WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 05: The San Francisco Giants bat against the Washington Nationals during the fifth inning at Nationals Park on July 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. Both teams are wearing replica uniforms from the 1924 World Series. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The tale is familiar in the minors.
A 22-year old kid is developing physical gifts to make it to the next level after a collegiate career took him to Alaska to work on his game.
Kevin Brown doesn't play, he calls games for the Syracuse Chiefs.
At 22, Brown has the pipes of a major league play-by-play guy with the prospect potential and improving prowess. He needed a moment of clairvoyance to get him started though.
"I wanted to be a zookeeper until I was about nine," Brown said in the radio booth at Alliance Bank Stadium, the home of the Triple-A affiliate to the Washington Nationals. "I hated sports when I was a kid. Maybe around eight or nine I went to a neighbor's house and he had an Eagles-Giants game on. I don't know why, but that was the moment. All of a sudden I liked sports."
He did end up playing, self-admittedly not all that well, but he still enjoyed games. There was just something there too. Just like the guys who were good going first-to-third or could snap off a curveball, Brown excelled at describing the action.
"I was an odd kid. I guess the idea was always in the back of my mind," Brown said about being behind the mic. "My dad was coaching an all-star game, that I obviously wasn't in, and I was sitting up on the stage and I just started broadcasting the game to myself. I was just talking to myself with these other parents sitting around me. The parents sitting around me thought I was very strange. ‘Great job, Marv.'"
He pursued the skill at Syracuse University. A famed home of collegiate basketball with some football and lacrosse certainly, but no baseball. For Brown, his fortunes changed in the summer - as they so often do for players - with an opportunity to call baseball in Alaska in 2009.
The Alaskan Baseball League is widely considered the second best collegiate league behind the Cape Cod League. With Mark Grace, Dave Winfield, Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, and C.J. Wilson as alumni, the Great White North is a solid place to play and call summer's pastime.
Brown, like a player, chased the chance.
It was his first opportunity to call baseball on a regular basis.
"I had never really done any traveling in my life. Vacations were from Long Island to Binghamton to visit my grandma. I figured, why not?" Brown said. "It was 45 games and an up-and-down experience. We got a lot of reps."
The delivery and tone for calling a languid game developed. Baseball doesn't have the stop-and-go of football or the consistency of basketball or hockey action. There are X's and O's and times to kick back. Those skills are learned on the field not the classroom.
"You play it like what you feel is going on in the stadium," Brown said. "If I was a fan, at this point, would I be focusing on the game or is it the fifth inning and is 5-0 with one out would I be thinking about something else? If you do straight play-by-play the whole time it is going to be terrible and boring. You have to inject some personality into it."
The personality spawns from the constant give-and-take with partner Jason Benetti. It is a pitching staff relationship between Benetti and Brown. Benetti is the starter and closer, calling the first and last three innings, while Brown has middle relief role calling the middle third.
"In early innings you lay out the basics. In the middle innings you can get more into storytelling," Brown explained how to play a broadcast. "The last couple of innings can be straight play-by-play if it is close or if it is a 10-0 game it can be more of a goof around time."
There are grinding nights in a grinding season too. There are 144 games in the Triple-A season with only three scheduled off days and the All-Star break. Players experience new things and so do broadcasters.
With Benetti out of town, Brown was on the air alone for a 14-inning Syracuse loss to Buffalo with the help of a couple interns to hold down the fort.
The certified Voice of the Chiefs, Benetti, speaks the world of Brown in baritone.
"He is 22, but he doesn't act 22. He likes to have fun, but he has a really sharp mind. I think that the coolest thing is that he can take you in directions that you don't expect," Benetti said sounding more scout than broadcaster. "The way he handles the game is indicative of someone who is 28 or 30. People look at him and think he is 12."
There are times when the pair makes any one listening laugh. Players need timing and so do comedy pairs.
"For baseball, you can call ball and strikes and it can be good, but it has to be interesting and be able to take it in different directions. Parts of it is comedy and that is timing more than anything and if you don't get that right it can be like pulling teeth," Benetti said continuing to sound like a scout.
Remember though, Brown originally wanted to be a zookeeper, not a dentist.