2017-07-05 / Sports

Lady Indians head softball coach hanging up the cleats after 20 seasons and 305 wins

by Jamie Harris

Softball coach Greg Brown and his daughter Payton Brown in 2015 when the Lady Indians captured the 2015 Sectional Championship. Softball coach Greg Brown and his daughter Payton Brown in 2015 when the Lady Indians captured the 2015 Sectional Championship. Spring 2018 will have a different appearance in the softball dugout for the Berkeley Springs High School Lady Indians Softball program. Longtime veteran head coach Greg Brown resigned his head coaching position a few weeks ago after leading the Lady Indians on the softball diamond for 20 seasons.

Brown coached the program from 1997 to 2004 and returned back to the head coaching position in 2006 through 2017. Not many people in Morgan County may know Coach Brown’s coaching accolades or some of the history of his teams.

With 20 seasons under his belt Brown walks away with a 305-258 career record. “The only reason I know is because in 2015 we went to Myrtle Beach for a tournament and they wanted to know head coaches career records. I had to ask The Morgan Messenger to go back through the years and figure it up for me,” stated Brown.

Of the 258 losses Brown’s teams suffered 103 came in a five year period which was a real dry spell for the normally successful Lady Indians. Brown’s teams had 14 seasons with a record of .500 or better. The Lady Indians softball teams captured 11 Class AA Sectional Championships, 5 Class AA Regional Championships and finished third in the WV Class State Championships three times. Brown has been the Potomac Valley Conference Coach of the Year several times and was the 2015 Journal Coach of the Year for softball as well.

Brown has coached six players who were tabbed as first team All-State players and numerous other players who have been on the Second Team, Honorable Mention and Special Honorable Mention All-State teams. Most recently was this past spring when senior Shyann Farris and sophomore Katie Hoffman picked up All-State honors. On top of that Brown had two players pick up Journal Player of the Year honors.

Twelve to 15 of Brown’s softball players have gone on to play at the collegiate level. Next year Potomac State College the two time defending regional champions could possibly have five of nine starters from Berkeley Springs High School.

So, how did Coach Brown become the head softball coach for the Lady Indians softball program? In the spring of 1996, a lot of parents were upset and asked Brown if he would apply for the softball job the next school year. Brown told them that he would only on one condition, Fred Sirbaugh had to be his assistant coach. Sirbaugh agreed to and from there it all began. “I am sure Fred thought it would only be a two year commitment, his daughter Shea (a first team All-State player) was a junior and I had no kids at the point. Twenty years later the jokes on Fred. Fred did take a four year break 1999-2002 to coach at Shepherd College while Shea was there. We kept in constant contact and when the college season was over Fred would always come back and finish the year with us,” stated Brown. Sirbaugh is also hanging up his cleats as an assistant coach.

While Sirbaugh was gone Brown had the help of the Detrick family when they moved back to Berkeley Springs from New York and they brought with them their daughter a first team All- State catcher Jess Detrick. Steve Detrick joined the staff and brought his highly competitive knowledge of travel softball along. Jess Detrick controlled the game from behind the plate and kept our successful program going along with her teammates.

“I was told by an old friend if you ever get a head coaching job, hire assistants that are smarter than you and that is exactly what I did. That goes along with the second piece of advice he gave me. If you win give all the credit to the assistants and players, but if you lose it is, because of you. I tried to do that as best as I could. It’s no secret that having Fred all these years and Steve for his time here definitely played a major role in our success,” stated Brown.

“When we started coaching we shared the baseball field. Moving bases and mounds, coordinating practices and etc. became a real hassle. Thanks to Tom Zahnow and his dad Milo we now have one of the best fields in the area. There were other people involved also. Connie Willard wrote some grants, Lynn Shaw and his masonry crew donated time to lay the block for the concession stand and building, Joe Lafolette donated time to build the dugouts. I know I probably missed some people and I apologize for that. I do know that thanks to those hard working people we have a top notch facility that cost the Board of Education less than $10,000, a gift from the community. Every girl who walks on that field should thank Tom Zahnow the next time they see him,” Brown stated.

Brown gave up the Lady Indians head coaching job in 2005 when his daughter Payton started playing Pigtail- Ponytail softball. Then Brown realized that he could actually coach both and returned back to the helm in 2006 and stayed there until just a few weeks ago.

Brown stated that he has had many great teams over the years. Saying he has been blessed with the greatest parents who were the most supportive bunch he has ever seen. We have always had more fans on the road than the home team does. I have asked our parents to go above and beyond. We take cars to all tournaments, long trips or weekend games. Every parent even took a week off in 2015 and went to Myrtle Beach with the team. The parents do this for the program and that is what it’s all about. I honestly can’t thank them enough and it’s been that way for 20 years.

Brown stated that he could still remember his first year of coaching. The team finished with a 24-5 record and finished third in the state. A Maryland native Brown was unaware by the sectional, sub regional, regional, and state format. All he knew was the team kept winning and everyone was very excited. “Believe me I had very little to do with that first regional championship. Fred had most of those girls when they were younger on a travel team and they had won a state title, so I inherited a team that was loaded. To this day I can still picture every one of those girls at their positions on the field,” stated Brown.

