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TIM BURT, STAFF
Foothill High School's Vince Brown said coaching his son Dillon, left, was easy on one hand but challenging at the same time.

Brown family a winning combination at Foothill

Staff Writer

Football baseball coach Vince Brown will tell you coaching your son in high school can be both gratifying and challenging.

Fortunately for Brown, his son Dillon has been easy to coach and he’s been one of the team’s top players during his three-year varsity career.

Dillon Brown, a senior, is 9-1 on the mound this season with a 0.45 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 621/3 innings.

He was instrumental in Foothill’s charge toward the North Hills League crown.

“Dillon is easy to coach because as a kid, he’s a pleaser, he wants to do well and he wants to do things right,” his dad said. “But at the same time, I struggle with the fact that I don’t want to ever not be fair in the minds of others.”

Dillon Brown appears to be treated just like any member of the team.

He gets a pat on the back when he does well but can also be the target of coach Brown’s criticism.

“You can’t take it personally, from any coach,” said Dillon Brown, who also starts at third base when he isn’t pitching.

“I pretty much let him have it the way I let anyone else have it,” Vince Brown said. “You got to take the teachable things of what I’m saying and not get caught up in how I deliver the message sometimes and I think he’s learned that over the years.”

Dillon has benefited from his father’s knowledge and love of the game.

“The biggest thing is composure,” Dillon said. “Baseball is a big mental game and I feel if you’re not mentally there, no matter how good you are, you are most likely not going to succeed.”

Dillon got his love of baseball from his father.

He was always around baseball field when he coached.

“I think the very first word I ever said was baseball,” Dillon said. “That’s what my mom always tells me. I would always come to the baseball games when I was younger and my dad was coaching.”

But coaching his son in high school was never a long-range plan for Brown.

He was just as happy watching him play from the stands. He has also watched Dillon compete for the Foothill soccer and football teams.

“My ultimate goal was never to coach my children,” Brown said. “I really enjoy watching my children play. Being back on the field coaching has its rewards but I enjoy watching them play a lot more.”

Vince Brown and his wife Cherie have two other sons: Tommy, who attends Mater Dei and plays football, and 11-year-old Zachary, who enjoys baseball.

The coach, now in his third year in his second stint as Foothill coach during a career that has spanned more than 20 years of high school coaching, said he enjoys watching all of his sons play.

As his son’s coach, he has had to strike a delicate balance. His major challenge came during Dillon’s junior year.

“There were some extremely tough decisions,” Vince Brown said.

The week before the regular season, a Foothill player was hit in the head by a pitch and suffered a concussion.

“My starting senior third baseman, who was also our captain, took a fastball in the back of the helmet,” Brown said. “I’ve seen a lot of concussions. He had the worst I’ve ever seen.”

But the player was eventually cleared to return and Brown decided to put him back in the lineup, replacing his son.

Brown decided to primarily use two senior pitchers on the mound.

“The challenge you have as a parent and a coach is, ‘Do you take another child off the field and put your son in place of him and deal with that?’ I couldn’t really do that, so Dillon played less as a junior, than he did as a sophomore,” Brown said.

The decision, at the time, turned out to one which caused turmoil for he and his son.

Dillon had already committed the previous season to play college baseball at Nebraska.

But Nebraska coaches, who noticed Dillon wasn’t playing much, sent Brown some messages asking what had happened to his son and why he wasn’t playing more.

“I told them it was complicated,” Brown said.

“Two weeks after the season, Nebraska calls me and said, ‘We really thought he was going to pitch 60 innings, and we thought he was going to play a bunch and we’re disappointed he didn’t and we feel we have to go in a different direction and we think we’re going to rescind the scholarship offer.

“‘We think you guys should go looking for another option.’ That was devastating to Dillon, the family and devastating to me, because I knew I’m the one who made the choices who played on the field and who didn’t.

“My two left-handed seniors (pitchers) did a great job and we had a great season and won 22 games, and we won league and I wouldn’t change anything the way I did it because I felt my seniors got a chance to be the guys their senior year and I feel like I did the right thing. But I cost my son his scholarship and put him in a really bad situation. That made last year an extremely difficult season.”

Vince Brown started over and got the word out to coaches that his son was looking for another program.

Dillon notched an 11-1 record on the mound with the Southern California Renegades Connie Mack team. His performance earned got the attention of Cal State Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook, who offered him a scholarship to play for the Titans.

So, there was a happy ending after Dillon found a new college home at a program which has been a consistent visitor to Omaha for the College World Series.

“Cal State Fullerton has had such a great reputation over the years,” Coach Brown said. “In the end, it all worked out.”

Dillon said it was one of the most difficult challenges in his life when his scholarship was rescinded.

But he has used it as motivation. He is excited about playing for the Titans.

“There is a great tradition there, they want me as a utility player,” Dillon Brown said. “My sophomore year I played left field, but now I play third base.”

Dillon is hoping for a storybook ending for this year’s Foothill team.

He has fond memories of his sophomore season when Foothill went to the CIF title game at Dodger Stadium, losing to Santa Margarita, 3-1.

“That sophomore year was one of the best baseball experiences of my life, going all the way to the CIF finals,” he said. “Hopefully we can get back to the CIF championship.”

He has been pleased with his performance this year.

“I just pitch the ball and let my defenders play defense,” he said.

Dillon hopes baseball will take him a long ways.

“I want to get drafted but I can’t just have that as my only option,” he said. “I’m going to major in business and minor in criminal justice and see where it takes me. I’m probably more projected as a pitcher than a hitter.”

Brown plans to continue coaching at Foothill, at least for a while, but he will spend a lot of time watching Dillon play at Cal State State Fullerton.

“My goal would be to do it a couple more years,” Brown said. “I don’t plan on coaching my youngest when he gets to high school.”

But Brown gets to coach Dillon for at least another couple of games, perhaps longer if the Knights can put together a long playoff run.

He’s also hoping that Dillon comes alive at the plate.

He’s batting .246 with 9 RBI, seven doubles, 14 runs scored and a home run.

“It’s his year and it’s his opportunity and he’s having a great year on the mound. I know he can hit better and when his bat comes around, and I hope it does in the next couple weeks, it will be perfect timing for the playoffs and I’m hoping he has a playoff run like he did two years ago where he really swung the bat well,” Brown said.

Contact the writer: tburt@ocregister.com


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