Profile on Manager Steve Brook
"I've seen three different ownership groups, nine different general managers, and countless field managers and coaches in my 12 seasons with River City."
Inconsistency may be the only certainty in independent baseball. With players and staffers coming and going so often that it is hard to keep an up-to-date program, every team is looking for stability. The Rascals are no different. They have found their rock, though, in Manager Steve Brook.
Brook is returning to T.R. Hughes Ballpark for his sixth consecutive year as the Rascals' skipper after pitching four seasons for the club. He carries an impressive resume entering 2015. In Brook's first half-decade at the helm, the Rascals had two first place finishes, including last season, and won the Frontier League Championship Series.
Brook does not like to take credit for his early success, though, as he points to other members of the organization as the keys to success.
"My players and staff have been outstanding these past five seasons. For the most part we've played the game the right way and have been fortunate enough to have some success."
Brook is originally from Frankfort, Illinois, a south suburb of Chicago. The Midwest native played ball at Illinois Wesleyan before joining the Rascals as a pitcher in 2004. He immediately produced in River City, posting a 10-2 record and 2.95 ERA in 22 games. His numbers dipped, however, in his final three seasons. He hung up his cleats in 2007 with a record of 33-17 and a 4.14 ERA in 76 career games.
He was not away from the game for long, though. He returned in 2010 to manage the club and led the Rascals to a second place finish and a playoff birth. From there the team defeated the Southern Illinois Miners and the Traverse City Beach Bums to capture the Rascals' first Frontier League Championship.
After seeing the Frontier League through the eyes of a player, Brook thinks he is better equipped to handle his players.
"Being a long-term player in the Frontier League has certainly helped me relate to my players as their manager," he explained. "I know what they are going through on a daily basis both in season and out of season, the sacrifices and commitment that are needed for the opportunity to play professional baseball at such a high level. I'm here to serve these guys and do my best to have a positive impact on them while they are here."
Brook carries only one other coach on his staff, Eric Williams. He will serve as the hitting coach for the first time after playing in River City since 2011. Brook likes to run the pitching staff himself.
"Personally, I like being able to be confident in my in-game pitching decisions. At the end of the day I am responsible for my team, and I want that responsibility in all of the decisions that are made."
The Rascals' manager has another top priority besides winning games.
"I'm here to do everything I can to help them get picked up by an MLB club and find a way to win a ring at the same time."
It is no secret that independent baseball is viewed as a stepping stone for most players who are trying to be signed by a Major League team. The Rascals were the most successful team in the Frontier League when it came to that; seven players were signed to minor league contracts in 2014.
Although losing multiple top players may be view negatively, Brook sees the situation as a positive.
"We've been one of the leaders in placing players with MLB organizations in all of Independent baseball. I see that as being our biggest success story. Losing top players during the season is a reality for independent clubs. We are thrilled for all of our guys who move up and get legitimate opportunities in High-A or above. We look at it as a new challenge to show the league and baseball community as a whole that our success is not dependent upon a single player or a few key players. Our success comes from the combined efforts of all of guys working together to win ballgames."
Through all of the changes, Steve Brook has been the constant in River City. He can always be look to as the Rascals' fearless leader, and he enters the 2015 campaign with the same optimism he exemplifies every spring.
"(We can always expect) positive character players and staff who have a selfless attitude above all else."
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