Neb Brown calls himself a “baseball lifer.” As owner of Okie Baseball Academy in Ada, he hopes to pass along some life lessons to area high school athletes.
“This area is such a hotbed for baseball and for young athletes in general,” said Brown, a three-year starter at Oklahoma State University who spent the past eight years as a minor league player and coach. “I think there is definitely a demand for a place where kids can come to learn about the game.
“We give private individual instruction in any aspect of baseball or softball — hitting, pitching, fielding, baserunning,” he added. “We even offer a course in the mental approach to softball and baseball, and we’ve also implemented a strength and conditoning program.”
Brown, who spent part of last summer as the hitting instructor for the Evansville (Ind.) Otters of the independent Frontier League, said he plans to let area baseball players put the things he teaches to practical use as part of a traveling team that will begin playing in the summer of 2011.
“I’ve already been contacted by a guy from Wichita, Kansas, who hosts 18-and-under tournaments in Lincoln, Neb., and Withica during the College World Series about bringing an 18-and-under team there,” Brown explained.
Brown admitted competition for players in south central Oklahoma is intense, with area stars spread over traveling teams in Elk City and Oklahoma City in addition to the local American Legion program. But he said the instruction offered at his facility will provide a foundation for his players that won’t be available anywhere else in the area, and an ambitious travel schedule will make his team attractive to players throughout the region.
“First of all, I think the instruction would set us apart right off the bat, along with the distance we’ll travel to tournaments and the level of tournaments we’ll play in,” Brown said. “I think you kind of limit yourself when you stay in the state. You need to spread your wings.”
Brown graduated from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. (the alma mater of major league players Paul Konerko and Brian Bannister), and when his OSU career ended in 2002, he was drafted in the 11th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. After eight seasons in the minors (during which he advanced to the AAA level), Brown — whose younger brother, Dude, played at Latta High School — retired as a player in 2009.
“I’ve got a family now,” he said. “The traveling will wear on you. I sort of reached the point where it was time for me to move on, mentally and physically.”
Last summer, Brown went to Evansville after the Otters’ entire coaching staff was fired.
“Independent baseball is professional, it’s just professional without a major league affilitiation,” he said. “We were brought in for the second half of the season after the coaching staff was fired. We were brought in to put out fires, and we did that.”
Brown opened his baseball academy in June, and he said business has increased steadily, with the public responding to his unique perspective as an instructor.
“With baseball, unlike any other sport, there are so many finite actions in a short period of time,” he noted. “So much has to be learned from one level to the next, and the more you experience the game the more you learn about it.
“I’ve got 3,000 minor league at-bats and three years of at-bats in the Big 12,” Brown added. “You not only learn from people but from the experience you gain at that high level, and that experience is priceless. I think I offer instruction from a really high level and from a first-hand point of view.”
Brown will host his first big promotion on Saturday, Jan. 15, in the form of a free two-hour hitting clinic.
“It’s open to any ages, softball or baseball,” Brown said of the clinic. “I won’t be the only instructor. I will touch on some general things, then I’ll break things down individually for the kids.”