News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 5, 2011

For now at least, coach trades Rex for Colts

‘I always hoped they would call’

Andy Amey
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Jeff Brown starts his new job today, and even the 18- to 20-hour days he predicts could almost seem like a break to him.

At least it’s just one job — and one sport.

Brown, who through Friday night’s game was a coach for the Terre Haute Rex, is in his first day as the assistant to Steve Champlin, director of football operations for the Indianapolis Colts.

“If everything works out with the collective bargaining agreement, July will be a crazy month,” predicted Brown — maybe he knows something we don’t — in anticipating those 18-hour days.

Brown should be equipped to handle craziness by now, however.

This will be his 12th season with the Colts, having started as an equipment staff intern following his junior year at Speedway High School.

But all that time he’s chased baseball dreams too, as a player at Speedway and then at Butler University, then as a player in the Frontier League for the Traverse City Beach Bums — during which he was also a coach at Butler. Last summer he coached with the Springfield Sliders in the Prospect League.

“It made for some longer days and weeks,” said Brown, who often reported to the Colts as soon as his Butler work as a player or coach was over for the day.

“But when you’re doing something you love, it’s easy to go seven days in a row.”

He was infected with the coaching bug during his two seasons at Traverse City, which he soon realized was not going to be his ticket to the major leagues as a player.

“I met him last year when he was working for Springfield,” Rex manager Brian Dorsett said. “I knew he lived in Indy and coached at Butler. … I knew he was going to be a great fit [with the Rex].

“He’s done a great job working with our infielders, because he was a middle infielder himself,” Dorsett continued. “He throws batting practice. … He’s been a really, really good guy to have around.”

If the Colts thing doesn’t work out, baseball coaching is certainly something Brown could fall back on, Dorsett believes.

“He’s a hard worker … relentless,” the manager said Friday before Brown’s last game. “He’s like me in that he believes players can get better, and he works with them on making them do that. He [did] the early shift [of individual instruction] and I do the late shift.”

Dorsett was also aware of Brown’s history with the Colts, however. So when Brown’s cell phone rang as the Rex made a bus ride — ironically, to Springfield — a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t take Dorsett long to realize why his assistant coach was so excited.

“It was a Thursday afternoon and I got a call from [Colts vice president and general manager] Chris Polian,” Brown recalled. “It was an exciting phone call — but I also knew I had to be telling Brian that I’d be leaving.”

Actually, the Rex seem as excited for him as Brown is.

“Everybody has been great [about the fact that I’m leaving them], very supportive,” Brown said Friday. “They haven’t tried to hold me back at all, and that says a lot about them as people.”

Brown said Friday that he didn’t have an official title yet, and isn’t exactly sure what his new job will entail.

“During games I expect I’ll be doing stuff with coaches on the field, more hands-on stuff,” he predicted. “During the season it’ll be a seven-day-a-week job, and I’ll spend the offseason preparing for the next season.”

He’s confident about the caliber of people he’ll be joining, which helps.

“[The Colts] hire from within, and they want you to do a good job,” he said. “They want you to move up and move on. It could work into a lot of different things … so I just want to learn more … start a new career, hopefully a long one. The opportunity is going to be great.

“I love the game [of baseball], but football is my second passion — and it’s really close to first,” Brown said. “I’ve told people if I was going to leave baseball, it would be for something with the Colts.

“I always hoped they would call.”