Finger fracture sidelines Chanclas’ standout Porter Brown

The Flying Chanclas' Porter Brown had two hits Sunday at Wolff Stadium and is batting .400 after the first six games of the season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Outfielder Porter Brown is out for the season with a broken finger, Flying Chanclas manager John McLaren said Tuesday. The injury was revealed in an X-ray on Monday. – photo by Joe Alexander

Just when the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio seemed to pick up some momentum in their first season in the Texas Collegiate League, they’ve run into a rough patch of misfortune.

Manager John McLaren said Tuesday that outfielder Porter Brown, the team’s leading hitter, has been lost for the season with a broken finger. Also, third baseman Conner Shepherd is expected to miss at least a week, also with a finger injury.

McLaren delivered the news in a telephone interview just hours before the Chanclas, riding a four-game winning streak, were scheduled to play a road game in Louisiana against the Acadiana Cane Cutters. The game has since been canceled because of unfavorable field conditions.

Both players apparently suffered the injuries when they were hit by pitches. Brown’s incident happened last Wednesday in Game 2 of the season at Amarillo. Shepherd had to come out of Sunday’s home series finale against Acadiana.

McLaren said the diagnosis on both TCU scholarship players came on Monday when the two went in for X-rays.

Going into the exams, McLaren thought Shepherd’s hand injury was more serious and that Brown was just sore. But it turned out to be the other way around.

Brown, a former Reagan High School standout, said in a text message to The JB Replay that the fracture was on his right-hand pinky finger. He had played in all six games and was leading the team with a .375 average.

“He’s a tough kid,” McLaren said. “I asked him every day how he was feeling. He said, ‘I’m good skip. I’m ready to go.’ The way he was swinging the bat, he wasn’t favoring it at all … You’d have never known anything was wrong with him.”

As the Chanclas open a series in Louisiana, starting a stretch in which they play six of the next eight on the road, they’re expected to transition infielders Leyton Barry and Lee Thomas into left field, where Brown was playing.

“We’ll mix some guys in there at third base (to replace Shepherd),” McLaren said. “We got some versatility. So, we’re going to utilize it. We’ll try to mix some guys into different positions.”

After losing two straight to open the season, the Chanclas defeated Amarillo on the road last Thursday, and then followed by sweeping three games at home from the Cane Cutters.

Flying Chanclas de San Antonio reliever Arturo Guarardo from UTSA pitches against the Acadiana Cane Cutters on Sunday, July 5, 2020, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Reliever Arturo Guajardo delivers a pitch against the Acadiana Cane Cutters on Sunday at Wolff Stadium. He struck out six in 2 and 2/3 innings. The Chanclas’ bullpen has helped spark the team’s four-game winning streak. – photo by Joe Alexander

Even though the weather has been hot and humid, McLaren said his team has held up well in the early going of the 30-game season.

“We’re fine,” McLaren said. “We got a good group of kids and we got a lot of enthusiasm. There’s days that we hit (indoors) in the cage when it’s hot, and taking infield. We’re doing our best to monitor the situation as we go on.”

Pitching out of the bullpen has been a strength of the team during the winning streak, with the Chanclas getting solid performances from Tyler Flores, Kobe Jaramillo, Matthew Sesler, Connor Schmidt and Arturo Guajardo.

“We’re still sorting things out (on the pitching staff), trying to get everybody a role,” McLaren said. “We’ll see where we are, see if we need to flip some guys from starting to relieving. I’ve been very happy with the way the guys have been throwing. It seems like they’re getting better every time out, getting more relaxed.

“That’s a big part of it, for them to feel comfortable.”

Coming up

San Antonio (4-2) at Acadiana (1-5), Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

Brown embraces homecoming opportunity with the Chanclas

TCU outfielder Porter Brown hopes to show off his versatility this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio. — Photo by Gregg Ellman, TCU athletics

Porter Brown attends Texas Christian University as an undergraduate student in neuroscience. He is a young man with high hopes of one day becoming a doctor, possibly an orthopedic surgeon.

In addition, Brown also plays baseball, a sport in which he may already have earned enough credits to enter the school of hard luck.

It’s true. After sparking San Antonio Reagan to two straight UIL state tournaments, Brown’s career on the diamond has been stalled the past few years by misfortune.

In 2019, he emerged in his first season as a collegian to snag a spot in the starting lineup at TCU, one of the top programs in the nation.

But after hitting .278 and stealing seven bases in eight attempts, the speedster went down with a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the year.

Just as Brown got healthy, adversity emerged again, like a bad hop on a bumpy infield.

The Horned Frogs were off to a fast start in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down operations at TCU’s Lupton Stadium, along with just about every aspect of sports and life in America.

