When play begins Monday, there’s a good chance Brown could be on the mound with a game — and the series — on the line.
Brown’s inspiring story traces back to his Ashland, Ohio hometown, where he grew up with a strong arm and big goals. After his mother, Cindy, died in 2012, baseball become a refuge.
“My mom died in my arms,” Brown told The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. “I promised her that I would be successful. She gave me life and tried to give me every opportunity in the world.”
Brown told the paper he was “broken” by his mother’s death, which resulted from multiple myeloma cancer. She had been diagnosed when he was 8, and she spent the next five years in and out of hospitals, the paper reported.
“I was basically raising myself with my mom living in the hospital,” Brown told the Dispatch.
Brown was adopted in 2014, around the same time that he was being recruited by college baseball powers. But in 2015, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, forcing him off the field. He underwent Tommy John surgery and couldn’t pitch for more than a year. Many college coaches stopped recruiting him, according to the Tennessean.
But again, Brown forged ahead. Longtime Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin stuck with Brown, whom he saw as a talented high schooler with potential to fit into his pitching staff.
“His backstory helped us stay on him,” Corbin told the Tennessean. “If he was tough enough to get through all that, he was worth taking a chance on.”
If the death of his mother and Tommy John surgery weren’t enough, Brown learned early in his college career that his daughter, Isabella, was born with Down syndrome and a life-threatening heart condition. She was born March 22, 2018 and had the first of two heart surgeries when she was only 5 months old. Brown missed a series this season when his daughter had her second heart surgery.
“I only get one daughter and her heart is more important than a baseball game,” he told Vandy247.
Corbin, his coach, said Brown is his first player at Vanderbilt who has had a child.
“I am so proud to stand with Bella as my child with Down syndrome,” Brown told the Tennessean. “How could I have ever doubted God? Bella has turned into the biggest blessing.
“I started this journey of baseball for my mom,” Brown added. “It was a promise to her that I would do something special with my life. But my mom wouldn’t want me to live in the past. Every time I look at Bella, I smile. I’m not in the past anymore.”
Brown’s Commodores are scheduled to begin the best-of-three finals against Michigan Monday night.