After two successful seasons at Triple A, Matt Brown was in his third spring-training camp with the Anaheim Angels in 2009. An exhibition game in late March showed what a challenge it was for Brown, 26 at the time, to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster.
The Angels and Brown both got off to good starts in 2009. The Angels, who had won four of the previous five American League West Division titles, won 12 of their first 15 Cactus League games with Brown leading the team with 9 RBIs.
On March 22 Brown went 6-for-6 with two solo home runs and a run-scoring triple in the Angels’ 18-12 victory over Kansas City. The effort raised his spring average to .543 (19-for-35) with a team-high 15 RBIs.
Despite those impressive numbers, Brown appeared destined to return to Triple-A Salt Lake for a third season.
“Leadoff batter Chone Figgins is entrenched at third base, the Angels are committed to Kendrys Morales at first base and veteran utility infielder Robb Quinlan is the likely backup at both positions,” a sportswriter’s analysis said. “And with Manager Mike Scioscia leaning toward opening the season with 12 pitchers, there could be one less bench player.”1
Brown said he was just trying to get the attention of Angels management.
“I’m just showcasing what I can do, trying to make them look my way,” Brown said. “I know they know I can hit in Triple A. They know I need an opportunity, a real opportunity in the major leagues. I’ve had tastes. I’ve never played (started) two days in a row.”2
Scioscia said Brown had “jumped up on our depth chart. But we have some guys ahead of him at some spots. If there’s no role, he’ll be at Triple A.”3
Despite hitting .468 for the spring with a team-high 19 RBIs, Brown was demoted to Salt Lake two days before the season opener. The demotion came after the Angels had presented Brown with the team’s Fred Haney Award, as the team’s outstanding player in spring training.
“This guy has opened a lot of our eyes,” Scioscia said.4
Brown was born to Robert and Louanne Brown on August 8, 1982 in Bellevue, Washington.
The family moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, soon after that and Matt grew up there. Robert Brown was a general contractor who ran his own firm, R.L. Brown Construction Company.5 Matt started playing baseball when he was 5 years old and he developed into an All-State player.
Brown was a pitcher and shortstop during his three years on the Coeur d’Alene varsity baseball team. As a senior in 2001, he earned All-State honors after helping the Vikings win the Idaho state title. He batted .556 with 9 home runs and 41 RBIs. As a pitcher he was 6-1 with a 2.46 ERA.
“Matt is a great athlete,” said Brian Holgate, Brown’s high-school baseball coach. “Sports came easy for him. Once he started focusing on baseball, he really blossomed. He was recruited, but (I) wouldn’t say heavily recruited.”6
As Coeur d’Alene’s season had progressed, Brown garnered a lot of attention.
“There was so much interest in the last month,” Holgate said. “We had at least 10 scouts at every game and at practices. When we were taking (batting practice) before our first game at state, there were at least 10 scouts. From his sophomore to senior year, there’s no kid I’ve ever seen
improve as much as Matt Brown.”7
Brown was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 10th round of the 2001 amateur free-agent draft. Brown, who had scholarship offers from Oregon State and several smaller colleges, signed with the Angels on June 12, the day of his high school graduation.
“Before we met with (Anaheim officials), I sat down with my family and we talked about everything,” Brown said. “This seems like the best opportunity right now.”8
Brown began his professional career with the Angels’ Arizona Summer League team in Mesa. He got off to a slow start, hitting .163 with one home run and 21 RBIs in 46 games. After the ASL season, he played in the Arizona Instructional League and was named a co-winner of the Angels’ Dick Wantz Memorial Trophy as the organization’s Instructional League player who showed the most dedication and improvement.
Returning to Mesa and the ASL to start the 2002 season, Brpwn batted .361 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs in 28 games and made just one error at third base. He was sent to Provo of the rookie-level Pioneer League in July. With Provo, he batted .296 in 32 games.
