Updated: Dec 2, 2018
By Tom Mauldin
Newly appointed Fastpitch Northwest director Mike Brooks has had a lot of goals in his life.
As a high schooler his goal was to play professional baseball. He was drafted out of West Covina (CA) high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1968 and played eight years in the Twins and Cleveland Indians organizations. He earned a spot on the Twins major league roster in 1970 and 1972.
As a coach, his goal was to produce winning teams and future collegiate athletes. In coaching the Northwest Timberjacks baseball club for 17 years, they became a premiere elite team with 95 percent of his players moving on to college programs.
His latest goal is take Fastpitch Northwest to its next level. Expansion plans include:
introducing more younger players to Fastpitch Northwest;
Selecting an all-star team to play in some major tournaments;
Adding Prospect Evaluation Camps (PEC) throughout the Northwest;
Offering a fall no charge tournament and PEC for U14-aged players.
“We believe that introducing the “Younger Generation” to the opportunities and challenges ahead will motivate and inspire them as they move into their high school years,” said Brooks, who was named San Gabriel Valley Baseball Player of the Year his senior in high school. “This event will also include recruiting information and the same individual testing we do for the older girls at the PECs.”
Brooks admits it’s a challenging list of goals, but his background situates him to reach those goals.
“Mike has been a part of Baseball NW and knows the process. When we introduced Fastpitch NW we modeled it like the very successful Baseball NW model. Mike knows how they took this to an elite level so he will be coming into Fastpitch NW already knowing a lot of the back end. So he can devote his time on the girls and their Exposure to College coaches,” said former Major League Baseball player Lyle Overbay, one of the owners of Fastpitch Northwest.
Overbay said the bottomline is to “continue to grow Fastpitch NW and keep offering new ideas in order to get the girls exposed to all college coaches.
“We want to offer new opportunities to the always changing recruiting process,” added Overbay.
While his background is baseball dominated, Brooks is excited about girls diamond sport. His wife, Robin, and Mike have eight granddaughters.
“One more and we may start our own fastpitch team,” he quipped.
Brooks noted that while his focus is on directly the growth of Fastpitch NW, he is not abandoning baseball.
“I’m not really leaving baseball,” said said. “I still have a fairly large base of students I work with regularly at my hitting academy in Puyallup. I also do hitting clinics for organizations throughout the Northwest.”
Much of Brook’s focus in coaching and instructing has been on helping young baseball players get to the “Next Level”. He has coached in and organized showcase and exposure events nationally and regionally and sees a parallel in how baseball and fastpitch players are identified and evaluated for opportunities at the collegiate level.
“When the owners of Fastpitch NW contacted me about becoming a part of the management team with Ken Olson and Tom Mauldin I jumped at the chance to add the experiences I have had on the baseball side to the foundation Ken and Tom have laid for FPNW,” said Mike. “I am excited to be a part of the fastpitch community and look forward to the year ahead and getting to know the many players, parents and coaches of this great sport.”
As a player Brooks said he was very competitive and focused on winning. He said the business side of offering sports opportunities is similar noting the the competitive juices are still there but winning is a much broader concept.
“I firmly believe that by offering a great product (exposure opportunities) that truly benefits our customers (players, parents and coaches) we will be successful and everyone who participates will consider it a win,” said Brooks, who said his highlight as a player was being named to the Twins’ major league spring training roster as a 19-year old where he played alongside Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew.
As a longtime coach and player, Brooks has plenty of advice for younger athletes.
“Find a way to set yourself apart from the competition, weather it’s the other team or a girl you are competing with for a college position,” he pointed out. “Most college coaches keep their jobs by winning ballgames and successfully mentoring young athletes through the college years. Be the player a college coach wants in their program who can contribute to that success. Spend time developing your playing skills when others are doing something else. Running faster, throwing harder and hitting farther will obviously set you apart but there are many intangibles recruiters will instantly pick up watching you play. Your work ethic, hustle, positive supporting interaction with teammates and your pure love for the game will shine through and draw their attention before you even pick up a bat.
But he is quick to add, “All of the above wont’ mean much if you don’t qualify academically. Building and maintaining a strong academic record will tremendously enhance your chances as well as reducing financial obligations through both academic and athletic scholarship opportunities.”
Like many who have benefitted from sports, Brooks firmly believes in the many life lessons taught by sports.
“Teamwork, accountability, work ethic and respect for authority are the obvious.,” said Brooks. “Striving for a lofty goal against difficult challenges and reaping the rewards help develop character traits that will enhance chances for success in all aspects of life.”
While this article is more about getting to know Mike Brooks, it would be remiss without asking the professional hitting coach his priority views on hitting.
“I believe timing is more important than mechanics so the best drill is getting as many reps as possible off of live arm or at least front toss pitching,” said Brooks. “I do have several Tee drills I use with my students to help refine movement patterns (mechanics) and to help them feel proper balance and posture.”
Brooks became hooked on diamond sports when his Dad took him to a Los Angeles Dodger game for his ninth birthday.
“Since that day I have had a love for baseball, and now by extension fastpitch,” he said. “I tried other sports when I was younger but none came close to the passion I had for playing baseball.”
Perhaps two quotes best describe Brooks:
Theodore Roosevelt – “It is not the critic who counts; not the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena; who strives valiantly; who knows the great enthusiasm, great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timed souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.
Jim Bouton – ”You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
On a personal note, Mike lives on three acres in Pullayup with his wife Robin. They board horses, have three dogs and a goat named Billy. They have five adult children and nine grandchildren.
Brooks said his greatest highlight as a coach wasn’t winning national tournaments, but more memorable were the players he coached.
“Nothing really compares to seeing young men I have coached move on to play in college and professional programs,” said Brooks. “Many of them are now themselves coaches at the select, high school and college levels. As a coach you know you have come full circle when the passion you had as a player, leaving it all on the field each day to achieve your dreams, has now become an intense desire to help young ballplayers reach their own goals, or at least know that they became the best that they could be.”
Now the focus — and goal — switches from young men to the young women of Fastpitch NW.