What can Brown do for you?
A heck of a lot. Just ask anyone who has seen DJ Brown play baseball this season.
Brown, a graduating Shoreham-Wading River High School senior, had a remarkable season for the Wildcats and was rewarded with one final game, perhaps the last organized baseball game of his sporting life.
Brown was selected to play in the 15th annual Rawlings Grand Slam Challenge. The all-star game for the top seniors from Nassau and Suffolk counties, twice postponed by rain, was finally played Thursday evening at Hofstra University. Brown had a pair of hits for Suffolk in its 4-3 victory.
“It was a good time, a good win,” he said.
Because of the double postponements, this was the latest the game, which benefits St. Jude Children’s Hospital, had been played in the calendar year. It was one last chance for Brown to compete on a baseball diamond. He will play football for Springfield College (Mass.) at the NCAA Division III level this coming fall.
“I’m just very grateful to be accepted into this,” Brown said. “It’s really exciting. It’s nice to play one more game before I’m done playing baseball. So, it’s a good way to end it.”
It was also one last chance for Brown to play for Tom Migliozzi, the Half Hollow Hills West coach running the Suffolk team along with Hauppauge’s Josh Gutes and North Babylon’s Steve Corrado.
Brown played last summer for Migliozzi’s Team Steal so Migliozzi knows what Brown can do.
“He’s a very athletic kid,” Migliozzi said. “He can play any position. He has good speed, good power. All he wants to do is hit in the cage. He’ll wear out a coach — a real coachable kid, a good kid. And that’s why he’s so valuable because he can play anywhere in the infield and he could play the outfield. He’s a kid you want on your team.”
Brown is an extraordinarily versatile player, who can play multiple positions. He had been playing second base for SWR before moving over to third base this past season. His play was top-notch.
The numbers don’t lie. Brown finished the season with a .414 batting average, five home runs, 24 RBIs, 29 runs scored, nine doubles and 14 walks. He made All-County, was the team MVP and SWR’s Male Athlete of the Year.
“I thought I had a good year,” Brown said. “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to [with a county championship], but overall it was a good time.”
SWR coach Kevin Willi said he has nothing but nice things to say about Brown.
“Watched him develop since baseball camp … [i]n 6th grade,” Willi wrote in a text. He continued: “He added 25 lbs of muscle in the off-season — a testament to his work ethic. Silent leader who was unanimously chosen as our team captain. He had a breakout year leading the team in almost every offensive category. Comes from a great family and has a bright future ahead. He was a pleasure to coach and I’m very proud for him!!!”
Brown showed his versatility again. He started Thursday’s game as an extra hitter before playing four innings at shortstop.
In his first at-bat in the second inning, Brown fouled out for the third out with runners on first and second. He followed that up with an infield single in the fifth and a bounced single through the left side in the seventh.
The Grand Slam Challenge historically has been a pitcher’s game. In its 15-year history, there has never been a home run and only two triples.
This game followed that pattern. The teams combined for 11 hits, none for extra bases.
With the score tied, 2-2, and daylight running short at a field with no lights, a tiebreaking rule was instituted in the ninth. Each team began the inning with the bases loaded and one out.
Suffolk took advantage of that in the top of the inning. Brian Primm’s first-pitch RBI single was followed one out later by a hit Josh McGee banged into leftfield for a 4-2 lead.
Nassau replied with Joe Braskey’s sacrifice fly to open up the bottom of the ninth. With two runners in scoring position, Primm then struck out Stefano Ciluffo to end it.
Christian Amoruso of Smithtown West (2-for-3, walk) was named the Suffolk MVP and the Nassau MVP award went to Aidan Larken of Chaminade (2-for-3, run, two stolen bases). Suffolk third baseman Michael Draskin of Hills West received the defensive MVP award.
Brown acknowledged his last organized baseball game had some sadness to go with the excitement. Was the decision to play football in college instead of baseball a tough one?
“Honestly, I had more interest from colleges for football, so that’s what I chose,” he said. “Yeah, it’s sad but I love football and I had to choose, so I chose that.”
Asked before the game what his approach would be to the Grand Slam Challenge, Brown answered, “Have a good time and do the best I can and see how it goes.”
When it was over, he had to admit his baseball farewell went pretty well.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior DJ Brown had two hits in Suffolk County’s victory in the 15th annual Grand Slam Challenge at Hofstra University. (Credit: Bob Liepa)