SALISBURY — Troy Brohawn fielded the same question as if he were shagging the same fly ball back in his playing days.
How do you compare winning a World Series as a Major League pitcher to winning a College World Series as a coach?
“Everybody and their aunts and uncles asked me about how does that compare to winning the World Series?” said Brohawn, who on June 8 watched his Salisbury University baseball team win the Division III national championship with a 4-2 victory over St. Thomas (Minnesota) — not quite 20 years after winning a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s two totally different things," he said.
“In the World Series, when I got called upon, I had, not control over the outcome, but I had some say in the game or the situation,” said Brohawn, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Arizona’s 15-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series.
“For this, I didn’t throw a pitch. I didn’t catch a ball. I didn’t hit a ball,” Brohawn said of Salisbury winning its first national championship in baseball. “Do we try to put them in the right situations to succeed? Yeah. Do we have to make some changes, maybe pitching staff or pinch runners? You have some say in the chess match, but I don’t play. So it’s two totally different feelings.”
Not long after winning the national title, the 48-year-old Brohawn was made aware of something else unique by Dave Johnson, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and longtime area baseball historian.
“He called me the other day and he said, there’s only two people in the country that have won an NCAA championship and a World (Series) championship, and that’s me and Scott Brosius (who won three World Series with the Yankees from 1998-2000, and coached Linfield College in Oregon to the Division III title in 2013),” Brohawn said of Johnson. “But he believes that I am the only person in the country that has won a high school state championship, an NCAA championship, and a World Series championship. I would have never thought that.”
Brohawn led his alma mater, Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, to the Class 1A state championship in 2013.
“He said he’s done all this research,” Brohawn said of Johnson. “He named off all these guys, Jason Varitek and all these big leaguers that have had two of the three, have been to three of the three, but haven’t won all three. I thought that was pretty cool. I never would have thunk it. He told me the next thing I need to do was get a Little League one. I said that isn’t going to happen. That will never happen.”
A three-time Mid-Shore Player of the Year while at Cambridge-SD who went onto become an All-American at Nebraska before pitching for Arizona, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers over an 11-year major league career, Brohawn did think a national championship could happen at Salisbury.
“That’s why I took the job,” said Brohawn, who just completed his seventh season as head coach. “Coach (Doug) Fleetwood laid the foundation of something special there in Salisbury and they had won many conference championships, had many All-Americans, been to the World Series I think four times in his tenure. The only thing really the program hadn’t done was win a College World Series.”
The Sea Gulls earned a berth in the College World Series Brohawn’s first year as head coach in 2015, but were eliminated early.
“This time we went to the World Series and we pitched well,” Brohawn said. “We played great defense. I honestly think we were the most athletic. And that’s kind of my philosophy. We don’t recruit big power hitters that clog the bases. We recruit an offense that can put pressure on the defense as far as with their speed and athleticism.”
“Probably the thing I’m most proud of, when I was an assistant coach here before I didn’t do much recruiting at all. I basically coached,” Brohawn said. “And when I went to the World Series in my first year in ‘15, none of those guys were my players. None of those guys were guys I recruited. This team, every player on that roster was from this staff recruiting. And that’s probably what I’m most proud of.”
In addition to his own group of recruits, Brohawn said bolstering the bullpen strengthened the Sea Gulls’ chances this year.
“I always think we’ve got talent to get there,” Brohawn said of reaching the World Series. “So many things have to go your way. I think the main thing we did over the last couple of years was develop a bullpen. It’s something that’s always hampered Salisbury even when I was an assistant coach here. But we built up the bullpen. We’ve always had quality starters. That’s never been an issue. The bullpen is something that was just hit or miss. And our bullpen was our strong suit in the regional and the World Series. Of the nine games we played, I think we only got three, four quality starts. So our bullpen really did a phenomenal job.”
The same could be said for Brohawn, who was named the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association on July 1 after leading Salisbury to a 34-4 record — that included 14 straight wins to close the season — and its first national title.
But as was the case with winning the national title, Brohawn steered credit away from himself.
“It means that I have good players. It means I have good coaches,” Brohawn said of his national coaching honor. “One thing I’ve learned to do over the years is not micro-manage my coaches. I allow them a lot of freedom. Allow them to be themselves.
“And I allow them to do what they do best in their lane,” Brohawn said of assistants Ron Siers, Austin Heenan and Chad Wien. “My favorite saying is, just say one of them is my hitting coach and they want to talk about pitching. I say, ‘Stay in your lane.’ It works great.”