Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Building Again at Fletcher

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brown Building Again at Fletcher

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread, Times-Union sports writer

After nearly 15 years overseeing one of the top soccer programs in the area, Kevin Brown will try to apply the same impressive track record to a different sport. The Fletcher coach, who took his last Senators soccer team to the state final four in 2000, was named the school's baseball coach last June.

This is what he had to work with:

-- A talent base that isn't the best of Jacksonville's public school districts, but is far from the worst;

-- A chance to implement an offseason program right from the end of last season;

-- And an assistant coach he trusts enough to describe shot-calling from the dugout, "a partnership."

On the talent base, Brown says one of his goals is to build a program that will consistently attract the best players from the beaches area. Fletcher, with an enrollment above 2,000, is among the largest schools in the area.

"When we took over soccer, not all the soccer talent at the beach was going to Fletcher, and we eventually started keeping them all home," Brown said. "It's the same with baseball. I love the kids I have now and I wouldn't trade them for anything, because they are the ones who are going to build it from the ground up, but eventually we'll need to keep players at the beach."

Brown considers his jump-start with the position one of his biggest advantages. He was hired shortly after Fletcher fizzled to a 6-20 finish last year with a loss to Columbia in the district tournament, and he didn't wait six months to put a plan in place.

"The kids played summer ball like they always had, but we put them in the weight room when they were done with that, and they weren't quite as used to that," Brown said. "When tryouts started, we had 62 kids out -- which is a high number for us -- and you could really tell a difference in the kids who had been working out and the ones that hadn't. You can't just play ball year-round. There comes a point where you've got to give your body time to rest and time to lift and get stronger."

Brown had last names removed from the jersey backs because he was "tired of individualism," and was met with what he called "great parental support."

Finally, Brown has an assistant coach he leans on heavily in Luke Marabell, the former JU slugger and the younger brother of Wolfson coach Scott Marabell. Brown said Marabell's ability to teach hitting and his strategy suggestions in the dugout make him irreplaceable.

"It's a loose dugout with he and I," Brown said. "We've only got three seniors and we're in this with the young guys to build the program right."

If that translates into the same success he brought to the soccer program -- 12 playoff appearances and three final-four trips since 1988 -- Jacksonville's traditional baseball powers could have to make room for one more. …

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