Vianney-St. Mary's

ANDREW JANSEN/JOURNAL Matt Brown, Vianney, in the Griffins 8-1 win over St. Mary's.

Andrew Jansen

Matt Brown has hands that could crush granite. They’re so big, instead of gloves, he has to wear oven mitts. They’re so big, he has a hard time reaching into his pockets to fish out change. But those hands do serve a purpose. Brown uses them to crush baseballs—lots and lots of baseballs. A junior third baseman for the Vianney baseball team, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Brown enters his third season of varsity action as one of the area’s (pardon the pun) heavy hitters.

A University of Arkansas recruit, Brown, 17, will anchor a Vianney lineup that is chasing consecutive Class 4 final four berths after ending last season 26-9 with a third-place finish. Brown has ended both of his previous two prep seasons in Springfield at the state championships. In 2010, as a freshman, he helped CBC win the state title. It was nearly a dream come true for Brown. There was just one thing missing—his dad.

Brown’s father, Scott, was CBC’s baseball coach for 18 years before being pushed out right before his son began his playing career.

With his dad relegated to spectator, Matt would go on to hit .350 with six home runs, 25 RBIs and 29 runs scored. It was an awesome experience to win the state championship, but Matt had always dreamed of doing it with his dad in the dugout. “It was definitely hard to play that first year,” Matt says. “But it was good for me to spend that first year without him. It was good for me to play for coach (Mason) Horne.”

That summer Scott, now 48, was hired to coach baseball at Vianney. A Golden Griffin himself (Class of 1984), Scott was thrilled at the opportunity to get back on the field. He was even happier to have Matt with him.

Scott has found it’s been a constant learning experience coaching Matt (and now younger son Chris, who’s a freshman). It’s a fine line he has to walk between being a coach and being a dad. Some days those two roles fold into one another. Other days they have to be separate. “For me, it’s been a lot of learning on the fly,” Scott says. “The coach in me always comes out, but I need to be Dad at times as well.”

Scott recounted a story that illuminated his dual roles. He’s been coaching his boys since they were little, and in one Matt’s youth games, he’d hit a home run but also struck out and didn’t run to first base when the ball was dropped by the catcher. In the car on their way from the field, Scott was harping on that slipup. Matt asked him why he never focused on the good things he did. “I’ve learned to do that more often, compliment the good things,” Scott says.

But that doesn’t mean Matt gets special treatment. Scott treats Matt like any other player. When Matt was frustrated and flung his bat last year after a tough at-bat, Scott yanked him right then and there. No one on Scott’s teams throws their helmets, bats or gloves. You do and you get a seat on the bench. No ifs, ands or buts. “He was the first one to do it (last spring),” Scott says. “I think (the team) realized I wasn’t going to do anything special. I don’t expect more out of them than I do out of him and vice versa.”

What Scott does expect is hustle and hard work. Matt has given him that in spades. It’s reached the point that Scott has to tell Matt to take a day off to give his mind and body a break. If Matt could hit baseballs until his hands blistered and bled, he would. “There’s not a day in the week I don’t want to hit,” Matt says. “He forces me to take a break.” And that comes from both dad and coach.