Whenever Marty Brown needs a little inspiration as he sits in his office in the GreenJackets clubhouse, all it takes is a glance upward.
On his locker hangs a sketch of his father, Paul, who died of cancer in January. In a way, the picture of that man in the big cowboy hat reminds him to approach his job the way dad would.
"The thing about my dad was that he always told it like it is and treated people fairly," the GreenJackets manager said of his father, who worked as a livestock auctioneer in their home state of Missouri. "He was a good man, and I hope that some of the things he did in his life has rubbed off on me."
At the low minor-league level, where many young players are learning about life away from home for the first time, Brown has approached it the way his father might have. In turn, many of his players say the 35-year-old's influence is something that will last a lifetime.
"Marty is like my father away from home," said Jackets first baseman Derrick Lankford, who also played for Brown last season at short-season Erie. "He has done a lot for me and I know has made a similar impact on every guy on this club. As a manager, he's a guy you love to play for because he is fair and treats you with a lot of respect. But off the field, he has meant just as much. He's been more than just a manager. He is a true friend."
Jackets catcher Lee Evans would agree.
"He took me under my wing the last two seasons, and I'll always appreciate what he has done for me, " said the 20-year-old Evans, who also played under Brown at Erie last summer. "He knows how to get the most out of his players because he treats us with respect. I haven't been around too many managers, but Marty is definitely the best I've played for."
In each of his two seasons as a manager, Brown has led his club to the playoffs, while helping many Pirates farmhands develop and move up the ladder along the way. And although the Jackets finished under-.500 this season and suffered through several slumps, Brown considers the season a success, regardless of how his club finishes in the playoffs.
"The most important thing this season is that we learned how to handle adversity, and that's a very important thing for a young ballplayer to learn," said the Rolla, Mo., native, who played at the University of Georgia and appeared in 35 major league games with Cincinnati and Baltimore. "I think I get the most satisfaction from that -- showing these guys how to deal with the mental aspect of a long season."
As committed as he is to player development, Brown also has dreams of his own.
"I wouldn't be a manager right now if I didn't hope to manage in the big leagues some day," he said. "I hope I get the opportunity to move up next season. I love Augusta, though, and have enjoyed this experience very much. It's a great city and the fans are some of the most knowledgeable fans I've ever seen."
DRAWING CARD: After three straight seasons with a slight decline in attendance, the Jackets this season surpassed their totals of the last two seasons.
The club finished fourth in the league in attendance this season with an average of exactly 2,500 fans per game (65 openings). The Jackets drew an Augusta-record 171,000 fans during its inaugural season at The Lake in 1995, then drew 157,000 in 1996 and 153,000 last season.