“There’ll be someone somewhere that I’ll be coaching, and he’ll be down, hasn’t played, hasn’t made a road trip, and his body language will say ‘I’m in the tank,’ ” Lopez said Friday.
And then Lopez will tell that player the story of Brown, the kid from San Diego who didn’t become a key contributor in the Wildcats’ program until his fifth year.
After appearing in 17 games last season, Brown has emerged to hit a career-best .353 and make the All-Pac 12 team. He hit his fifth home run of the season in Thursday’s 10-3 win over Florida State that moved Arizona to the best-of-three College World Series finals against the winner of Friday night’s game between Arkansas and two-time defending national champion South Carolina.
Brown is batting .300 in three CWS games and .400 in eight NCAA tournament games.
“I’ve sat most of my career on the bench, and there were times it was really difficult to watch other guys play in front of me,” Brown said. “There have been times I thought I should move on to other things. I’m glad I stayed, and we’re here in the College World Series.”
Brown was expected to be an everyday player last season, but he lost the DH job to Josh Garcia, who now is an undergraduate assistant.
“He’s always shown the ability to hit,” Lopez said. “The biggest difference between Bobby Brown this year and last year and previous years is his ability to slow the game down. He has done a marvelous job of slowing the game down and taking big at-bats. Some guys walk in and can slow the game down. Other guys, it takes a year or two. Some, it takes three.”
Brown started slowly this year. He was hitless in his first 14 at-bats and was benched against Auburn when he was 2 for 21.
Brown became the regular DH on March 24 for the second game of a series at Oregon State. He hit his first career homer that day for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.
Brown was selected to the Tucson all-regional team and had the game-tying single in the bottom of the 10th inning of the super regional opener against St. John’s.
He got off to a rough start at the CWS. He went 0 for 5, striking out three times, in a 12-inning win over Florida State. Two nights later, he hit a two-run double in a 4-0 win over UCLA, and Thursday he drove a ball into the right-field bullpen for a 10-1 lead over Florida State.
“I’ve always known I’m a good player,” Brown said. “I needed the opportunity, and I knew eventually I would get it. I got it this year and I’ve run away with it.”