Living under the shadow of being a first round pick, Hickory Crawdads center fielder Lewis Brinson is shining bright.
The 19-year-old is in his first full season of minor league baseball in 2013. The biggest hurdle Brinson has had to overcome is the team’s more than 100-game schedule.
“It’s been a grind,” he said. “They asked me in spring training if I was ready or would be up to the challenge of a full season. They told me I’d have my ups and downs — probably more downs than ups. I had to deal with it. They were going to see how I got passed it and moved on. I’ve just been grinding it out these last four months.”
First-year Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale has been working with Brinson and others on the team during their first long competitive season of baseball.
“For Lewis, this first season, more than anything, is just about learning what a baseball season is all about, trying to make it through and staying healthy,” Ragsdale said. “All of the things that he’ll be better for next year. This is something he has never experienced. He has never played this many days before. Lewis, as well as a bunch of guys, are dragging a little bit this time of year quite frankly. This is a lot more than they’ve ever experienced before.”
It’s also be an adjustment for Brinson of going from the beaches of his native Florida to the countryside of western North Carolina.
“I’ve never been in a small town in my life,” Brinson said. “It is a little bit to get adjusted to, but it is good to see where other people come from and call home. I’ve been traveling up and down the East coast. It’s been a fun journey and a good experience. I’m glad I went through it.”
Brinson was taken out of Coral Springs High School (Fla.) in the first round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Rangers (29th overall).
While he was selected highly as a prospect, Brinson doesn’t look at himself any different than other baseball players.
“As a first round pick, everybody thinks you are supposed to fly through the minor leagues and just get to the big leagues in a year or two,” he said. “Sometimes that isn’t the case if you are a high school guy. You just put that pressure on yourself if you are thinking about being a first rounder. You have to live up to your own expectations and everyone else’s expectations. I just like to live up to my expectations and goals. I know the Rangers have a lot of faith in me. They want me to get to the big leagues as soon as possible. That’s what I’ve been working for ever since I got drafted. I’m just like everyone else. I got drafted higher than everyone else, but it is just a number. I got a little more money than other guys, but I’ve got to go through everything like everyone else does. I don’t get special treatment. I’m blessed to be a first rounder. I take that to heart, but I don’t like to pay a lot of attention to that.”
Through 93 games this season, Brinson has totaled 80 hits, 12 doubles, 17 homers, 38 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 48 runs scored.
“The kid is ultra talented,” Ragsdale said of Brinson. “You see a kid who is 6-foot-5 that can run, throw, hit and hit for power. His tools are off the chart.”
Brinson believes his numbers are a product of hard work during his off time from the game.
“I worked hard in the offseason to get my strength and power numbers up,” Brinson said. “It has showed out here with the 17 home runs I have. I’ve been putting good swings on balls lately. This whole season, I’ve been trying to get my swing right to where I hit the ball hard every time. When I do hit it hard enough, the pitcher makes a mistake and I don’t miss it, I hit it out of the ball park. I’ve been working on that in the offseason trying to get bigger, faster and stronger. I’m trying to get faster hands and faster bat speed. I’ve been working really hard on that, and it is showing. Hopefully, next year I will have even more. We will see.”
Still in his teens, Ragsdale has seen Brinson develop in his young age.
“Lewis has grown on and off of the field in his maturity,” Ragsdale said. “He is a great kid and great to be around. He is a great teammate. He has grown into a great teammate and will be a leader in the future with how he goes about his business and how he handles things on and off of the field. He is going to be a special guy. It’ll be fun to watch him grow.”
With the Crawdads attempting to make a run and earn a spot in the South Atlantic League playoffs, Brinson is focused on the task at hand.
“We’ve got one more month left,” he said. “I’m going to grind it out to the end, give it my all and try to finish the season strong for us.”