Brown started the 2003 season with Cedar Rapids of the Class-A Midwest League. After hitting .207 in 49 games, he was sent back to Provo. With Provo, he regrouped to hit a team-high 11 home runs (third best in the Pioneer League) and drive in 52 runs (tied for second) in 65 games. The Angels won the Pioneer League South Division title with a 54-22 record and reached the championship series of the league playoffs, where they were swept by Billings, 2-0.
Brown spent the entire 2004 season with Cedar Rapids, hitting .233 with 23 home runs (third in the Midwest League) and 82 RBIs (fifth). He played in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
At Rancho Cucamonga of the Class-A California League in 2005, Brown hit .262 with 39 doubles, 12 home runs, and 65 RBIs. He was promoted to Arkansas of the Double-A Texas League for the 2006 season. He led the Travelers in hits, runs scored, at-bats, and games played as he hit .293 with 19 home runs and 79 RBIs. He was third in the Texas League in doubles (41) and fifth in extra-base hits (63). After the season he was added to the Angels’ 40-man roster.
In 2007 Brown got his first invitation to spring training with the Angels, a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake, and two brief stints with the Angels.
In 13 spring-training games with the Angels he went 6-for-17 with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. Even though he was sent to the Angels’ minor-league camp on March 18, his three home runs tied (with Gary Matthews Jr.) for the team lead in home runs.
Brown got off to a good start with the Salt Lake Bees, hitting .290 with 3 home runs and 21 RBIs in 29 games, to earn a recall by the Angels on May 8.
Brown made his major-league debut on May 10, 2007, in a day game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. He entered the game against Cleveland as a defensive replacement at third base in the top of the eighth inning. In the bottom of the inning, facing Cleveland reliever Aaron Fultz, he flied out to left field in his first major-league at-bat.
In the top of the ninth, Brown made an outstanding defensive play for the final out of Kelvim Escobar’s 8-0 shutout. With runners at first and third, Brown fielded a ball hit by Jason Michaels cleanly near the foul line and made a long throw to first baseman Robb Quinlan to retire Michaels.
That was the only appearance of his first stint with the Angels before he was returned to Salt Lake on May 15.
Brown was called up again on July 30. Over 17 days he played in three games (one start) before being returned to Salt Lake. He went 0-for-4 in the three games.
In 110 games with Salt Lake, Brown hit .276 with 30 doubles, 19 home runs, and 60 RBIs. He hit two home runs in a game three times. The Bees won the PCL’s North Division with a 74-69 record before losing to Sacramento, three games to two, in the first round of the playoffs.
Brown was not recalled by the Angels in September. The team won the AL West title before being swept by Boston in the Division Series.
During the winter of 2007-08, Brown played briefly with Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. He batted .148 in eight games.
In his second spring training with the Angels, Brown appeared in 11 games, going 4-for-13. A highlight came in the Angels’ 5-4, 10-inning victory over Arizona in Tempe on March 15. He tied the game with a solo home run in the eighth inning and then tripled to lead off the 10th inning and scored the winning run.
Brown began the season with Salt Lake, and he and the Bees got off to a torrid start. The Bees opened the season with eight consecutive victories. After a loss, they won their next 13 games and were 21-1 on April 27. The Bees had outscored their opponents 161-81 in their first 22 games as they fashioned the PCL’s best season start.
Brown played a key role in the record-setting streak, hitting .429 with 6 home runs, 10 doubles, and 21 RBIs in the first 22 games.
“What’s exciting about Salt Lake is they have a lot of guys who are going to help us,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “It’s not a veteran team beating up on kids. All of those guys are on our depth chart.”9
Brown was named the Angels’ Organizational Player of the Month for April after hitting .425 for the month and leading all of the minor leagues in total bases (80), extra-base hits (tied with 20), and runs scored (26). He was third in the minor leagues in average and hits and fifth in slugging percentage (.755).