Trying his best to shrug it all off, Brown stayed calm, focusing in the ensuing months on what he could control.

Now he’s set to resume his career this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio in the Texas Collegiate League.

“Growing up in San Antonio, I’ve always watched the Missions and the Flying Chanclas,” Brown said. “When my coach (at TCU) called and told me I had an opportunity to play in my city, in my hometown, I was grateful and excited. I’m excited for baseball to start up in the summer league.”

Brown is scheduled to report to the Chanclas, based at Wolff Stadium, on Tuesday.

The season opener is set for June 30 in Amarillo, and then he and his teammates will open in front of the home fans on July 3 against Acadiana, a ball club based in Lafayette, La.

Even though Brown brings only modest credentials from his star-crossed TCU career to the TCL, he may immediately emerge as a player to watch, especially when fans witness his speed.

For fans who have never seen him accelerate from first to second base on a steal attempt, they can ask Reagan coach Chans Chapman for verification of his ability.

“I think the thing that jumps out at you is the way he runs,” Chapman said. “I mean, he’s one of the fastest guys, as far as baseball speed, that I’ve ever been around. Like I said, he’s a very dynamic player. I mean, he can hit. He runs the bases well. He’s good defensively.

“You know, he can change the game. He can affect the game in so many ways.”

Ever since he donned a uniform and suited up at McAllister Park Little League as a 10-year-old, Brown has played with joy and enthusiasm.

He’s played for his teammates. But this summer, the season is also about opportunity.

A year from now, he’ll be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft. And because he’s only played a combined 29 games at TCU during the past two springs, Brown knows he needs to turn it on.

He is a strong student academically at TCU, one who might one day wield a surgeon’s knife. But Brown also wants to find out whether he is good enough to swing a bat in the pros.

Asked about his big-picture dream in baseball, Brown paused and answered carefully.

“Right now, my dreams are smaller,” he said. “One pitch at a time. One game at a time. One summer league at a time, is really what matters. Once I get to the future, I’ll worry about that then.”

Brown was a dynamo at Reagan, batting .360 and .385 in his last two seasons, respectively. Over those two years, he smacked 18 doubles and stole 55 bases, including 29 steals in 31 attempts as a senior.

In the past few weeks, Chapman has watched Brown take batting practice at Reagan. As Brown battered balls to the fence and beyond, the coach marveled at the way his former player has changed physically since 2018.

“You could tell that getting bigger and stronger has helped him, just the way the ball comes off the bat now,” the coach said. “That’s not to say it didn’t … when he was in high school, but (after) two years in a college weightlifting program, it does come off different.”

At TCU, fans have yet to see Brown’s full potential. He played only 16 games in 2019 when he hurt his shoulder.

This year, he was batting .189 in 13 of TCU’s 15 games when it all came to a stop, with the COVID-19 threat eventually ending the season.

Regardless, Brown remains as a prospect. He was scheduled to play in the highly-regarded Cape Cod summer league before it, too, was canceled.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said it’s evident that his outfielder’s progress has been slowed by the circumstances.

“Porter is an outstanding young man with an incredible amount of potential both on the field and off,” Schlossnagle said. “When he is at his best and healthy, he is a dynamic offensive player and a very capable defender in the outfield.

“He has had to overcome some injury and, like the rest of our players, the COVID pandemic has stunted his development. (But) he is a supreme worker, incredibly intelligent and very self aware.”

Brown also is grateful, happy to have the chance to play at home this summer.

“I am happy to be back,” he said.

Flying Chanclas roster

Pitchers

Jaime Ramirez Jr., RH, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Johnny Panatex, RH, St. Mary’s
Connor Schmidt, RH, St. Mary’s
Marcelo Perez, RH, TCU
Austin Krob, LH, Mississippi State
Kobe Jaramillo, RH, UTSA

The Flying Chanclas of the Texas Collegiate League are scheduled to play their home opener on July 3. All home games are set for Wolff Stadium. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Catchers

Tyler LaRue, Rice, Grayson College
Nick Wolff, UTSA.

Outfielders

Kyte McDonald, Mississippi State
Jordan Thompson, Grayson College, committed to Texas A&M
Porter Brown, TCU

Infielders

Johnny Hernandez, St. Mary’s
Grant Smith, Incarnate Word
Ryan Flores, Incarnate Word
Lee Thomas, Incarnate Word
Conner Shepherd, TCU
Leyton Barry, UTSA
Garrett Poston, UTSA

From San Antonio-area high schools

OF Porter Brown, Reagan; OF Kyte McDonald, Antonian; OF Jordan Thompson, Boerne Champion; P Jaime Ramirez, Jr., Holy Cross; C Tyler LaRue, Blanco; P Connor Schmidt, Devine.