Moments before a recent game against Claremont High, catcher Kurt Brown of Glendora High School read a poll in USA Today listing him as the No. 1 prep baseball player in the nation.
While others might be unnerved by such attention, Brown said it inspired him to play even better. The 18-year-old senior wanted to prove the experts right.
So Brown came through with one of his best performances, blasting three home runs, getting four hits in four at-bats and driving in seven runs.
So much for nerves.
Since the start of the season, major league scouts have been regulars at Glendora games. Brown said scouts from the Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels and Atlanta Braves have shown the most interest.
Brown seldom leaves them disappointed. With a .529 batting average, 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in, he is living up to expectations--and then some.
"He's getting better, if that's possible," Coach Clint Harwick said. "And what makes him better is that he works and works on everything. That's why I think he could be a first-round draft choice."
Most major league scouts agree with Harwick.
At 6-2 and 203 pounds, Brown has the look of a big-league catcher.
"It appears that way, but you never know when he gets into the pros," Harwick said. "He has played first and third and we've used him in the outfield to give his legs a rest. But he has excelled at catcher, which is a tough position to master."
Started in Little League
Brown did not start out as a catcher when he began playing Little League baseball at age 11.
"I started out in center field but liked the idea of putting on the (catching) gear, and soon I started catching," he said. "I enjoy doing it because I'm always involved in the game. I get bored at other positions."
About the only thing he likes more is hitting. You can spot Brown taking extra swings before and after practice.
"I like to work out as much as possible. Usually he (Harwick) lets me go out before practice and hit for an hour and a half or so and then practice. Then I'll stick around after practice and hit a little more."
Harwick said dedication has helped Brown blossom into a prime major league prospect.
Doesn't 'Rest on Laurels'
"He works on all the little things it takes to make himself better," Harwick said. "Sometimes when you have a star, he doesn't want to work. He just rests on his laurels. But Kurt's not like that. Kurt is a team player and he's also one of our captains and the players like him. He's a down-to-earth guy and always hustles."
Unlike a lot of players, Brown looks forward to practice. "It's just fun for me, and the more I practice the better I seem to play," he said. "So I don't mind working at it."
The hard work is paying off. Harwick said there are few aspects of the game at which Brown does not excel. "He's a good receiver, an excellent base runner, has power, a good arm and hits for average. He's versatile."
Fine Football Player
Brown is versatile not only as a baseball player but also as an athlete. A linebacker, running back and offensive lineman, Brown also was the top player on the football team last season.
He is so good that he was recruited by national champion Brigham Young, California and Cal State Long Beach. In February, Brown signed a national letter of intent to play football for Cal State Long Beach.
Brown said he would like to continue playing both sports, although he realizes it may be difficult.
"During the baseball season I like baseball and during the football season it's football. Right now, I'm probably going to play both. I'll probably have to make a decision soon, though."
'Play It Cool'
Brown said a lot will depend on what happens in the major league draft in June.
"I'll kind of play it cool until the draft and after that I'll make a decision. It all rests on how high I get drafted and what kind of offer I get."
If forced to decide now, Brown said he probably would choose baseball.
"It's always been kind of a dream to play baseball in the majors," he said. "I haven't thought about pro football as much."
The way he has been playing lately, Brown's decision may be getting a little easier.