CLEVELAND — John Brown doesn’t try to mask his uneasiness when probed about his success as a baseball coach.
Brown, White County High’s baseball coach, presents an air of excessive modesty considering his overwhelming success for 37 years as a head baseball coach, including winning his 700th game Monday against North Hall.
Brown greets every question with a hefty grin, then rocks slightly back and forth to find the right words to ensure he doesn’t come across as boastful. He says that time has served to mellow his perspective for what happens on the diamond.
“It’s nice to win — everyone wants to win,” Brown said. “But this is all about the kids.
“That’s what makes the game so much fun is the association with these young men.”
However, the fact remains that Brown is one of the more successful high school coaches to come through the state, even though the bulk of his wins came in Florida. He joins Columbus coach Bobby Howard and Westside-Augusta’s Gerald Barnes as the only coaches to reach 700 wins in state history.
Even though Brown, a 2000 inductee to the Florida Coaches Hall of Fame, hesitates to talk about his own personal accolades, he’s more than happy to talk at length about his current situation at White County and players from the past he’s helped groom, including a pair of longtime major leaguers.
Brown has led the Warriors to a school record in wins (16, 2007), the state playoffs in 2008 and the team has had a winning record every season. Currently, White County (10-1, 5-0 Region 7-AAA) appears that it will be a force to contend with, despite only four playoff spots up for grabs in a 14-team region.
Brown’s goal for the remainder of his career, however long that may be, is to get White County into a position for sustained success and carry the school deep into the playoffs at least once. Brown’s players appreciate his level-headed approach to the game and understand that he knows the game as well as any other coach.
“He really is that modest,” Warriors junior pitcher Kyle Mills said. “I don’t see why he’s so modest.
“We have such a high level of respect for him because he’s been there and done that.”
Right now, White County is paced by a pitching staff of three talented juniors — Mills, David Sosebee and Luke Crumley – who carry a combined 9-1 mark. On top of that, Brown has seen the hitting come around lately.
Mills says the team used to wait until the later innings to score, but have started attacking earlier in the game. Against North Hall, Crumley hit a home run they estimated at 450 feet as part of a three-run first inning.
“We expect nothing less than a state championship — it’s a necessary arrogance,” Sosebee said. “We expect to win every time we go out on the field.”
As for Brown, he’s not big on making bold predictions. He just enjoys the experience of coaching at White County, which is only the second school in his career.
He landed at White County High prior to the 2006-07 school year, more on a whim than anything else. Brown and his wife, Brenda, stopped into the area for a vacation with a mutual understanding that they would like to relocate to a small, mountain community.
At the time, White County was looking for a new baseball coach, which was an idea that suited him just fine.
Brown chuckles now that he didn’t even expect to earn the job when he was hired, considering that he didn’t even bring a list of references. However, he got the call that he was hired two weeks before the new school year.
“We had to move quick,” Brown said. “I was really fortunate that they asked me to take the job.”
Once relocated, Brenda taught for three years at one of Cleveland’s elementary schools before retiring. After coaching baseball for 39 seasons now, Brown hasn’t put any time constraints on how long he’ll stay in the game.
“He’s said he’ll keep going as long as he enjoys it,” Mills said.
Before coming to White County, Brown served as the head coach for 33 seasons and 35 total seasons at University Christian in Jacksonville, Fla. During his time at the private school, he compiled a lofty 645-274-3 record with three state titles, was a three-time state runner-up, and appeared three times in the state semifinals, with 18 district titles.
And he’s also had the honor to coach some pretty good players along the way, including former Major League pitcher Storm Davis and Houston Astros infielder Glen Davis. In total, 50 of Brown’s former players have gone on to play in college or the minors.
However, Brown cares more for the relationships and catching up with former players to see how their lives have developed. Just recently, one of his former players from University Christian stopped in to see Brown in his new role in Northeast Georgia.
“He’s the kind of coach that has fun and gets along with everyone,” Crumley said. “But he also has high expectations for us.”