Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Keith Brown made his first appearance at the Reds Legend Camp this week and if is up to Flagstaff, Arizona native it won't be his last.
"Now that my own kids are older and doing their own thing I am starting to get out more and working at camps like these," said Brown, who was a member of the Reds 1990 World Championship team. "I came here this week to try and help the kids with their pitching mechanics."
Brown feels that far too many kids injure their arms way too early in their careers due to poor throwing mechanics.
"The biggest problem with the kids today is that they develop poor pitching mechanics early on," said Brown, whose brother Ray was also a professional ball player in the Reds organization. "To me it's not so much about a pitch counts its more about mechanics. If your mechanics are not right you could throw one pitch and hurt yourself."
Brown played college ball at California State University in Sacramento before getting drafted by the Reds in the 21st round of the 1986 amateur draft.
Things progressed quickly for Brown as he went 7-2 in his first minor league season before going 13-4 with an outstanding 1.59 earned run average for the Reds single A affiliate in Cedar Rapids in 1987.
Brown split the 1988 season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Nashville and picked up right where he left off as he posted a 15-4 record with another microscopic ERA of 1.68.
After the two dominating seasons in the minors, the Reds decided to give Brown a shot late in the 1988 season at the big league level and he won two-of-three decisions with a 2.76 ERA.
"It's your childhood dream to get to make it to the big leagues and it's one of my favorite memories ever," said Brown, recalling his big league debut. "I can still remember that day coming up over the hill and seeing the stadium and thinking I've finally made it."
Brown spent the majority of the 1989 season in the minors where he struggled for the first time in his professional career but he rebounded nicely in 1990 by posting a 2.39 ERA in Triple-A before getting into eight games with the big league team that just happened to win a World Series for the first time since 1976.
Brown continued to bounce back and forth between the majors and the minors in 1991 and 1992 before signing as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals before the 1993 season.
The battles that Brown had faced up to that point in his career would prove to seem minor when a routine physical with the Royals led to a diagnosis that would change his life forever.
Brown was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer.
"My whole career was one fight after another and then all the sudden I had to fight for my life," said Brown, who went through a bone marrow transplant while also going through chemo-therapy treatments that lasted more than a full year. "I tried to come back and pitch but there was just no coming back after that."
Brown pitched in four games for the Florida Marlins affiliate in Charlotte in 1995 but found out quickly that the cancer had cost him the balance of his big league career.
Today the 6-foot-4 inch right hander is celebrating more than 20 cancer free years with a whole new outlook on life.
"Because of the cancer I have just learned to not take life for granted, and I'll know that in my life I did the best that I could do," said Brown, who now resides in Nashville. "It's just like with Tony Gwynn, I know there is no doubt that he gave life all he had and had no regrets when he passed away."
At 50-years old and feeling great, Brown would like to give back to the game that gave him so much by getting into coaching.
"I'm just putting the word out there that I would like to be a coach," said Brown, of his plans for the future. "Whoever gives me that opportunity is going to get a blessing."
Mike Morrison is a part-time sports writer for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at 740-376-5441.