Operating a bulldozer and attending television game shows are not part of the job description for a college baseball coach. For Knights head coach Chris Brown, however, it comes with the territory.
One of the ongoing challenges Brown faces is funding City College’s baseball program. In addition to sponsorships, the team attends TV game shows such as “Let’s Make a Deal” as paid audience members to raise money. All of the fundraising is done during the fall so the team can focus on the season during the spring.
Brown was the first head coach at El Paso Community College in Texas.
“We built the program from the ground up,” he said. That’s no exaggeration. Brown rented a bulldozer on his credit card to work on the field so his team would have a place to practice and play games.
The El Paso team travelled west to play City College, where Brown is now in his 12th year as head coach.
“I was encouraged by the challenge,” Brown said of taking the job at City College. “It’s taken time to bring in better talent.”
There are no scholarships available at the community college level. Brown said that emphasizing the strengths of the program and the school are the main focus of his recruiting efforts.
For players and parents, the coach is a big factor.
“He’s a great coach, a real no-nonsense type of guy,” said Torrey Riggins, father of pitcher Andrew Riggins, who Brown recruited out of high school. “He really looks after the kids.”
Brown has international experience as both a coach and player. In 1998, he played shortstop for the Sydney Metros of the Australian Baseball League during their first season.
“We weren’t paid a lot, so I got involved in a youth development program and realized how great it was to coach,” Brown said. “I have a real passion for teaching and coaching kids.”
His experience translated into an assistant coaching position with the USA Youth National Team, which he helped guide to a National Championship in 1999 and the Pan-American Championship in 2000.
As head coach in 2001, Brown led the 16-and-under team to a World Championship. He remained involved with the team from 2002 to 2005 as a player selection consultant.
The Knights are active in their support of local youth baseball. They host an annual free baseball clinic with the North Park Little League, and youth teams are regularly invited to games.
“We try to do as much work in the community as possible,” Brown said. He also noted that Knights pitcher Keegan Yuhl was a member of one of those youth teams several years ago.
Brown said he is equally rewarded if a player goes on to be successful on or off the baseball diamond.
“I think the game is like life,” Brown said. “(We stress) work ethic, responsibility and the ability to trust one-another . a lot of the same qualities that are needed in life and in the work force.”
Brown has coached a number of players that have gone on to four-year colleges as well as professional baseball. Last season, he led the Knights to their first Pacific Coast Athletic Conference title in 18 years.