“My incredible wife Mary has been a real trooper through all of this. Payton was born eight days before the start of the 1999 season. So, Mary was pretty much a single mom for three months. She’s always been there for me. To hear me brag when we beat another AAA team or whine because we lost,” stated Brown.

Brown said there were two things that made him pretty proud of during his 20 year tenure with the Lady Indians softball program. The first was the tough schedule that he had for the team each year. Geographically Berkeley Springs is closer to the AAA teams in the Eastern Panhandle of the state. Brown’s softball teams always played all the local AAA teams and the more competitive teams from Maryland. Brown said he never did ask the Athletic Director at Berkeley Springs High School to lighten the schedule. Brown’s philosophy was that you can only get better playing the better competition.

Brown’s Lady Indians teams traveled to Cabel-Midland for 10 straight years to play in the highly competitive Sluggerfest. One season the Sluggerfest featured 32 teams which 30 of the teams were AAA and the other two were AA. “Every program has its ups and downs, even that five year period when we lost 103 games, we didn’t lighten the load,” stated Coach Brown.

The second thing Brown was proud of was it was always about the teams, not the coaches or players. During Brown’s 20 seasons at the annual athletic awards he has never given one individual award. Softball is a team effort. Brown stated that several years ago the yearbook staff asked every head coach to give them one players name and they were going to do a story on that all-star which Brown refused to do.

“It’s about all of us. We win as a team and lose as a team. You start singling players out then you start to have trouble. Every player and parent knows who the best players are, they don’t need to be celebrated by me.” Brown does think it is wonderful when a player makes an All-Tournament team, All Area, All PVC or All-State, because he didn’t vote for them, other coaches and sports writers did.

The few coaching awards Brown won he never really ever mentioned it to people. Why? Who cares! Brown felt that because he may have a plaque with his name on it doesn’t make the team win any games. “Early this year when we beat Smithsburg after going through the line and shaking hands, I whispered to Fred that this was our 300th win. Then we just went about our business and I don’t even think the players knew. Awards don’t win games and that is why we are here. At our preseason parent meeting I think I may shock a few unsuspecting parents. At the varsity level we play to win. I play the nine best players regardless of name or grade. As long as they are going to keep score and I have to call two newspapers to report our results we are there to win. I have never been a big fan of the saying “It’s not whether you win or lose as long as you’re having fun. You know what is fun? Winning! There is no fun in losing,” stated Coach Brown.

Brown is proud that he has always put the program first. There has been a few times during his tenure that the team had to sacrifice wins to prove points. “Several years ago I sat my leading hitter for five innings in the sectional championship game because she was five minutes late to show that no one is above the team. I would rather lose than play someone who was in it for themselves. The 2015 season was a great example. After five games the team was 2-3 and this was supposed to be our year. One of the best pitchers and one of the leading hitters on the team had some negative animosity which caused some controversy among the team. The two players left the team which caused a lot of shock to our players and the parents. I still remember talking to the team at Myrtle Beach and explaining to them the toughest part of our schedule was over, we were 3-9 at the time. Let’s just put everything behind us and just play. Don’t worry about our record. We came home from South Carolina and lit it up. Won the sectional, sub-regional, regionals and ended up third in the state tournament. Losing two games at the state tournament by a total of three runs. Coaches always talk about peaking at the right time, and the 2015 team was a perfect example of it,” stated Brown.

A big bonus for Brown that he never could have predicted when he started coaching in 1997 was that one day he would be able to coach his own daughter at the high school level. Brown stated that Payton’s little league team won a berth to the state tournament, but they really didn’t have a catcher. “I can still to this day see her sitting at the dinner table saying “I will try to catch.” That is all I needed to hear. The next day at practice we put the gear on her and she could throw it to second base with no problems. A lot of Payton’s success can be attributed to her grandfather known around the softball field as “Papa Joe.” When I would get home from work, just about every day he and Payton would be having a catch in the back yard. Papa Joe teaching her the proper way to throw and catch. He really planted that seed in her. Thank you Joe Marra! I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jess Detrick who really worked with all our catchers on their techniques and form,” stated Brown.

Brown said he was blessed to coach his daughter for the years of her high school career. Saying that could be a good or bad thing, but his experience with Payton Brown was fantastic. “She never got no free passes for being my kid, but we got to share a lot of memorable moments. In 2015 at the state tournament Payton was named to the All- Tournament team. I had to act like a coach, but really wanted to act like a dad. Mary and I are very fortunate to have a daughter like Payton,” stated the coach.

“Playing for my dad was the best. Softball was always a huge part of our lives for as long as I can remember. We made so many memories because of it that I will never forget. Playing softball at Berkeley Springs High School was always such a great time, but having my dad as the coach made it even better honestly. Not many kids get to say that their parent coached them at a state tournament, but I am lucky enough to be able to say that. There were definitely times when he was hard on me, but he never stopped encouraging me and helping me to do my best. I really don’t think BSHS could have asked for a better coach for the past 20 seasons,” stated Payton Brown.

Whomever Berkeley Springs High School tabs as the next head softball coach they will have some very big shoes to fill with Brown and Sirbaugh’s departure. However the blueprint to success in Lady Indian’s softball program has been built and a wise coach would look closely at that and build from there.

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