Domonic Brown likes to let his bat, and his legs, do the talking. As humble as he is talented, the 21-year-old outfielder is one of the top prospects in the Phillies organization, pairing a sweet left-handed swing and projectable power with outstanding speed. Recruited to play wide receiver at the University of Miami before signing with the Phillies in 2006, the 6’ 5” Brown has split the 2009 season between high-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, hitting a combined .303/.378/.518, with 14 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Brown talked about his development on the diamond, along with his other favorite sport, when Reading visited Portland earlier this month.
David Laurila: How would you describe yourself, both on and off the field?
Domonic Brown: It’s kind of different for me, because off the field I’m kind of a quiet, soft-spoken guy. When I’m on the baseball field, I’m kind of fiery and energetic. I just play hard, you know. That’s really all I’ve got.
DL: Your name has frequently been misspelled as Dominic, but you’ve rarely made note of the error, in large part because you’re too polite. Is that true?
DB: It really wasn’t a big deal. I get it all the time, ever since I was younger, so it’s not a big deal at all. Not a big deal.
DL: What about the reports that you’re too polite to want to correct anyone? Are you maybe too soft-spoken?
DB: I don’t think I’m being too soft-spoken. I really just let my game speak for itself, on the field. Off the field, I don’t really talk too much about what I can do, and the name thing is really not important to me. Everybody knows me as Domonic; that’s my name, and it’s just spelled a little different. That’s it.
DL: Coming into the season, Kevin Goldstein wrote that you tend to be overly focused on contact, which can sap you of power. Was that accurate, and if so, has it changed?
DB: Yeah, the contact thing is me staying gap to gap. The power thing, you know…it’s coming. I see a progression, but I like to stay gap to gap. The power thing is going to come. All that home runs are, are mistakes…hitting pitches, anyway. That will come.
DL: Your power numbers are better this season. Are they a result of any adjustments you’ve made?
DB: No. Not at all. I think that I’m just getting a little older now; I’m getting better hitting-wise, so the power numbers are starting to show a little more.
DL: Looking at your splits, you’ve hit better against lefties than righties since being promoted to Reading. Why is that?
DB: I’m staying on the ball better here. Like last night, I went one for five against a righy, but I hit three balls hard. I also K’d twice, but that’s part of the game. The thing with lefties is that I’m staying on the ball good and trying to drive the ball to center field and to left center; I’m trying to stay gap to gap.
DL: Can you do the same thing against right-handers — concentrate on staying on the ball better?
DB: You try to, but with lefties you have to, because from the left side the ball is usually tailing in. So, if you pull off the ball, it’s usually going to result in you hitting a ground ball, and that’s exactly what the lefty comes in to do; he tries to get ground balls for his team. I just try to stay on the ball, and middle away, and react on a ball in.
DL: Were there specific benchmarks you needed to meet in order to move up from the Florida State League to Reading?
DB: I really didn’t know of any. All I was trying to do was put up good numbers and let the rest take care of itself, you know. That’s about it.
DL: You were promoted right around the trade deadline. Did the rumors impact you in any way?
DB: The thing about that was that I was hurt; I was out for six or seven weeks with a broken hand. Once I got ready, it was just in the nick of time after the trade rumors, so I can’t really say on that. But the rumors didn’t really bother me all that much. I’d see my name on ESPN, and stuff, and I was like, “Really? Is that me on ESPN?,” but other than that I didn’t try to keep it in the back of my head. But I guess that it was a little stressful; it was a little stressful.
DL: During spring training, you talked about wanting to improve your stolen base numbers.
DB: I think that I’ve been doing that pretty well this year. I think I have five here [in Reading] and I had 15 in the Florida State League, in 66 games, so if I had played the whole season, I think that I’d be around 30 right now. I’m just trying to get it up; I’m trying to steal more bases and utilize my speed the best way I can.
DL: Outside of simply running more, how does one go about improving his stolen base numbers?
DB: For me, I’m trying to get out here with Q, Quintin Berry, because he’s a great base stealer. It’s all about the technique and reading pitchers, and just getting out there and doing it, working on your cross-over step and getting out there and just doing the job, using your speed. Usually, if a pitcher is around 1.3 [seconds] and up, I’m going. I’m taking a chance, because it’s usually a good time to go.
DL: Usain Bolt recently set another world record. What would you rather do: break one of his records, or make a big league all-star team?
DB: It would be to make a big league all-star team. I’m a speed guy, but I’m not running no 9.5, or whatever he ran. Winning a Gold Medal, or breaking a time, would be special, but I’d have to say that it would be making an all-star team for me
DL: What are your thoughts on the Stephen Strasburg deal?
DB: I don’t know. I think that he did a good deed by signing. It’s just crazy, the amount of money he’s receiving, but they say that he’s going to be one of the best pitchers ever, or at least it seems like it. That’s really I’ve got on that. It’s a great deal for him, and I’m just happy he signed.
DL: Strasburg hits triple digits with his fastball. Given your football background, which is harder: standing in the batter’s box against that kind of heat, or going across the middle to catch a pass?
DB: Oh man, it’s going across the middle. It’s definitely going across the middle.
DL: Is there more fear in football?
DB: Of course, man, of course. But for me, that wasn’t really a problem. Standing in against a 100-mph fastball isn’t a really big problem for me either. I’m probably going to see it, so that’s not a big thing for me.
DL: The other big news this week was Brett Favre signing with the Vikings. What is your opinion on that?
DB: Oh, man. I think that’s great, man, because you know that I’m a football guy, and that’s great for Brett Favre. I also think that it’s great for the Vikings. Now they have a chance to win a Super Bowl.
DL: Does loyalty not factor into the equation when a player signs with his former team’s arch rival?
DB: Oh yeah. Of course it does. The Packers are definitely going to be after him. That’s what, October 5 when they play them? They’re going to be getting after it, I know that.
DL: Any final thoughts?
DB: Nah. I just want to be known as a guy that’s going to go out and work hard, and play the game the right way. Simple as that. That’s all I’ve got.