Brown more than a draft footnote
Catcher selected before Bonds in 1985 never reached Majors
Kurt Brown is aware that he is the answer to a trivia question when it comes to the history of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.
The question: "Who was selected just before Barry Bonds in the draft of 1985?" The answer: Kurt Brown, a catcher out of Glendora High School in Southern California.
Brown doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about the footnote that he was selected ahead of Bonds in the draft 21 years ago. Very frankly, he doesn't have the time to worry about such things.
Brown is a busy man these days as the investment administrator for Azusa Pacific University. He has a degree in applied management from Azusa Pacific and is just three units away from his MBA at the university, located just a few miles from where he attended high school.
Brown also has an active life away from the university as he and his wife, Marnie, have five sons, ranging in ages from 4 to 14.
The draft of 1985 is generally considered to be the greatest draft of all-time.
The first four players selected had been teammates on the U.S. team in the 1984 Olympics -- B.J. Surhoff (Milwaukee Brewers), Will Clark (San Francisco Giants), Bobby Witt (Texas Rangers) and Barry Larkin (Cincinnati Reds).
Brown was the No. 5 selection, taken by the Chicago White Sox. The Pittsburgh Pirates followed by taking Bonds out of Arizona State.
Of the first 12 players selected in the draft, Brown was the only high school player.
Eight first-round selections reached the big leagues within one year, seven more by 1987.
A pitcher by the name of Randy Johnson, out of USC, wasn't selected until the second round by the Montreal Expos.
Brown, 18 at the time he was drafted, spent 7 1/2 years in the Minor Leagues. He never got above Triple-A.
"I gave baseball everything I had as a player," said Brown. "I had the approach that if I worked harder and worked longer than anyone, I would find success.
"It took me 4 1/2 years before I found a mentor. That person was Pat Roessler [now the director of player development for the New York Yankees], and he showed me it wasn't only working hard that paid off, but knowing how to approach the game and how to learn."
Roessler was the hitting instructor for the White Sox' Sarasota team in the Florida State League in 1989 when he first met Brown, and he still remembers the work ethic of the young catcher.
"Kurt gave 100 percent at all times," said Roessler. "He's the type of young man you pull for because he is a great person with a tremendous work ethic. He was one of those players who showed great appreciation for the instruction he received."
Just when Brown felt he had found a solid swing, he also developed what he terms the "Chuck Knoblauch syndrome," and he lost confidence in his ability to throw. He retired at the age of 25.
"I knew it was time to move on with my life, and I knew I had given the game the best I had to give," said Brown.
Brown says he never felt pressure to succeed because he was a first-round selection in a high-profile draft.
"I think pressure is something you put on yourself," he said. "You can't be selected in the first round of the draft without having the physical tools.
"I believe the key thing is to work hard each and every day of your career and then you don't have to look back or second guess yourself as far as what could have happened.
"I saw a lot of players who didn't make it because they didn't work hard or they got distracted by things that hurt their career."
Brown said he hopes the players selected in the draft this year are fortunate to find a mentor early in their careers and have the benefit of good guidance by player development departments.
A remarkable number of players from the 1985 draft went on to enjoy successful Major League careers -- Surhoff, Clark, Witt, Larkin, Bonds, Pete Incaviglia, Chris Gwynn, Walt Weiss, Tommy Greene, Brian McRae, Joe Magrane, Gregg Jefferies, Rafael Palmeiro and Joey Cora all were first-round selections.
It was not only the first round that produced Major League players in 1985. David Justice and Bobby Thigpen were chosen in the fourth round, while late-round selections included John Smoltz (22) and Mark Grace (24).
Most of the players in the 1985 draft and the fans who follow the sport have no idea of whatever happened to that teenage high school catcher from Glendora selected No. 5.
Let the record show he is doing just fine with a wonderful family, a responsible position with a university and the memories of a career in which he gave his very best.
He never made the Major Leagues, but he learned a lot of lessons about life that he continues to use today.
True success isn't always measured by the longevity of a career or by statistics. It's also measured by character and what you do when the crowd is no longer watching.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book, "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," was published by SportsPublsihing, LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.