A baseball coach wants his leadoff hitter to reach base. Period.
It doesn't matter how he accomplishes it: hit, walk, error, hit by pitcher, drag bunt.
Dontavis "Juicy" Brown fills the role for Thomson High School. The four-year starter in center field has an on-base average of .429. Aaron Hall, the assistant coach, said it should be over .500.
"That's pitiful," Hall said.
Brown has five walks, two stolen bases and two RBI and has been hit by pitches twice.
His batting average is a tepid .238, down from .396 last season.
"He's starting to get his swing right," Thomson coach Jason Osborn said. "He draws quite a few walks. He gets hit a lot; he likes to crowd the plate."
Brown is also the quickest on the team. A starter at halfback on last season's football team, Brown said he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds. With that kind of speed, he is able to reach first on a grounder between shortstop and third base or a bobble by an infielder.
"We need him to get on," Osborn said. "You get kids on, you score."
Brown gives the Bulldogs another dimension with his power. Against Lakeside's T.J. Lester, Brown jumped on a fastball, sending it on a line over the left-field fence. Last year, he slammed seven home runs, fourth on the team behind Nick Rau (13), Will Tankersley (13) and Cody Ewest (12).
Brown's power comes from his strength.
"The first fastball I see I like to take advantage of," Brown said.
Although he stands only 5-foot-7 and weighs 135 pounds, Brown bench presses more than his weight.
Osborn said he has the players on a weightlifting program designed for baseball-specific lifts, particularly the core area.
"He (Brown) is a strong kid," Osborn said.
Lester kept the Bulldogs, including Brown, off balance with a sharply breaking curve ball. Osborn estimated that Lester threw it on 70 percent of his pitches, while most high school pitchers throw off-speed pitches only 30 percent of the time.
"I need to be sitting back on off-speed pitches and keeping my hands back," Brown said.
With his quickness, Brown roams far and wide in center.
"I like making diving catches and making big plays," said Brown, whose mother nicknamed him "Juicy" at birth because she thought he was big.
Because of his talent, Brown attracted the attention of Andrew, a junior college in Cuthbert, Ga.; Liberty University, a Division I-AA school in Lynchburg, Va.; Wabash College, a Division III school in Crawfordsville, Ind.; and Savannah State, a Division I-AA school. He opted for a scholarship to Savannah State.
"It has a good environment, and the coach showed me a lot of respect," Brown said.
Also a factor was that Carlton Hardy, the baseball coach, promised Brown he would be starting in center field and hitting leadoff, Brown said.
The Bulldogs, a Class 3A state semifinalist last year, have gotten off to a 6-2 start. Brown said the team's goal is to win the region and return to state.