Not everybody gets ready for baseball by taking swings during the winter while sitting in a chair.
Or by batting in scrimmages but declining to run to first base.
“I would hit the ball and just walk back to the dugout,” Chris Brown said.
It was an odd routine, but Brown was determined to make it work. The Haddonfield senior had suffered a serious foot injury during a November football game and his final baseball season with the Bulldawgs was in jeopardy.
“Honestly, when he went down and I heard what it was, I didn’t expect him to be back,” Haddonfield baseball coach Bob Bickel said.
Brown had no doubt.
“Even if I wasn’t ready, I was going to play,” Brown said. “There was nothing keeping me off this field.”
Brown hasn’t just returned to the field. He has taken his game to another level in leading Haddonfield, which has risen to No. 6 in the Inquirer Top 25, to one of its best seasons in recent history.
At the plate through Wednesday, Brown was batting a team-high .471 with a team-high 15 RBIs for a squad with a 13-1 record and the likely top seed in the upcoming South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
On the mound, Brown was 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA, with 48 strikeouts and seven walks in 30 innings.
Haddonfield, the No. 8 seed, plays top-seeded Cherry Hill West in the quarterfinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic on Saturday at Deptford.
“I can’t wait,” Brown said of the matchup with the Lions, who are No. 1 in South Jersey in the Inquirer Top 25. “Lots of kids on our team have connections with them. It’s bragging rights.”
A standout running back and defensive back, Brown generated 1,428 all-purpose yards, scored 10 touchdowns and made 70 tackles for Haddonfield’s football team, which set a school record for wins by going 13-0.
Brown returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in the South Jersey Group 2 title game against Camden on Nov. 16. He suffered a Lisfranc fracture of his left foot in the third quarter of the 23-12 victory.
He sat out the Thanksgiving Day game against Haddon Heights as well as Haddonfield’s 17-7 win over previously unbeaten Hillside in the South/Central Group 2 Bowl Game Dec. 1 at MetLife Stadium.
“Watching the MetLife game was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Brown said. “I was obviously super excited for all my teammates when we won, but there was still that little pit inside of me saying, ‘Man, I really wish I could have been out there.’”
Brown was on crutches until the middle of February.
“He was sitting, taking swings off a chair at times and throwing off a chair at times,” Bickel said. “He was doing everything he could to get back out here.”
In early scrimmages, Bickel told Brown to hit but not run.
“I just wanted to get some swings off a live pitcher,” Bickel said. “With our field, how soft it was, I didn’t want him running to first base.”
Brown, a University of the Sciences recruit for baseball, said his foot has gradually felt better during the first five weeks of the season. He played one of his best games in the first round of the Diamond Classic, going 2-for-3 with two steals and three runs in an 8-4 victory over No. 9 seed Moorestown.
Brown missed his junior football season with a broken right leg. He said his time away led him to make the most of his time on the field.
“One hundred percent,” Brown said. “It really makes me appreciate being out here a lot more because of just knowing it can all go away in a split second.
“I’m trying to enjoy every second out here with all these guys I’ve played with my whole life.”
Haddonfield vs. Cherry Hill West, 10 a.m.
Eastern vs. Gloucester Catholic, 1 p.m.
Semifinal, 4 p.m.
At Washington Twp.
Triton vs. Bishop Eustace, 10 a.m.
Shawnee vs. St. Augustine, 1 p.m.