Thunder Bay native chases Blue Jays dream

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Eric Brown is one of the rare athletes given an opportunity to pursue his dream with his favourite team.

Brown is currently at the Toronto Blue Jays minor league spring training camp, trying to ascend through the ranks from A ball in Lansing, Mich., to the big club.

He grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he only had eyes for one club.

During the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, Brown had the thrill of having his name called out by his childhood team.

“If you grow up in Ontario you’re a Jays fan, it’s simple,” said Brown. “I’ve been a fan of them since I was 10 years old.”

The Blue Jays conveniently placed him with their single-A affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians, making the transition into a professional league much easier on Brown because he went to college at the University of British Columbia.

“Basically I had to meet new teammates and coaches but I didn’t have to move, which made it much easier,” said Brown, standing in the sun after morning practice.

“It helped me remain comfortable despite being in a new situation.”

Brown had a successful first season with the Canadians, tossing 27 innings in relief and striking out 30 batters. Late in the season he was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts.

“I made two appearances in Lansing at the end of the regular season, met the coaches and staff, hopefully I can make it back there for this season,” said Brown. “Making any team would be a big honour for me, though.”

Brown’s pitching repertoire consists of a solid fastball, a changeup and what’s considered a good slider.  He has been focusing on improving his changeup.

“I’ve been working hard on my change up, that’s been my primary focus this offseason, trying to work on my mechanics.”

He likes to be aggressive with batters and challenge them early and often.  Asked who he patterns his game after, he provided one of his favourite past Blue Jay.

“I always looked up to Roger Clemens,” says Brown. “I like to be a bulldog on the mound, always attacking hitters, Roger had that sort of presence on the mound and I always admired him for that.”

If he does make the Lansing Lugnuts, Brown will certainly miss one thing about Vancouver though, sushi.

“I fell in love with sushi when I moved to Vancouver, it’s awesome.  I even introduced my parents to it when they came for a visit.  I would miss that about Vancouver for sure.”