,” said Mark Jr. “Coach told me where I fit in and I liked the fellowship they gave me when I visited the school. The told me I have a chance to play some in centerfield as a true freshman.”
Mark Jr. led King to the PSL championship, but they lost to Western. However, it was no fault of Mark’s as he played at the highest level and obviously the college scouts recognized his skill level.
Baseball is a difficult game to master. It takes an early start and practice and more practice.
Mark Sr.’s Eagles have won a noteworthy three RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) National titles. RBI is an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and as many as 120,000 male and female participants an each year.
“I have eight kids that are playing baseball in college right now,” Mark Sr. exclaimed. “We just put in the work and we run a year-round program. We saw what they do in the South and California and we figured if we are going to compete we need to step our game up. When it gets cold we go inside and practice. There is no quick and easy way to get good at this game. We put the work in.”
Mark Jr. heeded his father’s call and put the work in.
“It has taken hard work and dedication,” Mark Jr. said. “I have a batting cage in my backyard. I do weight training and speed work all year-round.”
Baseball is a unique game that is as much mental as physical.
“The hardest thing about playing baseball is the effort required to be good at the sport,” Mark Jr. said. “When you face a pitcher that can throw over 90 mph, has a change-up and curve ball, you are going to fail. The thing is you have to not get too high or low and maintain your focus. You have to stay mentally in the game.”
Mark Jr. reaffirms that the talent is still in the PSL, the sport just needs more people like Mark Sr. and more youth like Mark Jr. who are willing to put the work in.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.