Hall MonitorAugust 23, 2011
Timber Rattlers Pitcher Brooks Hall has learned to tune out the smack from his friends back home. You see, this native of South Carolina had a full ride on the table to play for his home state University of South Carolina Gamecocks…you know, the back-to-back National Champs?
“People say that to me all the time, a bunch of my buddies and old coaches, they give me crap all the time, you could have been a two-time National Champion!” laughed Hall, a fourth round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. “But I like what I did. I made the decision to play and I can’t look back now.”
When Hall does sneak a peek at his childhood, he recalls a baseball environment that began the day he was born. On June 26th, 1990, Steven Brooks Hall came into the world dubbed with a middle name to honor his father’s idol.
“Brooks Robinson was his hero so he gave me that name, and I’ve always gone by Brooks, not Steven, which is my real first name,” said Hall. “No one’s ever really called me that, maybe just in school on the first day.”
It didn’t take long for Hall to tee it up and swing away at Tee Ball when he was only three. He followed up with coach pitch and then a team top heavy with buddies that traveled around the state. But his future on the mound was still in the distant future.
“When I was that young I liked hitting,” said Hall. “Some people, when they’re young, like to pitch but I liked to hit and play shortstop growing up. It was fun having all your friends together having a good time out there.
“It was an everyday thing, me and my dad outside throwing or something, taking ground balls and playing every weekend, just having fun back then trying to get here. This is my dream, so I was just working on it every day when I was younger.”
But the fun and games grew more businesslike as Hall sprouted. His offensive ability stood out, so much so that the lanky 6-6 hitter eventually punched his ticket to play on scholarship at South Carolina thanks to a quick bat that hit for average and power. The plan was to nurture his offensive skills with the Gamecocks and dabble in pitching out of the bullpen.
“I was playing third and shortstop and even going to go to South Carolina to be a utility guy and maybe close some,” said Hall. “But then before my senior year in high school I started working more on my pitching because scouts started saying I had a good arm and they wanted to see me pitch.”
Somewhat reluctantly, Hall put his lumber in the bat rack for good at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina. The scouts were correct in their assessment…Hall blew the competition away, even tossing a perfect game with 12 strikeouts on March 23rd, 2009. Still, the All-State senior yearned for his days at the dish.
“Really hard for me,” said Hall. “I enjoyed my senior year in high school but it was tough to just focus on pitching. But now that I’ve been doing it for awhile I love it. I haven’t hit in two or three years so it might be hard to hit again, but I get to get back in it when I make it to Double A.”
Before Hall could ever entertain reviving his offensive skills again, he had to begin his professional journey strictly on the bump. Hall went 3-4 with a 5.44 ERA in 14 games (seven starts) for the Arizona League affiliate of the Brewers in his inaugural 2010 season, walking just 16 and striking out 43 in 46-plus innings of work.
“It was a little boring at first because, you control the game, but it’s just different when you’re out there playing short and hitting,” said Hall. “It’s just seeing the game a little different. You throw the ball up there and everybody has to make plays behind you when you were the one making plays and scoring runs for the team…now I have to keep them from scoring.
“It kind of helps being a hitter because when you face guys you can see things and say what would I do right here…what would I be thinking?”
While Hall’s head was getting a workout, his arm was growing more accustomed to erasing hitters. It was somewhat simple during his prep days, but no breeze in the minor leagues.
“Another thing that was hard was developing off-speed pitches…I never had any,” said Hall. “All I had was a fastball and never had trouble throwing a fastball for a strike. That’s all I needed in high school, but I’ve developed a changeup and a slider. It wasn’t very hard, just had to work on it a lot.
“My body and my motion are better. I’m able to repeat it, and that’s all that pitching is, repeating your delivery and throwing the ball where you want to. Once you feel your body do that, it becomes natural, everything becomes instinct. I just look at the mitt, throw a strike and get ahead of the hitters.”
Hall made it look that elementary in his July 18th start against South Bend. With a Sports32 audience watching, Hall cobbled together a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a blemish in the box score. The former slugging infielder may have morphed completely into a dominant pitcher that day.
“I’m feeling way more comfortable on the mound, way more focused and I actually know what I’m doing out there right now,” said Hall. “At the beginning of the year I knew what I was doing, but now I’m learning how to pitch and know exactly what I need to do out there. It’s making a lot of things easier for me.”
Hall made his debut with the Timber Rattlers on May 21st notching a win over Burlington by going five full innings in the first game of a doubleheader. He continues into the final weeks of the Midwest League season having never lost more than he won between starts.
“I just want to maintain what I’m doing now,” said Hall. “I want to keep getting better each day because hitters are getting tired so you’ve got to be the guy not getting tired and overcome that. Hitters are going to be giving away at bats right now so it’s my time to go out and have a big end to the season.”
Brooks Hall refuses to check the rear view mirror. He garnered an impressive paycheck to skip college and sign with the Brewers, but hasn’t made any outrageous purchases to date, unless you count his $1500 hunting bow, a small chunk of change out of his $700,000 deal. There is also no sign of Hall jumping ahead and trying to figure out his future. This is one pitcher whose ultimate baseball dream remains in check.
“Honestly, I don’t focus on that,” admitted Hall. “I focus on the day to day. If I do what I have to do every day here (Appleton) then it’ll happen. So I’m not really focused on the big picture yet, taking this day by day and year by year.
“When I get there it’s time to focus on if I want to have 25 wins in a season or do it big like that. That’s when it’s time to think about that.”
(PHOTOS BY BRAD KRAUSE)