By Marc Katz

It’s a little lonely without Tom Browning hanging around as pitching coach of the local Class A Midwest League team, but he says he had to take a year off to take care of some personal matters and suspects he’ll return as soon as he can.

Media members have been given reduced access to players and coaches as well, so Browning’s not missing any good advice he used to receive.

That doesn’t mean he’s away from baseball.

True, he’s not coaching this summer, but he has nailed a few radio gigs and this weekend will participate in a Columbus adult (you have to be at least 26 years old and not be a very good player) fantasy camp run by a friend of mine, Mike Talis, who is celebrating his 30th camp.

Browning, I’m guessing, will have plenty to say about anything anybody wants to talk about. Ooh, I forgot to ask him who he’s voting for in the election.

Oh, well. The fantasy camp will be held at Huntington Park, home of the Clippers, Class AAA team of the Indians. The part open to the public will be Sunday, Aug. 14, when the campers”take on the counselors, where the object is – for most of the participants – to not fall down and get hurt.

That game will take place at about 2:30, before the scheduled 5:05 p.m. game between the Clippers and Syracuse, farm team of the Washington Nationals.

Browning takes it seriously and will be trying to teach some baseball along with Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, Mike Hargrove, Carlos Baerga Ortiz, Len Barker, and Joe Charboneau.

A few other players will be added to the counselor team, which plays a little harder than you’d expect, given the ages of the players, but it’s all in good fun.

“Oh, yeah, l love these camps,” says Browning, 56. “I never miss the one they have with the Reds [in Florida]. I’ve been to about 20 of them. You get to teach people how to play.”

He also talks about how he shut out a camper team a few years ago and, in the second game of that doubleheader day, recorded a save.

You won’t find any of that on a Browning baseball card, but when Browning talks, it’s always an interesting conversation. He can lean funny or serious. I don’t think he was trying for either when he mentioned on the radio a couple weeks back that he used the same cup from high school through 12 years in the major leagues.

As I’ve pointed out before, he wasn’t talking about a drinking cup. He said he still had the cup in a box somewhere, so he might use it at the fantasy camp. Please don’t look.

He does go serious when he talks about pitching in the Reds’ organization, insisting it has a “stable full of young kids.”

On the other hand, “throwing strikes and commanding the fastball is very important.

“If it’s not over the plate, it really doesn’t serve any purpose. If your choice is to throw 95 [mph] and not know where the ball is going, or 92 and over the plate, I’ll take 92.”

He is also living proof an athlete can come from anywhere and make it all the way. Browning is from Casper, Wyoming, and played at Tennessee Wesleyan College. He was a ninth-round draft choice by the Reds in 1982, certainly not a sure major league choice.

He says he probably topped out at 88 mph on the radar gun, but in the 1980s, those guns measured the speed of the ball as it crossed the plate, not as it left the pitcher’s hand.

Early success did not guarantee a job, either. Browning won 20 games as a rookie in 1985 and 14 the next year, but was sent to Class AAA Nashville for five games in 1987 when he faltered a bit.

“It was probably the best thing to happen to me,” Browning says. “I saw all these guys trying to take my job. When I pitched the perfect game in 1988, I did something that had me stick around awhile.”

He finished with a major league record of 123-90 and not many of the current Reds are going to come close to that.

A lefthander, he struck out 1,000 in 1,921 innings and walked 511. He also pitched that perfect game, the only one pitched by anyone in a Reds uniform.

Still, he was also a little goofy, or should we say fun-loving? He is also remembered for the time he left the dugout and joined the Cubs’ fans on a bleacher rooftop across the street from Chicago’s Wrigley Field during a game – in full uniform.

He was fined $500 for that stunt, money well spent.

Even at his age, it would be fun to watch him pitch again. Sunday’s your chance, in Columbus.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.


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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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