My youngest son Christopher and I made the drive up to Nationals Park tonight to see Greg Maddux take a third shot at tying Roger Clemens for the #8 spot All-Time in MLB victories at 354. Once again Maddux came up a bit short as two UN-earned runs allowed the Nats to squeak out a 5-4 victory. The Dodgers have now dropped 6 straight games away from LA as Joe Torre and company were swept in a four game series at Citizens Bank Ball Park up in Phili before two straight losses to Washington.
It was my first trip up to the new park and now the number of teams in MLB that I have seen play in multiple home parks is up to nine. It is always fun for me to get to watch Maddux pitch, even we he doesn't get the "W" and this was the first time that Chris had been there with me. I was listening to a trio of educated fans sitting directly behind me and I turned around when I heard one of them say we were watching the greatest pitcher of our generation!
If you have been following for most of the year then you know that I love to talk about my baseball hero with others that appreciate his talents. When I turned around to speak I noticed the young man on my far left was wearing a Maryland Terps wind breaker. I put two and two together with Terps gear and knowledge of the game that this young man might know Coach Brown up at College Park.
Anyone with ties to New Market will remember skipper Blaine Brown and the remarkable run that the Rebels made during his stay in town. Brown was last the manager for Bruce Alger in the 2006 season, which was my first working with the club. Every game that I went to interview Brown I was greeted with a smile whether the Rebels had won or lost that night. The fact that the Rebels went an amazing 32-10 during the regular season might of helped the situation but it was obvious to me that Brown was a players manager.
We will need to check with John Leonard in a few years to see how many of those Rebels will one day play in the majors. Two players from the 2008 edition were 3RD year returnees as Dale Brannon and Kevin Dietrich both were role players on that dominating team. I wanted to go back in time to Thursday July 6, 2006 when I covered my first game with Coach Brown at Rebel Park...
New Market (20-5) 3, Staunton Braves (12-14) 2
Closer Brandon "Cotton" Dickson, Darren Caldwell and starter Mark Brackman combined on the victory. Brackman came in with 3-0 record and 0.70 ERA. Cotton picked up his 9TH save that night and the Rebels would go on to win 12 of their final 17 hading into the playoffs. Dan Zeffiro was another one of the arms on the staff and some of the big mashers were Gerard Haran, Chris Beck and Jon Geiger. The speed on the team came from Joey Butler, Bryan Shaughnessy and a host of others.
Brown played all of the percentages every night and not only was his club successful but highly entertaining to watch. Brown and his team combined solid starting pitching, sound defense, clutch hitting and swiping a few bases before giving the ball over to Cotton for the save. The 2008 Rebels skipper Nolan Neiman was the top assistant to Brown for the 2006 campaign.
Let's head back to the conversation at the Nats park where it turned out this young man, Mike Murphy, did indeed know Coach and that led to another long conversation. Mike was able to tell me a little bit about Coach and the success of the 2006 Rebels. It would appear that Brown had taken the time to mention that special group of players that spent the VBL Summer of 2006 in New Market to some of the current Terps players.
Murphy was also pointed out that Brown remains a players coach that is approachable to the players on the roster. Brown will be returning to assist head coach Terry Rupp once the 2009 ACC season gets under way. The final comment from Murphy about Brown concerned his obsession with Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk as in Kansas University.
"He is Kansas this and Kansas that, whether it is football or basketball," Murphy said. "I wonder where it all began?".
I can answer that one as Brown is a native of Richmond, Kansas and anyone living in a state in the Midwest without professional sports usually turns out a die-hard fan of the big time college program in that state. This works for Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and a few others that fall into that same category.
I was able to capture a picture of Murphy and his two friends at the game and I will post that at some point when Rebecca gets around to teaching me how! She was going to the game with us but wasn't feeling well when it was time for her to leave UVA.
When we made it back home I went to do a little research on Mike and his baseball career after hearing he spent this past summer playing for the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod League. It turns out this young man is a pretty solid baseball player for the Terps as well as some what of a celebrity. One of his friends mentioned that Mike had played the previous summer up in the Alaskan League and during one of those games he spent the night wired for sound.
After being miked up they asked Mike to be colorful for the special and he was happy to oblige them. They were telling me that it will appear on a HBO special at some point and I will try and keep my eye out for that one...
The profile on Murphy tells us that he will be a senior this season for Maryland and that he played his high school baseball at Georgetown Prep for the Little Hoyas. Check out what the next paragraph says:
"Arguably the best hitter on the team...emerged as one of the best power hitters in the ACC in 2007...knack for driving in key runs...mixes power with good speed...reliable presence in the middle of thew lineup, starting every game (56 of them)...top pro prospect on the team...excellent student...
I will add at that he is a well spoken and incredibly nice young man that for a night helped me watch Maddux pitch and talk about Coach Brown and the 2006 Rebels...
Now here is a challenge to any and all New Market fans from 2006- Name me another player or two from that roster....