By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Brent Brownlee’s undulating career is one worthy of retrospective treatment. Maybe I say that because I’ve covered him since he was a multi-sport star at Oxford High School. I took over the Mississippi State beat a year after he joined the Bulldogs’ baseball team. I’m probably more familiar with Brownlee’s career than any other local kid’s.
His career is defined in large part by injuries, which is too bad. Brownlee’s one of the best pure athletes I’ve covered, a guy with speed who could hit and rob others of home runs in the outfield. He played multiple positions for the football team and also did soccer and track at Oxford.
He was playing soccer as a freshman when Brownlee suffered his first major injury, a broken shin. He separated his shoulder playing football as a junior, then suffered a slew of injuries at MSU.
The most recent setback kept Brownlee from giving pro baseball a try, as he went undrafted. He had knee surgery March 8 and played hurt the rest of the season.
“You’ve gotta hang it up one day,” he said Monday. “I was able to accept it, move on and try to do my best at whatever I was going to do.”
Brownlee ended the 2012 season with a .204 batting average in 40 games (27 starts). In his final career at-bat, on June 3, he flied out with two men on base to end a 3-2 loss to Samford in an NCAA regional elimination game.
This past season was not indicative of Brownlee’s ability or what he accomplished as a player. When healthy, he was one of MSU’s best players, batting .290 as a redshirt freshman and .279 as a junior, when he had several key hits during State’s deep postseason run.
As a high school sophomore, Brownlee helped Oxford win the Class 4A state title in baseball. That’s the memory he said most sticks out to him – the postgame dogpile on the field at Smith-Wills Stadium in 2005. He also helped the Chargers win the Class 4A track and field state title in 2006.
Perhaps one of his most impressive performances came his junior year at OHS, when Brownlee participated in a regional track meet and a baseball playoff game against rival Lafayette on the same day.
You could call his career star-crossed if you like, but he’s already moving on to the next stage of his life.
Brownlee is getting married on July 7 to Laura Lombardo and is currently living in Brandon with his future in-laws. He’s got a job at Germantown High School in Madison County, as an assistant coach for the baseball and football teams.
“It wasn’t long ago I was getting yelled at (during) weight lifting and strength conditioning, and then my first day on the job I’m yelling at the kids, which was only a week after the regional,” Brownlee said. “It was a pretty quick transition. I love it so far, love what I do.”
Speaking of working out, Brownlee is doing a little bit of it. He said his body “feels amazing right now,” and not playing on a bum knee will have that effect.
All the injuries could cause Brownlee to ask the “what-if” question the rest of his life, but he’s choosing not to. His parting words of wisdom to MSU’s baseball team – which will return largely intact next year – were along those lines.
“I told all the young guys, you’ve just got to stay up when stuff like this happens,” he said of the Samford loss. “You’ve got to work hard in the fall next year and be ready in the spring and make sure as you keep going through the postseason, don’t look back.”
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs at DJournal.com.