The Angels recalled Brown on April 29. He started on April 30, going 0-for-4 in the Angels’ 6-1 victory over Oakland in Anaheim.
The next day, Brown got his first major-league hit. In the top of the eighth inning, with Oakland leading 15-6, Brown replaced Figgins at second base. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Brown hit a two-run double to right off Oakland reliever Dallas Braden. After the game, he was sent back to Salt Lake.
He was recalled on May 12 and made two starts, going 0-for-4 in each game, before being sent back to Salt Lake on May 22.
On July 16, Brown was the starting third baseman for the PCL in the Triple-A All-Star game in Louisville.
The PCL trailed the International League All-Stars 2-0 after eight innings before scoring six runs in the top of the ninth. Brown’s RBI single – his second hit of the game – tied the game, 2-2. Brown eventually scored and the PCL added three more runs to take a 6-2 lead before holding on for a 6-5 victory. Brown was named the PCL’s Top Star of the game.
At the end of July, Brown joined the US baseball team for the Beijing Olympics. Brown, who celebrated his 26th birthday on the day of the Opening Ceremonies, batted .281 with 2 home runs and a team-high 10 RBIs in nine games as Team USA, coached by Davey Johnson, earned the Bronze Medal. Brown drove in three runs in Team USA’s victory over Japan in the Bronze Medal game.
Brown was recalled by the Angels on September 8. He played sparingly, going 0-for-6 in six appearances as the Angels repeated as the AL West champion.
For the season, Brown hit .320 with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs in 97 games with Salt Lake and was 1-for-19 in 11 games with the Angels.
After his torrid spring training in 2009, Brown got off to a slow start with Salt Lake. He was batting just .211 in the first week of May. He ended up hitting .245 with 13 home runs and 69 RBIs in 107 games. He was not recalled in September by the Angels, who earned their fifth AL West Division title.
In December of 2009, Brown was granted free agency and he signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers in January 2010. The contract included an invitation to spring training as a nonroster player. He got an extended look by the Rangers during spring training, hitting .270 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs in 27 exhibition games, but he was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In early May Brown was sidelined with a strained left oblique. He missed nearly two months of action, returning to the Oklahoma City lineup on July 1. He went 13-for-39 in his first nine games after returning to the lineup and hit .249 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in 79 games with Oklahoma City.
After the season, Brown signed a minor-league contract with the Minnesota Twins. With the Twins in spring training of 2011, he batted .304 with 3 RBIs in 17 games. He was sent to Rochester of the International League. He batted .225 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs in 34 games before being released on June 3.
In 2012 Brown played briefly for Monclova of the Mexican League. He batted .169 in 17 games.
After 12 seasons and at the age of 30, Brown’s playing career was over. His career minor-league totals show a .266 batting average with 137 home runs and 589 RBIs in 1,034 games. In his five seasons at Triple-A, he had a .270 average with 66 home runs and 238 RBIs in 427 games.
In 15 major-league games, he was 1-for-24 with 3 RBIs.
After retiring, Brown returned to Washington and went to work as a lineman.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, milb.com, Newspapers.com, Retrosheet.org, thebaseballcube.com, and the 2008 and 2009 Angels Information Guides.
1 Mike DiGiovanna, “Brown’s Efforts Appear Futile,” Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2009: C4.
4 Kevin Baxter, “Brown Among Final Cuts,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2009: C11.
5 Thank you to Melissa Searle of the Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Public Library for providing information about the Brown family, which was found in the 1993 Coeur d’Alene city directory.
6 Brian Holgate, email correspondence, August 13, 2020.
7 Greg Lee and Jim Meehan, “Angels Draft CdA Star,” Spokane (Washington) Spokesman Review, June 6, 2001: 12.
8 “Brown Hopes to Fly with the Angels,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, June 13, 2001: 14.
9 Mike DiGiovanna, “Bootcheck Back, but Others Ill,” Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2008: D7.