'James Madison University kid' has been a pitching ace for the RedHawks
FARGO—Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Michael Schlact announced pitcher D.J. Brown as the James Madison University guy during a function with season-ticket holders on the concourse at the Newman Outdoor Field earlier this season.
Brown received some lighthearted pushback from the fans with North Dakota State's home football field, the Fargodome, in the background.
"The manager introduced me as the James Madison University kid," Brown said with a smile before Tuesday's 7-6 loss to St. Paul. "I had some boos."
James Madison is the team that ended NDSU's streak of Division I FCS championship at five in a row, beating the Bison in the 2016 national semifinals in the Fargodome. Brown watched that victory on television that eventually led to the Dukes winning a national championship.
"I remember it was really back and forth," Brown said of that historic game. "It was pretty fun to watch. To get the win over NDSU was pretty cool."
Brown has been winning over RedHawks fans this summer. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound starter has a 5-0 record with a 2.79 ERA in nine starts. He's one of the reasons RedHawks are near the top of the North Division standings in American Association baseball as the team played the St. Paul Saints on Tuesday night at Newman Outdoor Field.
"The biggest thing for me is that he's an ace," Schlact said. "He's a guy, that when he takes the mound, he puts the team on his shoulders. He believes that he can beat anybody."
Brown was impressive in his most recent start against the Saints on Monday, July 2, at CHS Field in St. Paul. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory. He struck out nine batters and walked two.
The 27-year-old Brown has pitched as high as Class Triple-A in the Cleveland Indians organization. The Indians selected Brown in the 39th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
"When you couple his experience with his ability to make pitches, you have a recipe for success," Schlact said.
Brown said he's talked some about the budding NDSU-James Madison football rivalry with teammate Tim Colwell, who played baseball at NDSU. The Bison defeated James Madison 17-13 last January in the FCS championship game, avenging their loss in the 2016 semifinals.
"We do talk a little bit about it," Brown said of Colwell. "He's kind of got the upper hand now because NDSU won last. It's fun to have a little rivalry."
Brown has developed a comfort level with the RedHawks because of the chemistry with his teammates and his relationship with Schlact, who also serves as the team's pitching coach.
"It's the people that we have here and the coaching staff," Brown said. "I feel really confident when I go out there and my manager has my back in everything I'm doing."
Brown makes his offseason home in Norfolk, Va., with his wife, Cayte Brown, and son, Harrison, who is 2 years old. That distance can create a tough dynamic during the baseball season. Brown and his wife are also expecting another child.
Technology, however, has made being away from his family a little easier.
"FaceTime is a great invention for us for sure," Brown said. "Now (Harrison) kind of understands a little bit of how to talk on FaceTime. We can communicate. It's definitely hard to see him growing up with not being there all the time. ... We FaceTime every day."