Courtesy: NDSU Athletic Media Relations
The turnaround North Dakota State University has made on the baseball diamond has been nothing short of remarkable under the direction of Tod Brown.
Hired for his first collegiate head coaching job in July 2007, Brown inherited an NDSU program that averaged 12 wins over its first three years of Division I baseball and turned it into a 40-win program five years later.
It's no surprise that NDSU is on the winning track. Armed with a 4,400-seat on-campus stadium and a new 65,000-square foot indoor training space, and supported by a metropolitan area of more than 200,000 people, the foundations are in place for success.
"That was the attractive part for me and for every player that we recruit," Brown says. "We practice and play in a top-notch facility, we can keep kids in class because we're on campus and we have lights, and we have great support from campus leadership and the community."
Brown has had NDSU on the rise since his arrival. The Bison put together back-to-back 22-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, made each of the last two Summit League tournaments, and advanced to the league championship game while setting a school record for victories with a 40-20 record last season. Fans took notice, helping NDSU set single-game attendance records twice in 2012, including a crowd of 1,781 against Minnesota.
NDSU has been a consistent winner in the classroom, too. Bison baseball is averaging a 3.04 team GPA and has achieved a 3.0 in six of the last 10 semesters. Three players have combined for four CoSIDA Academic All-America® awards, including first-team picks Zach Wentz and Tim Colwell in 2012.
"We hold our players accountable for their actions on and off the field, and for their performance in the classroom," Brown says. "The goals for our team and our players are clear, and we are at our best when we have everybody pulling in the same direction."
Brown, who grew up in Tucson, Ariz., and was a left-handed pitcher for the Arizona Wildcats, has made a career out of coaching college ball in the northern tier of the country. He came to NDSU after eight seasons in Ohio as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Bowling Green State University.
Brown came to NDSU with a comprehensive plan for everything from jerseys and equipment to travel accommodations and budgeting, and has put Bison baseball on a long-term track for success. One of his first moves was to schedule an annual spring trip to Florida where the Bison can escape winter weather.
"Our goal is to go south every year and play a bunch of games on neutral fields with neutral umpires against teams who are facing some of the same challenges as us," Brown says. "Everybody knows it is cold and there is snow in Fargo, North Dakota, but we are able to go south for a week to 10 days and play great competition."
That doesn't mean the Bison haven't been successful in road games, however. NDSU has swept road series at Oakland, Northern Colorado and Minnesota in the last two seasons, and garnered national attention with an 8-2 win over a No. 5-ranked Arizona team that won the 2012 College World Series.
Pitching and defense are hallmarks for winning teams, and NDSU's consistent improvement over the past three years found the Bison ranked in the top 50 in both categories in 2012. NDSU had a 3.38 team ERA, which was the program's lowest ERA in 37 years. The team fielding percentage of .973 was a school record for the third straight year and led The Summit League.
NDSU had a school-record seven all-conference players in 2012, including two first-team selections in outfielder Tim Colwell and starting pitcher John Straka. Four players from that team went on to professional careers with first baseman Nick Colwell, shortstop Max Casper, third baseman Zach Wentz and pitcher Luke Anderson each signing contracts with independent leagues.
Brown has recruited or helped develop eight players who have reached the major leagues, including shortstop J.J. Hardy and pitchers Jamie Vermilyea and Tim Wood from Sabino High School, in Tucson, Ariz., outfielder Shelley Duncan and pitchers Josh Pearce and Ben Diggins at the University of Arizona, and pitcher Burke Badenhop and outfielder Nolan Reimold from Bowling Green.
After two years as the pitching coach at Sabino High School in Tucson, Ariz., Brown began his collegiate coaching career in 1999 as a volunteer assistant for Arizona. He worked with pitchers and catchers and was the first-base coach for the Wildcats, who qualified for an NCAA regional.
Brown was head coach of the San Francisco Seals of the California Coastal Collegiate League in the summer of 1999, compiling a 43-29 record and making a fourth-place finish in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
He played for College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Jerry Kindall at Arizona, where he was a member of the 1992 Pac-10 championship team. In 1993, Brown won six games and had eight saves while setting Arizona's single-season record with 35 appearances. He was named to the All-Midwest Regional team as the Wildcats fell one run shy of a College World Series appearance.
Brown played professional baseball in 1994 for the Brainerd Bears in the North Central League before signing a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians. He was released in spring training after a career-ending injury.
He earned a bachelor's degree in regional development from Arizona in 1994 and a post-baccalaureate in education from Chapman University in 1997. He and his wife, Janet, have an 12-year-old son, Brooks, and a 9-year-old daughter, Blake.
Tod Brown's Coaching Career